Tampa personal chefs discuss their services
Who we talked to
Eileen Morris, chef
The Weekly Chef
Pasco County, Pinellas, Hillsborough
Thomas M. Cox, chef
Cooks To Go
What services do you offer?
Mel Ramos: "I'll design the menus, do the shopping, bring everything to your home to cook and store the food. I also bake and do special-needs baking, such as wheat-free or gluten-free."
Eileen Morris: "I'm a full-service personal chef and do everything from teaching adults and children to weekly meal prep to catered events. I'll do all the grocery shopping and menu prep."
Thomas M. Cox: "As a personal chef, I provide home-cooked meals for individuals and families. The meals are prepared to an almost-finished state that allows the client to complete the meal in the oven or stove."
What service is the most popular with your clients and why?
Ramos: "I offer a split visit, where I'll come back to your house to prepare fresh meals. It allows me to bring more fresh options into your menu."
Morris: "The most popular is a weekly service that I call my 'basic' service. It includes five complete meals for two people for $135."
Cox: "A single entrée with two side dishes and an occasional dessert. Families seem to enjoy casserole-type meals, which provide some leftovers."
How do you charge for your services, and what's the cost?
Ramos: "I offer packages, which are the most cost-effective. They start in price at $295, which includes groceries, for 20 meals. Or I can cook by the hour for $30 an hour."
Morris: "Most of the time, they're purchasing packaged meals. I try to keep the 'personal' in personal chef. Some of my clients want me to come to their home every day and that's an extra cost."
Cox: "At this time, the cost is $35 an hour, which covers shopping, preparation and travel time. A pantry fee of $25 is added to cover miscellaneous items such as spices, herbs and oils."
Do you have a dish you prepare that's the most popular with your clients?
Ramos: "My black bean turkey chili is very popular. Another dish that's very popular is my turkey meatballs."
Morris: "It all depends. For my catered events, I have chocolate covered strawberries that are very popular."
Cox: "Almost anything chicken (chicken cacciatore), macaroni and cheese and marinated flank steak."
Will you cater to people's dietary needs?
Ramos: "Yes. Whatever your need is, dairy-free, gluten-free, I'll cook for you."
Morris: "Yes, I work with allergies, diabetics, low fat, vegan, any dietary needs."
Cox: "Absolutely, that's the whole idea of having a personal chef."
What's one spice or ingredient you couldn't live without and why?
Ramos: "It depends on what ethnicity I'm cooking. Ginger for my Indian cuisine. Coconut milk for my Thai cuisine."
Morris: "I'd have to say spray oil, just because so many of my clients are on diets and I can keep the fat down."
Cox: "Garlic, because it can induce so much flavor to a meal."