Job Focus: Private Chefs
There’s been a rise in the demand for private chefs post-Covid. A global shortage of corporate chefs affected the hospitality industry as a whole, and it is still in recovery. Many chefs are pursuing careers within the private sector as opposed to corporate hospitality as there’s generally a better work-life balance to be obtained.
A career as a private chef – also called a personal chef – can be an excellent choice for the right candidate. The opportunity to work in smart private residences, onboard luxury yachts and at dinner parties and special occasions for the families of notable individuals can be fascinating, and put culinary creativity to the test.
The requirements of a private chef – aside from being a stellar cook, which goes without saying – are somewhat different to those of a restaurant chef. It is to some extent more of an all-round role where the chef might be involved with interacting with principals and other staff, serving and hosting, as well as running the kitchen. It’s important that a private chef therefore is personable and presentable, as well as creative and in possession of a wide range of skills and knowledge.
To suggest an entirely plausible example, if cooking for the principal’s family on several consecutive days, three meals a day for a range of ages, and then followed by a dinner party at the weekend, there are potentially great demands on the chef’s breadth of experience. Add to this that they might be interacting with the family and guests themselves, and it’s clear that for the right individual this is a wonderful role, and that others – whilst excellent chefs in their own right – might find it less palatable.
Broadly speaking, jobs as private or personal chefs can be broken down into three main areas – Formal Household, Yacht and Performance.
- Formal household chefs have often previously undertaken formal training at a culinary school.
- They’ll usually have at least five years experience working in professional kitchens, high-end hotels or fine dining restaurants.
- Might well be working within a fully staffed private residence.
- They’ll often be Michelin trained, and might have experience with Royal Protocol.
- Usually they will be quite traditional in their presentation – visible tattoos and piercings are often taboo in a formal home. A chef’s jacket will usually be worn.
- Will need some specific yacht qualifications.
- Often will require a number of years’ experience in fine dining restaurants, or to be Michelin trained, depending on the principal’s requirements.
- A natural team player, as they will be closely confined with a small group of people for extended periods of time.
- Safety is at stake when working at sea, so it’s essential that they understand not only their job as a chef but their role as part of the crew.
- Working on yachts can be physically demanding, so being fit, healthy and resilient is a must.
- There’s a particular hierarchy of authority on board a yacht, so a yacht chef must be willing to learn, interact and yield where necessary.
- Whether a private yacht or a charter vessel, there will often be a lot of guests and crew in a relatively small space. Being respectful, well mannered and discreet is therefore paramount.
- Open-mindedness and a willingness to pitch in wherever needed are also required – a yacht can be a closed environment without outside help available, so whilst employed as a chef, other tasks might sometimes be requested. Things can change quickly at sea – not least the weather, and one must be prepared for emergencies. This does not, however, mean they have to be an expert sailor.
- A performance chef focusses on helping athletes to correctly fuel their bodies, with the principal’s specific sport in mind.
- Planning and designing menus and coaching the athletes to improve and maintain performance through nutrition and hydration.
- Nutrition qualifications are essential.
- A performance chef will be a team player, often working within a team of nutritionists and other experts to provide the best outcome.
- A flexible working schedule is necessary, depending on the sporting calendar.