Chef in Training

Joined Jun 3, 2020
So I recently started a dining and catering service. It was originally for friends and family until a friend shared my information after I cooked for her birthday. Now I am being booked for more and more dinners and parties. While a good thing I am still new, a great cook but no formal training. With the pandemic schools are closed and all training is now online. I know I need culinary training which I plan to start in the fall (hopefully some schools have opened) but until then what are some licenses permits and certifications I need to avoid any legalities between clients and myself. I strive for professionalism. P.S. I have had the clients booked so far sign employment agreements to verify terms and pricing to avoid conflict.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
You don't need schooling in order to do catering. Do what you know best. It looks to be people like what you're doing now, go with the flow. Are you cooking out of your home ??? or in other peoples homes. The best way is to contact your local Health Dept and see if your in compliance or whats needed for you to get there.......Lets start with this and work from here. It also depends on what State, City and County you're in.......ChefBillyB
Joined Mar 1, 2017
The more details that you can provide, the better. At a minimum, I would encourage you to take a safe food handler's course to start. Some states require that you have a safe food handler's certification (or the equivalent) before working in a commercial kitchen or operating a commercial food business. As chefbillyb chefbillyb said, check with your local Health Department for the details. Also, you don't need to spend money on an expensive culinary education. Chefbillyb is right. Go with your strengths and work from there.

Also, to operate a catering business, many states will require you to operate out of a licensed commercial kitchen. If you are cooking out of your own home, that could present some problems for you. Setting the legal requirements aside, from a practical standpoint, residential appliances simply aren't designed to produce or store large quantities of food safely or efficiently. For instance, residential refrigerators simply don't have the power or the capacity to refrigerate or store large quantities of perishable items. That could create health risks for your guests that you never want to take.

If you are simply catering for small, private parties either using your own kitchen or your customer's kitchen, that's another matter altogether. If that is your intention, I would still encourage that you obtain a safe food handler's certificate and look into purchasing a modest liability policy to protect yourself in the event of an accident.

Again, more details in terms of how you intend to operate would be very helpful for us to answer your questions and provide some guidance.
Joined Jun 3, 2020
Thank you guys so much @chefbilly and sgsvirgil sgsvirgil for your advice it was beyond helpful. So my intention and what I have been doing is solely using my home kitchen for prep. I do all cooking at the residence of my client. I am currently taking a serv safe food handling course and will call my health department to make sure I'm in compliance I'm in the state of GA. Because of covid I am only catering to parties 10 guests or less to avoid violating social distancing laws. So strictly intimate gatherings and dinner parties. I haven't catered anyone's event yet as I am a solo chef yet to hire an assistant. Also I have been taking online cooking courses on YouTube to learn different techniques and cooking styles. I want to expand my knowledge as much as possible to expand my skills for future clients. I attached the entree I made for my last client it was originally another chef's creation but since i was unable to get the recipe online or from him i just recreated it myself. I aspire to by the end of the year have a food truck and next year a small restaurant. Any advice on owning and operating a food truck? And if I need to provide more info please let me know I'm a sponge looking for vast knowledge!


Joined Mar 1, 2017
I think what you have going on is a good start. I would definitely keep it simple and straightforward with small dinner parties etc.

As for the food truck and restaurant idea, I would suggest that you amass some experience first before jumping off into the deep end of the pool. A food truck has all the problem and challenges of a brick and mortar restaurant plus all the problems unique to having a kitchen on wheels. Suffice to say that owning and operating a food truck is in many ways harder than operating a restaurant.

I'll hum a few bars for you.

In many states, food trucks are restricted in terms of what can be made on board. That means its very probable that you would have to rent a commercial kitchen to prep and/or make whatever you cannot make on the truck. You can't cheat and do it at home, either. Health departments tend to get peevish about food that's prepped, made or stored in a home kitchen. That brings me to the next point, storage. You can't keep it on the truck and chances are very good that your local health department will not allow you to store your leftover ingredients in your fridge. That means you will have to either rent some commissary space to store your perishables or buy and install some commercial refrigeration at your home, which may not fly with your local health department. Then, there's parking, permits, insurance, mechanical issues.....if your generator runs out of gas or breaks down, you just can start up the truck and go get a new one or get some gas. If your truck breaks down, you're days worth of revenue is shot, perhaps more, not to mention the lay out of cash to get it fixed. What if you forget to fill the water tanks? You can't operate without clean water. And the list goes on and on and on and on........

My advice would be to get a job working in a kitchen. Spend a few months, maybe a year, learning the business and getting a good understanding of how things work in a commercial kitchen. This is exceptionally important because cooking for friends and family, even doing small get-togethers, is nothing like cooking commercially. The gear is different. The way food is handled is different. The recipes and measurements are different. The stoves are different. The volume of food is different. You get the point. The knowledge that you will gain from your time in a commercial kitchen will be the best investment you could possibly make in furthering your knowledge of cooking etc.

Now, since you are an aspiring chef who's looking to get into the food industry, I will do you the compliment of critiquing your food picture as if you were one of my cooks.

First, the presentation is overall nice. Its not great. I like the use of colors -red, green, yellow, orange etc. But, why two slices of lemon? Next time, make a single cut in the lemon slice from the center out and twist both ends to form a sort of helix shape. It looks better than just bare bones lemon slices hanging out on the edge of the plate.

The cook on the fish looks very good. I assume its salmon. The color is rich, well seared and doesn't appear to be over done. Good work there.

The sear on the scallops is a bit light. Perhaps the pan wasn't hot enough? You need to work on that. That pan has to be screamin' hot with a high smoke point oil. Scallops are a high ticket item and they can never leave the kitchen without being pitch perfect every time. Practice makes perfect. You'll get it.

As for the lobster, it has good color from what I can see of it and appears to be properly cooked. But, the sauce is a bit overpowering. Perhaps next time, serve the sauce on the side or use a bit less of it. There's no since hiding one of the jewels of your plate under a blanket of sauce.

As for the reddish-orange sauce on the plate, its a bit much. It looks like the dish is swimming in it. I assume its some sort of butter sauce, yes? Saffron? Tumeric? Can't really tell.

Lastly, never use cooked herbs for garnish, especially with seafood. If you're going to garnish with herbs, always use fresh picked or none at all. A fresh piece of rosemary would've made that dish's appearance really pop.

Over all, I think the dish shows a solid foundation of skills and a generous amount of talent. The only things that are wrong with the dish are merely due to inexperience. Get some experience and people will pay you a lot of money to make that dish. I think you'll do well.

Good luck. :)
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
Where I am all you really need is to apply for a DBA license to start a catering company, but you do need to find an inspected commercial setting to produce out of. You are not allowed to use you home as the primary cooking location for catering unless you are willing to have a health inspector come to your residence and certify and inspect it.
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