When I lost my beloved job 8 years ago, (selling the finest wines of the world, yo!), and got left in chronic pain after my third back surgery, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’m in pain when sitting, couldn’t bend much, couldn’t lift anything heavy … so – long driving is out, even sitting through a movie is a problem, office work is out, what is it that I can do? The worse – I also lost another perk: getting my wines on employee’s discount, and that truly sucked!
So I thought, and thought, and looked and searched, and some trials and mistakes later, I found my Personal Chef Business. Vera’s Home Kitchen was born. Maybe it was a natural expansion of my love for food and wine, after running my own restaurant kitchen, years back. And you know what? I don’t hurt when I stand! So, perfect! Running my own business is also flexible enough to manage the workload when I don’t feel that well. I don’t have employees to worry about when I need to take a few days off.
Little did I know that I started some of the most exciting chapters of my professional career!
A whole new world opened for me. I’m meeting new people every day and luckily, they appreciate quality food, my personality, and my style of cooking. The wine was originally created and meant to accompany food and gourmet food without a wine – is like a day without a smile. Right? Or like a meatball without the marinara sauce?
Most importantly, I love the idea behind my business. The feel that aside from a culinary experience, I’m giving my clients back something even more important – the luxury of TIME. If they hire me, they don’t have to spend their precious time meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, and cleaning the kitchen afterward. Instead, they come home, decide what they like to have for dinner (meals are ready for them in the fridge prepared just the way they like it) – and all there is left to do is to heat it up and enjoy their time with the family.
My schedule started filling up quickly. It was obvious that there was a market for what I was offering. And it’s not just one type of customer. I’ve cooked for professional athletes but also for a busy single mom who runs her business and when she comes home, she wants to eat well, healthy, organic, and enjoy the little time she has left with her child. I prepared a diet program for a single professional who didn’t cook himself but wanted to lose weight and eat clean.
I’ve cooked regular meals for someone on a super strict diet when everything I prepared, loaded with nutrients she needed, had to be finely pureed and fed via a feeding tube. I’ve prepared high-end gourmet wine dinners with expert wine pairing, or a manager’s get-away on the yacht, where everything had to be top-notch – or better yet, over the top.
This is far from boring! Can you tell? I have the most fun preparing Romantic dinners for young lovebirds, but can’t complain about being an important piece of one special dinner for a sweet couple on their 65th Anniversary. This work can’t be more interesting! Every day is a different place, meeting different people, cooking in beautiful kitchens, and creating a different menu.
Looking back I realized that I didn’t enjoy repetitions in my life, and need to challenge myself all the time.
That’s why this business is the best thing that happened to me. I get to be creative, and flexible, I get to improvise, make my own decisions and even choose my own clients! To stay on top of the game, I also constantly study new trends and diets so I can help my clients make healthier choices.
Holidays may have been the most difficult. Not because I’ve to work on holidays (again, it’s my choice and I don’t have to). But just imagine, taking over someone’s Thanksgiving or Passover – a challenge may be an understatement. It’s the family’s once-a-year traditional get-together where the food plays the most important role. Every family has their favorite dishes, so what if they wouldn’t care for mine? What if I screw up a turkey? How would I replace that on the spot when the guests are coming and Thanksgiving dinner is about to start? It could be nerve-wracking 🙂
Preparing someone’s meals or their important dinner party,
in the privacy of their own kitchen, is quite personal.
We all have different ideas, tastes, allergies, or likes, and creating a menu that works for every guest could be another challenge. Unlike in a professional kitchen, where the chef works behind closed doors, I have very direct, in-my-face feedback. Luckily for me, mostly positive.
I found out it completes me. I get to cook, be creative, enjoy a variety of people, and sometimes even get to be entertaining. Those years on the stage in my twenties pay off!
I soon realized there is more demand than I can possibly satisfy since I had to mind my own physical condition. I’ve also seen my share of desperate “personal chefs” running around in circles, getting hired for “any job” and getting paid peanuts. Not only do they burn out quickly, but they also kind of spoil the field for the rest of us. When I spoke with one, he was frustrated that “the good clients are just for the selected few”.
No, they’re not! You can have a thriving, professional business in a matter of just a few weeks! Does it take some work? Absolutely! But it pays off. Sometimes the hardest thing is to stop and take a hard, honest look at your business from the outside in order to figure out where the problem is. Lots of people don’t even bother, they just keep hassling, pushing through, getting nowhere, and thinking that’s how it’s supposed to be.
And then I realized that my years of customer service, success in sales, and multiple business experiences can help others to attract the right clients.
Those that appreciate your creativity pay a fair price for that – even if you don’t have a shiny culinary degree or thousands of dollars to spend on advertising.
If I could have done it,
without connections, knowledge of the market, experience in this field, in a second language – so can you!
Is a Personal chef business something you’re considering? Then don’t just dive in losing your head. Let me help you. Entering this fun industry can be done without repeating the necessary mistakes we all did. Don’t lose time and money figuring out how NOT to do it.
When I first started there wasn’t a place to turn, ask questions, get recommendations on thousands of small details – and do it safely, in a closed community so the clients wouldn’t see that.