Ballpark estimate: Price: $200 to $500 a week (including five dinners for a family of four)
These days, life can be ultra busy. Therefore, if you find it difficult—or almost impossible—to grocery shop and make balanced dinners every night for yourself and your family, you may be relying on eating our or ordering takeout more often than you would like. Or, you could be relying too much on processed meals and convenience foods that are high in calories and fat and low in nutrition. If this sounds familiar, have you ever considered hiring a personal chef to make your meals? While this sounds like a service reserved for the wealthy, in fact today personal chefs can also be a wise and affordable option for even average Americans living on a budget.
A New Type of Personal Chef
What if you could hire a chef to come into your home and prepares your meals for the week so you can heat them up as you go along? This can save you time, improve your diet, and make it easier to coordinate family dinners. Better yet, personal chefs don’t just cook. Many of them will plan the menus for the week, do all of the shopping for ingredients, and then clean up your kitchen. All of this can greatly lower your stress level.
While many tops chefs work in gourmet restaurants, there are also very talented personal chefs who get great satisfaction just cooking for busy families. While a private chef is hired as a full-time staff person, meeting the needs of a family, a personal chef typically cooks for multiple families, often spending some time one or two days a week (although some do more and some do less) and preparing multiple meals for the next few days and packaging them so you can heat them up and serve as needed. This means you can hire a personal chef to do as much—or as little—as you deserve and as your wallet can support.
What to Look For
Personal chefs can bring all different types and levels of experience and training to your kitchen. While some may be self taught geniuses around the oven, others may have completed professional chef training or have a degree in nutrition. Further, some may work as caterers or may also work in a restaurant and serve as a personal chef on the side. When hiring a personal chef, you’ll want to find out the person’s availability, how he or she likes to work, what type of menus and styles the chef prefers to cook, and what type of references he or she brings to the task. For instance, if you like a particular type of ethnic cooking, such as Italian, Mexican, Chinese, or Indian, (or want someone who can master multiple types of ethnic styles), you can look for someone well verses in these types of dishes. If you want someone who can also cook for guests or dinner parties (either dropping off the food or even staying to help serve it) this can be helpful to request up front so you find someone who has the type of availability you desire. You can also request a chef provide dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and snacks, if needed. The key is figuring out your needs and your preferences and finding someone who can meet them in a satisfying way.
Beyond all of these details, though, the most important thing is that the personal chef is trained in how to safely handle food. If your city, county, or state has any certifications in safe food handling, you’ll want to be sure that the personal chef has met these requirements before you considering hiring him or her. It’s also important that a personal chef has liability insurance in the event that any accidents occur on the job.
What to Expect
You can expect many personal chefs to provide the ingredients (most will give you a bill for shopping for you), as well as the pots, pans, and utensils. You just need to agree to provide any preferences in terms of foods and ingredients, and if the chef will cook in your home, then he or she will need access to your kitchen, oven, and stovetop. If you prefer the chef not work in your home, you might also arrange to have the food cooked at the chef’s own kitchen and brought to you already packaged up and ready to be frozen or stored in your refrigerator.
Meeting Health Concerns
If you have specific health concerns such as sodium restrictions, low fat or sugar restrictions or concerns, allergies, or intolerances, a personal chef with a background in nutrition can be a real God send in helping you find new and creative menus that stick to your dietary requirements. In addition, a personal chef can also help you if you’re trying to lose weight and need guidance on portion control or counting calories.
How to Find
When looking for a personal chef in your area, you might start by doing an online search for personal chef services that serve your community. You can also search for directories of professional chef associations or local catering companies that might also offer personal chef services. You can can also ask neighbors and colleagues for recommendations, or check with local cooking schools and chef training programs to see if any graduates might provide such services.
Cost for a Personal Chef
When hiring a personal chef, if you have a limited budget for this endeavor, an important factor will be the cost. Some personal chefs will charge you by the hour for their time, while others will charge either a rate for each meal they cook or they may agree to one overall price for the entire week or the month. If you go with some sort of set fee, just be sure that you establish what is expected (such as the number of meals prepared each week) under the agreement so there are no misunderstandings. You’ll also need to find out if the rate that the personal chef is charging will include the ingredients/shopping or you will also be responsible for a separate charge for food and time the chef spends shopping. This is important to know when you are comparing a few different chefs and also budgeting for the expense.
For a family of four, you can expect a personal chef to charge between $40 to $100 per meal, including the shopping, ingredients, cooking, and cleanup. This means that for five days of dinners for a family, you can expect to spend between $200 and $500. Over the course of a month, this translates to between $800 and $2,000 for week-day dinners. (Note that for gourmet meals or a chef who is highly trained, the cost can be much, much higher.) Many of the meals will also include some leftovers, so you may be able to include this to cover some of your lunches without spending additional money, making it more cost effective.
Some chefs will charge you for containers to store your food and for the use of different seasonings, spices, and sauces from his or her own kitchen supply. This is an accepted practice and is usually a minimal expense.
If your chef agrees to come and cook for your guests or to provide the food for an intimate dinner party or other small group function, you might expect to pay an hourly rate that can range between $25 and $75, plus the cost of ingredients.