My Life as a Private Chef

Joined Jan 1, 2001
Due to the ongoing recession and dearth of freelance work I contacted several employment agencies that specialize in placing experienced chefs with private families. This is not the personal chef business that many of our other members here are involved in. This is domestic work preparing meals to be served by a lady's maid to people of great fortune.
My first interview was a real shocker. I arrived 10 minutes early (military upbringing, you know. If you give a darn{not General Dad's word for it} about a job, show up early and ready to work) at a 5th Avenue apartment building, prepared with resume, references, photo portfolio and examples of published recipes. I was left to wait for half an hour in the lobby, making small-talk with the doorman. There was a call down and shortly I took the elevator to the top floor (entire) apartment where I was to meet and interview with the client. I was lead to what I assumed was the dining room and left to wait again amidst three gorgeous Claude Monet originals; it took me a while to grasp the the "Water Lilies" was NOT a reproduction! Imagine living with such beauty in your home?!
I spoke briefly with the personal assistant who glanced at my resume and asked me to outline what it said (what? you can't read? or didn't bother.) Then I interviewed with the butler, a very friendly, young British fellow who was, thankfully, better prepared for the task. Yes, I knew I would have to spend a good number of days per week at the country estate two hours away. Yes, my husband and I had discussed the sacrifices we would have to make, but the compensation was more than enough to make up for that. I asked relevent questions about how many I was required to cook for, how meals for other household staff were handled, what the client's preferences were and such. Then the kicker, "the job requires you to spend the entire Xmas season in Colorado. Can you do without your family?" I asked a few more details to find that I'd have my own apartment where my family could join me at our own expense. I said I think that would be fine as we both had other family in the area, but would like to check with my husband that evening. When could I start? Immediately, except for a few upcoming days that I had previously committed to.
I was shown the kitchen, butler's pantry, etc.--very nice except the All-Clad had been run through the dishwasher with lye(????)and had zero finish left. The knives were proudly shown to me to be Farberware Ever-Sharps (again, ?????-with Monets in the dining room?) No sweat-- I use my own knives anyway. Then I was informed that I should prepare to come back the next day and meet with Mrs. X, the client-call at 9AM to get the appointment time.
I checked in with the employment agent saying I felt the interview went well. He was very excited as his cut must have been substantial. I was very excited and hoped the job would work out well. The pay was good enough to clear all our debt and have a good nest egg within a year.
8:57 the next morning I called to get the time for the second interview. "I'm sorry, but Mrs. X has hired someone else." All this in the course of an afternoon? After they made perfectly clear I'd have to "audition" at a trial weekend in the country and in NYC, submit to a drug test, and have my references checked? What gives?
I made Rice Krispy Treats that afternoon. My son and I ate almost the whole batch. I still felt used, but much better.

Anyone interested in Chapter Two?
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Geez FNF!!!

that's to bad!! there's nothing like getting your hopes up for a gig and have them dashed.

Chapter 2? please, I would love to read it
Joined Aug 11, 2000
My first job cooking for money in St. Louis was as a private chef for an extremely wealthy was amazing how the kitchen was in a time warp. Everything was cared for, never thrown out.
Sorry it didn't work out.....just think private showing of great art.
Joined Jul 24, 2001
If it makes you feel better, go on please.

And read my signature, a private chef who has worked in the past in same kind of house told this to my once.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
That is some story! I can't believe how rude people can be, and yet I CAN believe it. I'm interested in hearing the next chapter. (Does it have something to do with sugar shock from all the rice crispy treats?)

I do hope you find some work soon, fnf.
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Hey , i can relate , as a young chef I was an exec at a country club in sourthern California . I remember the F&B dierctor coming to the kitchen one day in panic and telling me that this cheeseburger was for Michael Landon and you better do it good !
My response was guess what , all my cheeseburgers are good so take a hike . I have had many similar experiences and all I can say is do what you do and let the chips fall where they fall .
Course this is just my opinion .
Joined Apr 1, 2002
Wow! I know just how you feel. But let me tell you what I've learned about the very rich! I was supposed to do a party for this "lady" - VERY wealth. Sister of a friend of mine who married someone famous. I had done an event for her before. She "loved" it, me, & the price. Even told me that the price made her feel like she ought to be my daughter! The event was to be here, but she lived in L.A. After 2 weeks of her changing her mind about the menu, the level of service & worrying about the price (?), I finally just asked her how much she wanted to pay (she said $15 pp - she doesn't care what kind of food! :rolleyes: I know for a fact this women has $10,000.00 deposited into her household account every month! She told me herself that her husband was a bit upset because she had spent $20,000.00 MORE last year than the year before on entertaining!)But, I did ANOTHER menu. By this time it was too late for a snail-mail contract, but she did send an e-mail confirmation on the menu and a $800 deposit check. Then she tells me there is not going to be 100 guests, only 75. By now I'm about doing this for free! But, O.K. Trying to help out the sister of my friend. (What WAS I thinking????) Get a call 5 days before the event from her daughter...says she has been put in charge & all her mother ever wanted was a $50 cheese tray, (for 75 people?) and that since I seem incapable of producing that, she has found another caterer who can. That I'm cheating her mother, she knows it, I know it, everybody knows it and I'm not going to get away with it! That a stop payment had been put on the check and that was a ridiculous price for a cheese tray!(It was supposed to be a silver service buffet of 4 items (1 hot), punch, & coffee. My price also included 4 servers, ice to chill the wine, wine glasses, plates etc, tablecloths, fresh flower centerpiece, and printed napkins.I was also picking up 3 cases of spumonte, which I found for her at a GREAT price, and a cake!!!) Since the mother had already left L.A., and would not arrive here till the day of the party, I couldn't talk to her. So I tried to explain to the daughter that it was impossible for us to do everything her mother had requested such as tablecloths & flowers, and only get paid for a $50 cheese tray! She told me that this was my problem, since I had been so unprofessional & had not gotten a contract!!!!! Even though legally I had one, I told her that I didn't think I needed one with friends. She laughed, and said "Oh please, give me a break!" I finally just hung up on her. It was either that or listen to her screaming insults at me! So, bottom line, a long-distance phone bill & 3 weeks of chaos for NOTHING. Working for the super rich is definitely not all it's cracked up to be. Like Mezzaluna said, money can't buy manners. Or class! Or consideration! I never heard a word for this women. But I wouldn't be real surprised if one day, when she wants to throw another party in her hometown, I get a call explaining "that little mix-up"! And I can't wait!!!! So maybe "someone upstairs" was looking out for you! That little audition in the country could have been a party for 75 or 300! And you still wouldn't have seen a nickle!
Give me good-old-fashion-God-fearing-hard-working -upper-middle-class ANY DAY!
The Saucy Cajun


Joined Apr 4, 2000
What a bummer, FNF.

You should bill them for the hours you spend waiting.

Why is it the ric her some people get the less considerate they become...
Joined Jan 1, 2001
The only answer to that I can think of, Isa, is that their money seems to insulate them from the need for courtesy, tolerance and compassion for their fellow human beings. You don't need good interpersonal skills to get along in the world if you can buy your way into, or out of, anything.

Chapter 2 is being written. It promises to be more entertaining and less of a complaint. But boy, wait till you see chapter 3--skewers galore!!!
Joined Nov 20, 2000
Bummer, but you know that sometimes these things are for the best. I've done work for the super rich and the super poor and I think what my mother once said probably works in this case as well.
She lives in Florida and we were discussing one day how nasty and grouchy people seem to get when they get old. Anyone who has spent time in Fla. knows what I'm talking about. She lives in a typical development (not retirement community) but one made up mostly of the 65 and over group. So she's surrounded by them! Her feeling is that people don't get grouchy and nasty as they get older, but that they were likely this way their whole life. A good point, because there are many really nice seniors as well as nasty ones. They're just grouped together now so there's a higher concentration of nastys in one place.
I've met some rich and super rich who were just the nicest people you would ever hope to meet. As well some real a-holes who are convinced the bathrooms smell like flowers when they leave, if they do that at all:eek:.
Point is: rich or poor a-holes are the same everywhere. They don't necessarily become them when the money comes in. They were likely that way anyway.
Can't wait for all the chapters!
Joined Aug 4, 2000
What really taught me some skills at reading people was having done house calls and dealing with telephones as a chiropractor. Teaching at the college level helped, too. Exposure to many, many people and personalities, one quickly learns that some people aren't worth the time. All patients who burned me were the ones who didn't pay at the first visit. No more. Fees are paid up front before any healthcare is initiated. I'm happier; and, the patient receives better care with a side order of great bedside manner that's not influenced by any concern over being paid. People reading skills take awhile to learn.
Joined Feb 21, 2001
I worked for a family for the better part of a year. With Chagalls hanging in the family room, vintage Mercedes in the garage and so on. I let it go the first time the lady of the house did her treadmill thing, took a shower, and hung around the kitchen in a towel. Second time, when she lounged in a towel reading a Victoria Secret's catalog, I freaked. "They have a saying in Chicago, Mr. Bond. First time, happenstance. Second time, coincidence. Third time, enemy action." I was out of there.
Joined Aug 20, 2010
Yeah, not surprised! I have had experience like that as well and I hate to work for formal, usually disrespectful people.They seem to cary less about anybody in the world. But so unhappy in their life's. I have worked for some celebrities and oh god! So sad, what I have seen. 

I now work for casual family, who still can afford to pay me well , but are respectful, nice people  and appreciate great food.

This comes first for me, then money.

All the best to all of you!
Joined May 5, 2010
Interesting thread.

I guess I am one of the lucky ones.

I am 1 of 9 employees that work for the wealthy client.

Yes, sometimes they are condescending, and rude, but then again, everybody is entitled to a bad hair day.

I do appreciate their fondness for well prepared food and the fact that they know the difference.

This coming Tuesday will be my 12 year anniversary and I am as happy now as the first year.
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