6. Scheduling time off can be difficult. My time off is totally dependent on when Marc is away. When I first began working for him, he was going back and forth from Paris on a regular basis, but now he's predominantly in New York, which makes things a bit more difficult. I try to schedule vacations and my events — like private dinners and parties I'm hired to cook for — around his schedule. I'm also not working a traditional 9 to 5, so I'm able to squeeze in other things in the early morning, mid-afternoon, and late night.
7. Dining is an experience beyond the food. You eat with your eyes first, and you can start experiencing a meal even before you have food in front of you. As a personal chef, I have to create ambiance in the dining room in addition to the work I do in the kitchen. When I'm serving dinner to Marc, I love to put on music and light candles and really create a mood so that when he comes down, it's a beautiful environment that he's walking into. This job is about more than just preparing food — it's about creating an experience.
8. You're not just the chef. You're also the hostess, the server, the bartender, and the dishwasher. You have to be an entire restaurant staff squeezed into one person. Even when a dinner party is done, I'm still cleaning the china and crystal, and putting everything away. Sometimes, after I've been cooking for 10 or 12 hours, I still have to do two hours of breakdown and clean up by myself.
9. Planning ahead is key. There are certain days where I'm just straight cooking, and other days where I'm doing a lot of prep and set-up for future events. I make all my own sauces and stocks, so I set aside full days to do that. Right before I went out of town for Thanksgiving, I did a whole day of making chicken stocks and beef broths and other stuff that I can just put in the fridge and have on hand whenever I need it. I also stock up on dry foods — grains, beans, spices, etc. — and freeze fruits, so that I don't have to scramble to make a last-minute meal.
10. You'll constantly be thinking about food. When I'm not cooking, I'm constantly trying new things, checking out food blogs, and talking to my friends in the industry — fellow chefs or sommeliers or mixologists — about techniques and applications. When it comes down to it, chefs are pretty geeky, and we love the science of cooking. I also spend a lot of time on Instagram, since most of the people I follow on Instagram are, in one way or another, related to the food industry.
11. Culinary school is not required. The culinary world is unique in that you can take a lot of different paths to get to a career in food. I didn't go to culinary school; I just worked in kitchens and, ultimately, a lot of things I learned were self-taught. Going to culinary school can also be an incredible experience, so if you can do it, you should go to the best culinary school. If you can't go to the best one, work in a kitchen, because that's a great way to learn if you're cut out for the job or not.
12. You are on the clock every time someone needs to eat. Which is, like, all the time. I work seven days a week and I've committed to being available. In some ways, I'm at the beck and call of my clients. There are times where I get notice that I've got to do a dinner party a few hours before, and that's crazy — to not only think up a menu but also have to shop, prep, cook, and present everything. It's only possible to do this when you're focused and efficient, which is where my motto (Don't freak out!) comes into play.
13. At the end of the day, you're creating special memories for your clients.It's a gift to be able to make delicious food and provide an experience for someone. Food is so integral in our lives and the way we remember certain things, and it's great to be the person who's creating that memory.
The Chef mentioned in this article is not a Member of The Chef Alliance.
The Chef Alliance is the leading organisation of Private & Personal Chefs & Caterers in Canada offering Chefs a place to locate jobs, meet new clients, grow their business, benefit from peer support, discounts to lower their business costs, marketing services & much more. This allows Chefs concentrate on what they do best - cook great food!
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