Career closeup: Private chefs feed New Yorkers at home
Private chef Jennifer Ophir at work. Credit: Amy Walen
By KAREN TINA HARRISON
Special to amNewYork
Private chefs get to run the kitchen show, with saner hours and more diner contact than restaurant chefs.
What private chefs do
Private (also called personal) chefs work for one or a few clients in their homes, planning, shopping for, cooking and sometimes serving meals. Being a private chef is like running your own restaurant, says Nils Noren, program director of the French Culinary Institute (frenchculinary.com), the downtown chefs school that graduated Bobby Flay, David Chang, Wylie Dufresne and Dan Barber.Private chefs are freelance and make their own schedules. French Culinary-trained Jennifer Ophir, pictured, cooks for three Manhattan clients four days a week and moonlights as a food stylist and cooking teacher.
How private chefs get trained
Todays chefs learn their craft in culinary programs. French Culinary Institutes certificate course, offered full- and part-time, takes 600 hours. Some private chefs get hired right out of school; others have worked in restaurants.
What private chefs need
Unlike restaurant chefs, you deal one-on-one with your diners, says Ophir. Word-of-mouth builds your clientele, so you need a strong work ethic and social skills to back up your kitchen chops. Additionally, private chefs need to manage their own scheduling and billing, she says.
What private chefs can expect
New York private chefs earn about $50-$150 an hour, which includes food shopping. Perks include travel to clients vacation homes, plus constant variety, working in beautiful kitchens and cooking food that your clients love, says Ophir.
Adds Noren, The work can be extremely creative. Even if you just graduated from culinary school, a private chef is the head chef.
Job snapshot: Private Chef
Salary range: $50-$150/hour (includes food shopping)
Background: Restaurant experience and/or culinary school
Skills needed: Kitchen expertise, social personality
Downsides: you work weekend and holiday hours; you can never slow down, cut
corners or delegate
Forecast: Steady demand in NYC for private chefs
Learn more: frenchculinary.com; bls.gov/oco/ocos161.htm
Find a private chef through:
-Local cooking schools: frenchculinary.com; iceculinary.com; ciachef.edu
-Agencies: privatechefsinc.com, newyork.personalchef.com