Home chefs give choices to those too busy to cook

Home chefs give choices to those too busy to cook

Chef Rita Krueger has worked in the cooking field as Chef Du Jour since 2000. She graduated with an asociate’s degree in culinary arts from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. In addition to her personal chef service, she offers catering and teaches cooking classes in the home.

What does a personal chef do?

Krueger: Personal chefs prepare meals in people's homes, usually on a weekly basis. They do the shopping, bring the groceries, prepare the food, wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator. They also leave instructions on how it should be heated.

The most common reasons people hire a personal chef is because they don't like to cook or they're too busy to cook. Often, people with children feel obligated to have a home-cooked meal, especially with vegetables, ready for the kids.

When I first take on a client, I'll offer a menu of choices, ask about their preferences, and assess their needs and dietary restrictions, such as low-sodium, low-fat or allergies. I tailor the menu to each client. Depending on people's needs and preferences, I can use substitution ingredients for allergies or simply avoid them altogether. I always bring a sample of my food to the first meeting. I think it's worthwhile for people to have a taste before they pay me for food.

Some clients want five meals a week; others want only one or two. I'm usually at the home for about four hours if I'm preparing a full five meals. Two meals might take only an hour and a half. I charge $50 per meal, plus the cost of groceries. I'll offer any kind of meal, but I rarely get asked for anything other than dinner.

Chefs are very busy around the holidays. I start getting most of my Christmas bookings in October.

When you're hiring a personal chef, the most important thing to look for is a ServSafe license issued by the state of Illinois. This shows you've been trained in food safety, sanitation and how to store foods properly. Ask to see the license and make sure it's not expired. Anyone you hire should also have liability insurance. A culinary degree is nice, but it's not the most important criteria. I know many excellent cooks who don't have a degree. What matters is whether or not they can cook.

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