Starting a personal chef business in Canada

Joined Jan 11, 2013

I was just wondering if there are any members of this forum who are working as personal or home chefs in Canada?  After working in a number of restaurants here in montreal, which is really a shit town for cooks due to low pay and all of your employers trying to screw you, I'd like to start a personal chef biz.  There don't seem to be many people doing this here.  I'm just starting out, and thus am really looking for some advice regarding rates, demand, insurance, regulations, etc.  I have done research, but I'm having some difficulty finding the specific info that I'm looking for.

I know I should get liability insurance, for example, but does anyone have any recommendations pertaining to which companies offer competitive rates?  There are so many...

Also, does anyone know of any useful cooking software/apps for organizing/costing recipes, etc., and/or accounting software?


Joined Jan 30, 2012
Not many doing it because the market is so slim.  

You need a lot of contacts, rich ones at that, and you have to be part of the 'in' crowd or at least be able to fit in with them.

You'll also notice that there is a slight economic down turn that is hampering a large number of otherwise wealthy people.

If you want to give it a go i'd suggest lining yourself up to work in the USA.  The demographics will make it much more likely to work.

There are only 4 urban centers in Canada that have over 1 million people.

Being the GTA at 5.1m - Montreal 3.4m - Vancouver at 2.1m and finally Calgary at 1m even.   How many prospective clients do you think each area has?   How many have already been 'taken'?

Not saying you can't get in the door but you will need a stellar reputation, solid knowledge and skills, those contacts mentioned above and a buffer of money while you get off the ground.

Last thing is that food preparation falls under provincial rules, and often is passed entirely to the municipality, which makes it a headache if you need to move around. (as everywhere is different)
Joined Jan 11, 2013
Okay, Michael, thanks for your comments!  I'm definitely going to try to make a go of it, at least for a while, as there are minimal start-up costs, so I don't have much to lose.

Regarding rich clientele...I'm not sure my potential clients necessarily need to be 'wealthy'.  I definitely wasn't thinking of charging as much as personal chefs do in New York or something.  I've done some preliminary costing, and I think that I can keep my service affordable while still making money.
Joined Sep 18, 2008
I have to respectfully disagree with MichaelGA, not about doing business in Canada but with respect to the potential market for personal chefs.

I started my personal chef business in 2000 and quickly learned that 20 monthly clients kept me fully occupied. If they are bi-weekly, the number is 10, and weekly, the number is 5. The categories of potential clients includes:
  • Families with both parents employed
  • Couples who are both employed, often as professionals, i.e. lawyers, doctors, accountants, managers, etc.
  • Couples and individuals with food sensitivities, allergies, or other food related problems
  • Families, couples, and individuals who simply do not cook or do not want to cook
  • Families, couples, and individuals who simply prefer to do something other than shopping and cooking
  • Seniors and retirees
I live and work in a city of 55,000 and have no problem finding clients. 20/55,000 equals 0.0003646 or 0.03636%, that is 1 person for every 2,750 population

The KEY to a successful personal chef business is determining your market and serving that market. Most clients are not interested in avant garde food, just tasty, nutritious meals available whenever they want.

A personal chef is not really a private chef with more than one client. A personal chef shops and prepares meals that meet the client's needs.

Personal chefs are cooks for hire and, in a great majority of jurisdictions, have no more regulatory restrictions than anyone who cooks at home with regards to food safety. A personal chef does have to comply with taxing authorities and business licensing and is well advised to maintain general liability insurance the same as any other prudent business person. Though ServSafe or NRFSP certification is highly desirable,   it is rarely a requirement.

I have been a member of:

American Personal & Private Chef Association
4572 Delaware Street San Diego, CA 92116
Tel: 800-644-8389 / 619-294-2436
Email: [email protected]

since 2002 and highly recommend anyone contemplating a career as a personal chef call Candy Wallace, Executive Director, and find out the facts about the business opportunities.
Joined Nov 11, 2012
Very informative and interesting, Pete. I had the same opinion as Michael before that; in that it would be difficult to make a living in that line of work unless you're a very large city catering to very wealthy people. I always see ads here for private chefs (it seems there are a lot here) and I always thought to myself 'that chef must be a "starving artist" type'. Maybe I'm wrong to assume that? 
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Joined Sep 18, 2008
Personal chefs sell time, not food. Time that the client would otherwise spend
  • shopping
  • preparing
  • cooking
  • cleaning up
  • driving to and back from a restaurant or fast food establishment
For the average family of four, this may amount to 10-15 and maybe even 20 hours a week (2-4 hours per day) that is freed up for other activities; i.e. sports, personal fitness, hobbies, family time, homework, social activities, etc.

Personal chefs cook what the client wants to eat, not what the chef wants to cook. Many times this means comfort foods or family favorites.

Personal chefs provide a service that fulfills the client's wants and needs, whatever they may be.
Joined Apr 3, 2005
Hi there, I'm reading up about starting a personal chef service (in Canada, as well) and am trying to create a business plan that would serve the client well, but that also embodies my personal style in cooking. I think it's positive to have a specific angle/niche so that you target the clients with whom you share common interests and goals in cooking and food.

I came across one example of a chef who liked to offer mainly fresh food, and preferred to avoid freezing meals. Is it possible to specify/enforce this kind of thing, or would that be ill-advised? How do you balance your food philosophy (fresh is best, some proteins should be cooked just prior to consumption, whole foods/organic/local ingredients, etc?) with convenience and the needs of the client? I'm sure there are various business models that deal with these issues, and that it often comes down to the individual client's needs.

Second question: I'd like to offer a monthly or bi monthly seasonal menu...i intend for it to be diverse (vegetarian, vegan gluten free options) how does one balance this with specific dietary needs of clients, or clients requests for custom menus/meals? Do you offer both (set and custom)? Do you offer just the menu and just deal with special requests as they come up? Is it possible to offer a reduced service cost based on the fact that you cook off the set menu only?

Any reflections on this would be great!

Joined Sep 18, 2008
Repeating myself, for me, the road to a successful personal chef business starts with understanding the client's wants and needs are far more important than my wants, opinions, or needs.

A personal chef business is not for YOU, it is for your CLIENTS!

Notice I use the term "client" instead of "customer", that, to me, is a key term. Restaurants have customers, personal chefs serve clients.

Anything that restricts a potential client's choice constrains the potential market for a personal chef, whether it is a fixed menu, dietary style, cuisine, or any other choice made by the personal chef.

Of course, a personal chef is free to decide which potential clients one is willing to serve.

I do not use a menu of choices, I use a list of typical dishes to stimulate the client's imagination.

My specialty is cooking what the client desires.
Joined Aug 21, 2004
 How do you balance your food philosophy (fresh is best, some proteins should be cooked just prior to consumption, whole foods/organic/local ingredients, etc?) with convenience and the needs of the client?
I don't believe that is entirely possible. One, either your food philosophy or the needs of the client, ultimately has to be your priority and it in turns determines the resulting factors. That is not to say that compromise can't and won't happen. A business with a no compromise attitude faces a rocky road, however you still need one direction to be your beacon.

"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." Yogi Berra
Joined Apr 3, 2005
Thanks for the input!

Chef McCracken, do you find that clients tend to know what they want? Or do you tend to need to work with them and offer suggestions? Having worked as a cook for the past 7 years, I know how frequently people ask for modifications based on their diets and preferences, so, while I want to offer a menu of my food, I am aware that it might be in vain once those preferences come into play. That said, I'm also thinking that my professional experience in fine dining might be an angle I could work with/promote (many personal chef services seem to be run by individuals who haven't cooked professionally). But you're right, in the end, I think most people will want to determine what I cook for them.

Also, does it make the most sense to charge a service/hourly fee and bill for groceries separately? What factors determine the service fee you charge?

I'm sure I'll ask further questions as they come up, I really appreciate the help!

For the record, I did send several questions via email to the Canadian Personal Chef Association, but they didn't reply ; )
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Joined Sep 18, 2008
Call Candy Wallace, Executive Director

American Personal & Private Chef Association
4572 Delaware Street San Diego, CA 92116
Tel: 800-644-8389 / 619-294-2436
Email: [email protected]

as she was instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Personal Chef Association and may be able to help.

With regards to charging, I operate on a fee plus groceries and my fee is based on $/cook day, not on what or quantity cooked. I do not use $/hr or $/meal or $/person. I do have a minimum charge that is currently $350/day.
Joined Nov 9, 2013

I am also working on becoming a personal chef. Working in restaurants for 14 years, have 2 children 6 and 6 months. Want to move towards something with more flexible hours and less time spent in traffic!

Does anyone know which association is better, Canadian personal chef association or Canadian personal chef alliance?

I live on the south shore of Montreal.
Joined Mar 6, 2015
I know this thread is a little old, but the U.S. Personal Chef Association supports chefs all across the United States and Canada. You can get more information at or by calling 800-995-2138. 

If you're a new chef looking to start your business, you will get all of the support you need to make sure you are on the right track.
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