Like so many other things, hiring a private chef has transformed from an unjustifiable luxury to an occasional treat – or self-care, in some cases.
Jump straight to the relevant section or read on for the full details on starting a private chef business.
- Why start a private chef business?
- Private chef growth trends
- Business opportunities for private chefs
- Who else has started a private chef business?
- Small business owner opinion
If you already work in a commercial kitchen, or you just enjoy flipping the contents of a frying pan in your spare time, think about starting a business as a private chef. Cooks who can create a multi-course menu for a couple or a crowd are in increasing demand. Not only that, time-pressed people are in the market for someone to provide meals to see them through the following days and weeks. In our health-conscious society, some may be looking for a chef who can provide a nutritious meal plan to help them meet their health and fitness goals.
Having your own set of good-quality kitchen knives and other tools is a bonus, but you’ll likely need other bits of kit to really get going. We’ll come back to that shortly.
You could be a private chef specialising in any cuisine – or fusion cuisine – you can imagine. This is an especially good business idea if you live in a city and can easily reach clientele who have more disposable income.
Why is starting a private chef business a good idea?
There has been a growing interest in cooking at home throughout the decade, but the pandemic was a catalyst in a major way. More people are working from home, and working more than ever, with side hustles and second jobs that leave them with no time to cook nutritious meals. Technology and online platforms have further added fuel to this gas hob, riding on the wave of aesthetically pleasing social media photos.
Even in 2020, there was a 171 per cent increase in the number of people searching for private chefs in the UK, according to industry experts.
The money is decent too, especially if you find a lucrative niche. You can earn anything from £25,000-£100,000 a year, depending on your knowledge, skills and experience.
Private chef platform, Yhangry, says that active chefs can take home £25,000 per month, but most earn between £1,000 and £2,000 per month.
Before you start up, do consider the cost of equipment, travel costs, ingredients, insurance and tax associated with being a private chef.
As your clients will likely have fully fitted kitchens, you’re unlikely going to have to lug an induction hob around with you, but there’ll be a need for a good-quality set of knives. Reusable containers are essential for those who provide meal delivery and storage for their clients. PPE will also reassure clients that you take health and safety seriously. Invest in gloves, hairnets, aprons and non-slip footwear.
Remember rent and council tax if you cook on a commercial premises, plus staff costs and cleaning costs if necessary.
Ongoing training costs (CPD recommends training every three years) such as allergy awareness, food labelling and first aid will factor in. CPD says that it’ll be around £20 + VAT per person per course.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll need your standard personal liability insurance, personal indemnity insurance and product liability insurance. Food contamination and personal accident insurance are also a wise idea.
The good news is that the client will usually reimburse you for ingredients.
No formal training is strictly required, but having some reputable qualifications behind you can boost your expertise and reputation – and your potential earnings. All private chefs must have at least a level 2 food hygiene certificate, though.
Private chef growth trends
Sustainability is a key growth area, with discerning foodies looking for locally sourced, ethically produced food. It’s not just plant-based food anymore; diners and chefs are rating sustainable meat and seafood.
Somewhat connected is freshness and seasonality. Making the most of fresh produce that’s naturally in abundance is easier, more environmentally friendly and cheaper. It supports local farmers too.
Customisable dishes are popular – be they vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, low carb or simply having spice adjusted for a client’s palate. As we’ve mentioned, it could also be for a specific allergy or to help clients become healthier.
What kind of private chef businesses could I start?
You’ve got a variety of choice in a variety of different settings.
The most obvious example is a private chef at home, providing bespoke meals to diners. This could be in the form of dinner parties, meals for special occasions or meal prepping so that clients can have a selection of meals and snacks in the freezer for the week ahead.
You could also teach cooking classes. Take groups of people based on your expertise – be it cupcakes, sushi or Indian cuisine. Get in touch with a platform like Funzing to widen your reach in the early days.
Put together meal prep kits to make at home – you’ll have seen these during the pandemic from established restaurants such as Dishoom and Pizza Pilgrims. A box of ingredients can be delivered to a person’s home alongside a recipe card so that they can prepare meals in their own kitchen. They don’t have to be gourmet, either. Target a lower-income market with more straightforward meal kits.
Cater for a particular diet and/or cuisine to target a niche group of diners. This is especially good if you live in or near a city. Try specialising in vegan food, Japanese food or any other cuisine you have a passion for.
For something a touch more practical, you could be a private chef for athletes. Athletes have very specific needs depending on their sport. Long-distance runners will need a higher carbohydrate diet while power lifters will need more protein, for example. If you have a background in sports nutrition, this could be one for you.
To give you more visibility, join a personal chef platform. This works in much the same way as Deliveroo for restaurants and Treatwell for salons.
Who else has started a private chef business?
Many Masterchef contestants have started private chef businesses, if they hadn’t already started one before the programme was broadcast. You might recognise Jack Wilson, Alex Webb and Abhilasha Chandak.
Alex Webb, for example, teams up with three of his fellow Masterchef contestants to put on a supper club at London’s Cinnamon Club, alongside owner Chef Vivek Singh, where they showcase their signature dishes.
Meanwhile, private chef Phillipe Roth provides high-end dining experiences along with ‘Master Chef’ style cooking classes.
“For me, flavour is everything. I bring out the best from the ingredients I’m working with by experimenting and mixing things up, but I never go too far,” he says of his French-Asian speciality cookery.
Small business owner opinion
Small Business spoke to Laura Willett, founder of Tidy Kitchen Co, about her on-the-go private chef service.
“Everything has changed about the way that people live and spend their money and their free time. People want the luxury of eating out but to have in the privacy of their own home. People are extremely time-poor. They’re always working, but they are still looking for that good, healthy convenience. They don’t want to feed themselves with bad quality food.
I was initially self-taught and then I went on to train at Leith’s School of Food and Wine in London before setting up Tidy Kitchen closer to home in Wales.
“I have more experience in the higher end clientele. However, since the new year, it’s not necessarily the ultra-high net worth clients that are looking at it. Now it’s people with the disposable income that will potentially hire an Airbnb for a celebration. Rather than booking a taxi and going to a restaurant, they’ll ring me and I will go to them. The demographic has changed a lot from my original clientele.
“I think there are other chefs that would accommodate for cheaper menus and meal prepping. I actually started looking at it in lockdown as well, cooking for people so that they can put food in their freezer and just pull it out. They’ll buy all the ingredients and pay me for
the time it takes for me to cook.
“The only part about being a chef that you really, really need to do is be flexible and accommodate different people’s dietary requirements. Restaurants are designed to have a set menu to appeal to vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and so forth. But as a private chef, you could be offering a seven-course tasting menu based on what they decide to do. You have to be experienced and you have to be able to cater for them without them feeling that they’ve been left out.
“I think that the best thing about having a chef come to you is that interaction with the guests. We had an open kitchen during the last job that I did in January. I took out every course and introduced the course, answered the questions that they had about it. We talked about the dishes with the hosts beforehand but it’s all a surprise for the guests. It’s really engaging, and people love that element of it. It’s becoming quite intimate and fun.
“In terms of somebody starting a business for themselves, I would just make a massive emphasis on the fact that the client always comes first. A wonderful thing about being a chef is feeding people. That’s the whole point. You want them to have an amazing experience. It’s not necessarily about what you want to cook.
“Cost-wise, I also need to factor in accommodation and ingredients, which the client pays for. If people are willing to have you, they’re willing to pay for you.