You don't have to go to school to become a chef, but you need skills to run your own business
This story is part of the Globe Careers’ series looking at specific jobs, with their qualifications, descriptions, responsibilities and current salaries. For more, see our Salaries Series.
Job: Personal Chef
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It can range from $20,000 per year to more than $80,000, depending on the number of days worked and the clientele. On average, most personal chefs cook three to four days per week, take several weeks of vacation per year, and earn between $35,000 and $45,000 per year, according to Mia Andrews, president, Canadian Personal Chef Association (CPCA).
There are no educational requirements, but some have some type of culinary education, cost of which can range between $2,000 and $15,000, depending on the school. Ms. Andrews said many personal chefs have a combination of experience from school, having worked with other chefs and their own "entrepreneurial attitude."
Personal chefs also need to be updated on local health and safety regulations and expected to have what’s known as "food handler certification." The CPCA provides training around the unique operational requirements of the profession, including logistics and food safety.
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By the numbers:
According to the CPCA, the average cost of a standard personal chef service for a family of four: $500 for 40 meals. That compares to more than $400 for 40 meals at a typical fast food restaurant and more than $600 at a family-style restaurant. The CPCA says the average fat content of a personal chef meal is 20-to-30 per cent, as compared to 40-to-50 per cent for the average fast-food meal.
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Personal chefs specialize in make-ahead meals for their clients. They start by figuring out the person or family’s dietary needs and tastes. Based on that information, they plan out the menu over a number of days, shop for the ingredients, and then cook the meals in the client’s home to be heated and eaten in near future. Ms. Andrews said many personal chefs also do dinner parties and events.
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The demand for personal chefs is increasing as families get busier and spend more time away from home. What’s more, people are increasingly looking to eat healthier meals, and personal chefs can provide that by helping to cook and plan out meals in advance top meet dietary needs. This includes the growing number of people with food allergies or medical issues, which require specialized meals or better management of what they eat.
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It’s not enough to be able to cook well. Personal chefs are also entrepreneurs who need some skills in running their own businesses. It’s also physically demanding work. Chefs are on their feet most of the day, and can cook between 20 to 40 meals in one day, according to Ms. Andrews.
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Why they do it:
"The people who end up in this job have a passion for cooking and client service," says Ms. Andrews. "People who are driven to the culinary industry, who also have an entrepreneurial edge, find that becoming a Personal Chef provides a great combination of both."
Personal chefs are not caterers. Ms. Andrews says the main difference is that personal chefs don’t cook and deliver food; they do their work in the client’s home. "The real beauty of being a personal chef is the very intimate relationship we develop with our clients. We are in their home. We know what they like, what their needs, wants and issues are. We become a trusted part of their lifestyle," Ms. Andrew says.
Another misconception is that the service is expensive. The CPCA says the average cost of a meal prepared by personal chef is $15 to $18 per person, as compared to $35 for a similar meal prepared by caterers.
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Give us the real scoop:
Are you a personal chef in Canada?
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