Anthony “Becoming a Private Chef”

Posted on: September 4, 2009 by The Stove Monkey in Food

As a private chef, my office shifts from my clients’ homes to the grocery store, and on Sunday nights, my own home where I work to prepare for the upcoming week. Yes, in a nutshell I cook food for my clients and their families, clean-up, and go home. But I am more than that, and I certainly didn’t just wake up one day and decide to do this. I could say I kind of fell into it, but thinking more carefully about it there was actually a definitive moment when I decided to give private chef-dom a shot. What did I do following that moment? Well, it was more of a process than something that happened all at once. So what advice do I have for all those out there that might be saying the very same thing?

Step One: Just jump in. Embracing the mindset that you ARE going to do this is my suggestion. Next, it’s time to direct that thinking toward finding a job—which, at first, may be more challenging. There are private chef placement agencies but I would suggest you network your ass off and stay diligent. I was initially introduced to the private chef industry while working with a family for whom I prepared meals in advance (i.e. could be reheated throughout the week without my actual presence). I casually mentioned one day that if I had a few more families that were interested in participating in this kind of program, I might be able to do it full-time. After a few months, I was referred to a family looking for a full-time private chef. I was hesitant at first, but decided to take a risk. NEVER in a million years would I have thought then that I would be here today. I know I know, you’re saying “I hear that all the time, whatever.” Although this isn’t something I thought I could ever do as an actual income-generating career, it’s also not what one typically thinks of when embarking on a culinary pathway. Reflecting on my decisions, I am so glad I took that leap of faith, which has brought me into the circle of love that is a family, and allowed me to help them share the rich experience of enjoying meals together.

Step Two: Know you are more than just “the cook.” As a personal chef, you become much more than just an employee – you are a friend, you are a confidant, you are an artist of childhood memories and nights around the dinner table, and if you’re lucky, you become part of the family. The job then becomes a balancing act between being professional and being personable. I have learned not to take anything too personally because if you do your job well, you will be treated just like another member of the clan. We all know that even the best families are the chaotic, and sometimes unpredictable ones—and do things sometimes like invite the entire neighborhood over for dinner. Knowing this, I have to maintain superior organization because at any given moment the guest list for dinner could jump from five to ten. And of course, as would be the case in your own home, there’s the “good host” expectation that there’s plenty of grub for all.

Step Three: Realize it’s more than mashed potatoes and gravy. Admittedly, it’s been a challenge to create menus that can be enjoyed collectively by each member of the family I work with. A few have dietary restrictions that I must abide by, and overall I adhere to low fat, low sodium menu items, along with the incorporation of at least one whole grain per meal. In addition, I prepare a vegetarian menu for one member of the family three days per week. I won’t lie though, I am asked to make steak and twice-baked potatoes every other week, and it has become my favorite meal to make. Without fail, they all act like it’s the best meal they’ve ever had every time. Then, when I break them off with the peanut butter pie for dessert, I become the ultimate culinary hero.

Step Four: Love what you do. The important thing to know is that while you are preparing the soup for Wednesday night’s dinner, you are also teaching young kids about the concept of recipes and ingredients, while simultaneously lending an ear to the older ones who are confiding in you about life and who they want to be. For me, the relationships I’ve formed as a personal chef inside the home are just as important as the food, and that’s why I love going to work everyday. Yes, on a typical day, I roll into work about 11, turn on the oven and the music; I cook some delicious food, hang out with the family…and then take my ass home. But in that “simplistic” routine is something so amazing, and I remain continually moved by the fact that, more than ever, food seems to have the ability to connect and bring people together. I’ve certainly not lost the passion for the restaurant industry, and definitely see myself somehow staying connected to it over the long haul. But I must say I’m a changed chef of sorts, with an expanded view that has elevated my perspective on what’s important in my life.

Anthony & Mytro

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