Immediate Advice Needed

Joined Aug 19, 2003
Hi to my catering and private chef colleagues. Have difficult mathematical formula question.

Interviewing for private chef position for high profile family. Requires the following:

Weekends Friday- Sunday

Friday dinner (family of 6 plus staff of 4) - different menus, different service time

Sat Lunch & Dinner (6 family + 4staff, with dinner also accommodating an additional 12 guests - min 3 course dinner plus hors d'oeuvres)

Sunday Brunch or Lunch & Dinner (6 family + 4staff)

Responsibilities: Menu Plan/Design, Shop, cook, prep, clean up, floral arrangements.

Flexible, able to handle last minute guests, easy-going, long hours.

Then I need to be able to accommodate the unexpected, surprises, "and by the way...." requests.

One family member has allergies, but not of the anaphelactic (sp?) shock kind.

I know this audience DOES NOT CARE that we're coming into the high holiday/party season

I know they don't care about giving up all weekend time for husband/family/romantic getaways.

I know they had two live in couples that left for "personal reasons"

So what is the best formula. My best friend/colleague says the answer is "thank you but no thanks". Any strong opinions out there?
Joined Aug 25, 2009

My first question would be : Do you have any experience working private ?

When someone tells you there may be "last minute guests" , what they are really trying to tell you is that there will be last minute guests.

Long hours ? ......You are not really cooking for many people, its just alot of tidious work with much planning and prep ( attention to details).

They interviewed you but did you ask them to see the kitchen ? How many stoves ? Fridges ? Pantry ? Kitchen equipment ? and all the rest ......

Ten  people  is not alot but when you are one hour just before plating with a fixed menu ready to fly , can you create another menu off the cuff,  very last minute ?

If you are doing brunch for sunday but the saturday party in running into 1-2am will you be ready for the brunch prep and service ? ( there are always extra people for brunch-trust me)

Allergies ? Anaphylactic shock or rather anaphylazis is something you should be aware of with any person with food allergies. You must make sure when your serving any guests, to make mention (as soon as you greet them) if there any food allergies, for the family your working for and their guests.

Would I be wrong in concluding that you will be staying there the 3 days ? Are there servers ? Please don't tell me they are hoping that you would do the cooking and the serving ?  For the shopping is it Carte Blanche ?

When you wrote long hours: it really means no sleep and alot of stress.

It would soooooooooooo interesting as to know why the other couples left ? Did you ask why they left ? Did you ask  what was their salary ?

More than likely the job was too demanding and the pay did not make the cut..............

But besides thinking about these folks, what about you  ? Your weekends away from family ? Your stress levels ? Basically , your needs, because when push comes to shove, their needs will always be first and foremost while you bite your lip and try to keep a quiet and pleasant demure.

You can't wing a job like this, its like you have to made of rubber, everything should be able to bounce off you and leave you unaffected and still be able to go home and leave your job where it was when you walked out the door. (for me, I never talk about my day- its gone).

I would be asking everyone's opinion on this......

But you wrote something interesting .......your best friend suggested you walk away .......who knows you better ?

Forgive me if I was a bit straightforward, not enough ? I don't know....but these are just things to think about.

hope this helps.....anyone else ?
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Joined Feb 13, 2008
Petals touched on many of the questions going begging in your post. 

They're asking you to do ten menus for about 70 covers, over three days.  It's not really much of a shopping or cooking challenge if they have the kitchen for it; but you can only be in one place at once.  You'll need at least one person from staff to help in the kitchen and do all the serving, and probably two on Saturday night's dinner for 20.   

A lot depends on what kind of menus they expect for the family meals, and for Saturdays' dinner parties.  If they're expecting more than franks and beans, the Saturday party alone will be a full day's work for a cook, plus helper(s). 

The allergy thing may or may not be a big deal depending on the nature of the actuall allergy and how often working around it means cooking separate dishes. It's great that the affected person won't go into anaphylaxis from eating a peanut (or whatever), but you have to make sure even an iota gets close.  Setting aside the person's health, it's your responsibility and you're a professional.  You should make sure (s)he knows in advance what's in any given dish; and that there's a suitable substitute if you're using a tabu ingredient in one of them.

If they expect things like fresh baked bread, cakes and pastries, that's more time. 

It would probably be a better idea for all concerned to view this as a four and a half day gig rather than three -- with Wednesday half-day and Thursday for shopping, prep and polishing.  You can throw in one extra menu suitable for both staff and family on either day as a bargaining chip.

They do care about the holidays and all that other stuff.  Theirs, not yours.  That's why they're hiring someone. 

I don't have a clue what you mean by "a formula."  You enlighten, we discuss. 

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Joined Aug 11, 2000
I've personal cheffed for years, just got back from a dbl day.  Each client is so different....

What happens when they travel, how often do they travel?  What about vacation time for you?

Where are you, in urban area with loads of great food shops/bakeries, or 1.5 hours in the middle of nowhere on a country estate?

4 kids.   There will be at least one who is picky.  Count on it.  So you'd need to find out what's if Suzy doesn't like salad nicoise then she can have a PBJ or Tuna Salad.  I can't tell you how many times I've finally had to ask parents if I'm cooking for them or the kids.  With most families there where some dishes that the whole family liked....those were golden.

Saturday night you will need help plating.....and hopefully cleaning up.

You've become figuring out what that would be worth to you is interesting.   Personally, I'd want the talk to start at $80k or more + good insurence +vacation + an assitant for Sat. 

And a serious talk about what the kids will eat.
Joined May 5, 2010
Saffron, I sent you a PM yesterday but wish to add to that.

As I said before, when a person takes a Private Chefs position it is like being adopted into the family.

You ARE on call always.

I have done this job for 13 years now and believe me you find yourself becoming as close to the family as a member is.

But....again.......when you interview bring up your concerns about family, time off, scheduling, etc......I'm sure that if you are what they are looking for

they will work with you to make the situation work out.

Only you can decide if the pay equals the work. Take your friends advice under consideration but only you can make the call.

Best of luck.
Joined Aug 19, 2003
It was an amazing interview. Definitly a position I would have loved if they accepted the salary I wanted.

Arrived at the estate gates and was buzzed in. Brought my 'A Game' with full portfolio (menus, press releases, etc) and resume.

Then I also prepared one perfect hors d'oeuvres - lump crabcake with chipotle remoulade - presented on an amuse dish straight from Paris!

Then prepared grilled swordfish topped with chopped sundried tomatoes & basil with a shallot butter sauce & sauted organic swiss chard (straight from my garden) with mojo de ajo (double YUMM) garnished with a beautiful nastursium.and presented under silver dome.

I also brought a baby hawk feather that I found just before I left as a surprise to the little 3 1/2 year old boy (one of 4 kids)

So as I waited in the solarium for my presentation, I soaked in the beautiful 30 acre estate!. While I felt confident, my heart was pounding. It was a dreamy country oasis. Caretaker arrived to offer a drink and I accepted a glass of water so my tongue wouldn't stick in responding to the interview questions.Greeted by their family dog (a rare breed which I bred years ago......un signa....un signa!!) This is definitely book material.....

Okay, so in walks Mrs. X and immediately sizes up the dishes proffered.on the cocktail table. We greet each other and then she casually reaches for the crabcake as we sit down to begin the interview. It first begins with the family pet and my background with the breed. Then on to the portfolio, resume and assorted menus. I then remove the dome cover and an explanation of what's offered is presented. She's impressed goes for a mouthful.

That was the first "mmmm". (Oldest son and Mr. X also floated in for a tasting). She wonders out loud if she can "afford" me. Mentions she's very busy between her four properties - NY, FLA, ASPEN, and country estates....runs a business....4 children ....philanthropic obligations.....and multiple staff.

Needs someone who is very "what are my rates.....had I thought about how much I would want for this Fri-Sun gig" She also mentions she is interviewing a couple for the M-Fri spot immediately following my interview.

I make sure to review her expectations:

Friday dinner for family of 6 plus staff of 4 (of yes, she forgot to mention another 2 staff), & maybe guests or children's 6 friends

(different menus, different service times)

Saturday lunch for family of 6 plus staff of 4.5.6 ? plus dinner for family, guests (12) and staff.

(different menus for lunch, child 3, child-teen, staff and dinner party)

okay....still not a problem

Sunday brunch buffet, and dinner (same amount of people, different menus and services)

Then there's planning for the unexpected....she mentions some prepared meals for the kids and friends

Planning with groceries for last minute surprises (extra shrimp, veal and chicken scallopine, soups, etc)

Oh another ..."by the way....for parties ....Halloween 50, Thanksgiving 18, Christmas and Holiday parties..And she would give me advanced notice if there would be celebrity guests or if the President was coming for dinner.

And of course all of the personal factors I needed to consider: no personal life on the weekends, the high risk factors of no "contract" where they can release at any moment, no insurance, no benefits, being hired in the HIGH SEASON, no more big weekend catering gigs, no $5K cocktail parties, no holiday parties, no mitzvahs.......nothing that they would have to care about)

What's my rate?.....I let her know who I'm if she's looking for a private chef who is looking for $1200-2000 and shops at Stop & Shop for groceries (no disrespect to that franchise), I'm not the right person. I have the experience from private chef background, catering parties, can handle requests on last minute notice, can stock and organize for the wide range of palates and occasions, and have the vendor contacts to assure the best products delivered to her gates. And I live only 15 minutes away if she needs last minute help.

My rate.....$3600. She follows up with what I would charge for Sat only.....$1200. ($100.pp  for those dinner parties)

She would need to speak with her husband to see if this makes good financial sense. I leave with a cordial and gracious thank you and ask that if she wants, she could hire me for her big parties and to please refer me to her friends and circle of influence. She says we will definitely be in touch......

I certainly hope so.

Thanks for all the immediate help when I needed it.....

As always, with gratitude,


PS I love this board, the straight chef-talk, the expertise of everyone here and the knowledge of the unspoken factors.
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
Champagne Taste with a beer budget. The reason they have 30 acre estate, is they do not want to part with Gelt (money) wish them good luck in their search, and say goodbye.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Bet the kitchen is amazing.

I'm confused though, you are pricing out by the weekend......what if they are on the other side of the world, little notice or not enough for you to drum up other business....if you are on "call" for them you'd be blocking out all your weekends for a by job $ you're a hired temp not an employee with benefits.
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Joined Aug 19, 2003
Hi Shroomgirl~

Yes, kitchen was well appointed and beautiful. Very condusive to having a full staff working and cranking out assorted menus.

A designer and not anyone who cooks, designed the layout of the kitchen. The refrigerator was opposite of the sink and you had to walk around a 12' island to go back to the refrig if you forgot something. No additional sink on island or on opposite countertop. Makes for a cramped area at the sink when it's busy.

Anyway, it nothing else, I imagine that at the next gala, as the socialites discuss politics, hedgefunds, vacations on the Riviera, they will also be talking about solidifying their staff in their various properties.....and the one who asked for $3600 for three days. I was very well coached by you about the reality of the situation, the unknowns, the risk factors and the hours required. Thanks once again.

Chef Talk is priceless!
Joined Aug 19, 2003
About the issue that this is a "temp" position with no contract (my friend mentions even if you have a contract, it's not really "enforceable with the wealthy"....go ahead and try to would cost me more than the whole thing is worth) So I did mention that even when they are on vacation or spontanously away, thet I would still be paid (esp since, as you mentioned shroomgirl, I would not have sufficient notice to fill in that space) She was very quick in saying that I could "owe her" that time back during the summer when they entertain even more or fly to their FLA estate and work there. But "Oh...I'm married and that probably wouldn't work for me". I responded that if would be fine if I included my husband....happily married for 23 years!)

I had read up on the top chefs in the business and also wanted to find out what celebrity chefs earn, what private chefs to rock stars earn who have it tougher being on the road touring with them and on call 24/7, and private chefs in the Northeast. Also checked with Craig's list and looked at the domestic section since everyone seems to be posting positions now ...back from vacation. Amazing that the wealthy are using this resource vs. the agency route.

Clever, thrifty and resourceful they have become!

So the rates seem to be - private chef $60-120K/yr + benefits/housing/vacation/bonus

Cooks/Housekeepers - slave labor rates

Rock Star Chef - Starting at $5K/week + benefits + perks!

Network Chef/Cook Rachael Ray & Wolfgang Puck - 18MM (with RR the highest paid of the bunch, that can't be right)

Cable Chef/Cooks (Emeril - Flay - Bordin, Batali, etc 1.5-$7MM)

and now Bethany Frankel, the Whole Foods Celebrity Chef coming in with a prime endorsement with Skinny Girl Margaritas & Pepperidge Farms -

great PR branding. WOW .....she hit it B-I- G! Gotta get on one of those reality shows and get a boob job!
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I've got a buddy who was chef to the Greatful Dead for 17 years while they tourred, the stories he tells are awe inspiring....he's the guy I go to with crazy logistic kosher bat mitzvah in a new building with only electricity, no kitchen.  Anyway he cheffed for 6 mos at Duffs then took off and cooked on the road for the Dead.  A couple of summers ago he did it again for the last remaining guy, the older members are into organic and juicing.  Kinda funny.  anyway Jimmy does not make big bucks.

Another friend worked for a computer whizkid who had a family and lives in Michigan and on the west coast.  He was in fine dining and then took this gig when hte restaurant sold.  anyway he lived through the summer in Mich...then moved back to STL and cooked-shipped food to the family when they went back west.  Not sure what Kirk was making but I know he does a lot of different things.  Team building for corporations in Europe, cooking classes, private parties...etc...

Still not mega bucks.

Good to realize I was in the ballpark on private chefs.....funny how many people aren't.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
This is Palm Beach, Loads of private chefs some hi paid others not. Depends on family. The old money pays well The new doesn't thats why they have money. The old money just wants to brag that they have a chef. The new money wants to brag how they don't pay them that much. I did it for 7 years, best part was going shopping , VERY FEW LATE NIGHTS and driving a different luxury car daily.
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