Personal chef sees savings in home cooking

Personal chef sees savings in home cooking

Hiring a personal chef

The idea of hiring a personal chef may sound extravagant, but it could actually be a savings for busy people who spend a lot of money going to restaurants.

Debbie Burgess began The Hungry Fox in 2006 after deciding to follow her love of culinary arts. “My children grew up and left home, and my husband travels a lot, and I was left with no one to cook for,” Burgess says. “So I wanted to follow my passion with cooking, wine and entertaining, and I found this niche cooking for people.”

She is a graduate of the Culinary Business Academy in Rio Rancho, N.M., a certified personal fitness chef and certified by the International Sommelier Guild.

What does a personal chef do?

Burgess: Primarily, a personal chef cooks for people in their homes. The difference between a caterer and personal chef is I come to their home and cook food ahead of time for a week or a month. It's all custom-made according to their special diets or requests. Sometimes, the arrangement is short-term if somebody is ill, mom just had a baby or the client needs to meet their weight goal.

The menu is planned with and approved by the client and totally customized based on their needs. With my clients, the most important thing is fresh flavors, healthy fat, lots of green vegetables and lean proteins, but occasionally they ask for lasagna with four cheeses. I like to mix things up. I work with fitness trainers to help people lose weight and work with special diets for people who have an illness. I also work with people who are busy and don't want to eat out every meal.

When people look at the money they spend eating out at restaurants, especially if they eat out three to four nights per week, they'll find personal chef service is very affordable. They're also not eating rich restaurant food or spending time waiting for dinner or grocery shopping for food they don't have time to prepare. When you look at food waste and time waste, personal chef service can save you time and money.

I have different packages: General service starts at $225 for five meals for two people, plus the cost of groceries, which usually run about $75-$100, but groceries can cost more depending on what type of food the client wants, such as organics. I also do breakfast for on the run or lunch salads. I have one client trying to lose weight, so I also prepackage snacks for throughout the day.

I bring my own cooking utensils and set up the client's pantry with all the staples. It generally takes about four to five hours to cook the meals, plus one hour for grocery shopping. Then, I leave a printed menu with everything they have and clean up the kitchen.

Sometimes they're there when I cook; sometimes I'm alone after they get to know me and have checked my references. Make sure the chef you hire either is cooking in your home or in a certified health department inspected kitchen, not their own home, because that's against the law. Make sure the person you hire also has liability insurance.

Chefs get booked up quickly, so clients need to book early, at least two to four weeks ahead of time - the earlier the better.

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