What is a personal chef?
A personal chef is different than a private chef. A private chef is an employee of an individual or family and is much more expensive. A personal chef is a business owner and serves numerous clients–generally one per day–providing multiple meals that are custom-designed for the client’s particular tastes, dietary and food allergy requirements. The meals are packaged and stored according to the client’s needs to be enjoyed at their leisure.
Where are the meals prepared?
Different from catering, all the meals are prepared in the safety of your own kitchen according to required food safety guidelines. On our agreed upon cooking date, I will bring all the ingredients, utensils and equipment required to prepare your selections. At the end of the day, your kitchen will be left clean with nothing left behind except your mouth-watering selections and the aroma of good home cooking.
Why can’t you just cook everything at your home and deliver it to me?
Health department and zoning laws prohibit it. If a personal chef offers to deliver your meals, an important question to ask is: Are you preparing them in a licensed, health department-approved commercial kitchen? Cooking everything at your home as opposed to preparing it offsite and delivering it provides you with the freshest, safest food possible. Although working directly in your home is preferred, I do have limited access to a licensed, health-department approved commercial kitchen. An additional charge to cover the cost of the kitchen will apply. When working in your home, A Thought For Food will make each service date as accommodating and unobtrusive as possible.
How long will you be in my home?
Because all your meals are prepared from scratch with great care and attention to detail, I will be at your home anywhere from five to eight hours depending upon the number of entrees. I am willing to accommodate whatever works best with your schedule or situation.
What will you store the food in?
So that you can easily try and evaluate my service, I provide disposable containers free of charge for the first service date. After that, you can select from a number of options such as disposable or permanent Pyrex containers. Pyrex containers are popular because in addition to being a one-time investment, they are versatile and eco-friendly. The cost for a basic set of ten containers for family-style service is about $150. Pyrex for individual or double portions require more pieces and are about $200. Plastic containers are a less expensive alternative, however you will need to transfer the meal to an oven-safe dish for heating in a conventional oven. Simply wash the containers in your dishwasher after you have enjoyed the meal and have them ready each service date in a predetermined location. The containers belong to you if you discontinue the service.
Do I heat the food?
Yes. The entrees and side dishes should be heated using the approximate heating instructions I provide. Heating instructions are approximate because all ovens and microwaves vary in performance. I recommend using a meat thermometer to accurately determine when the dish has been heated to the correct temperature.
What are the side dishes you prepare?
For services that include side dishes, you may request a specific item or allow me to pair an appropriate side dish with the entrée. Side dishes may be a seasonal fresh vegetable, a potato, rice, pasta, grain or bean dish, salad, quick bread or light soup.
The cost seems to be about the same as what I would pay for an entrée in a restaurant–why is that?
The fee represents all the components of a professional personal chef service: A detailed assessment of your needs and dietary requirements, special diet research, menu planning, sourcing and shopping for ingredients, meal preparation, packaging your selections and cleaning up.
For most services, the cost of groceries is over and above the fee. By paying a separate cooking fee, you are hiring me to cook groceries you would have to purchase anyway. This allows you to make premium selections such as prime beef, veal, lamb and seafood. With those services, you also have the option of organic fruits and vegetables, organic and grass-fed meat and poultry, and wild-caught fish and seafood.
When you go to a restaurant, you may need to drive there, find parking, possibly wait for a table, take a chance your server is having a good day, hope that your special requests are honored, pay for it, tip the server and drive home. If you have a personal chef, you can heat a beautiful entrée that was thoughtfully and carefully prepared to your palate and dietary requirements and enjoy it in your most comfortable clothes in the comfort of your own home.
My professional personal chef service may even help you control your food costs as you will be less likely to impulse-buy in the grocery store or resort to low-quality fast food or frozen processed food. Remember all that produce you purchased intending to make home-cooked meals and then had to throw out because you never got to it? That won’t happen anymore with a personal chef!
When and where do you shop for ingredients?
As quality ingredients make for quality meals, I shop for the ingredients–including fresh items such as produce, meat, fish and poultry–on the way to your home. For most clients, I purchase general grocery items at Kroger, and meat, seafood and poultry at The Fresh Market or Whole Foods. However, I will be happy to shop wherever you would like within reason.
Because I do shop just before arriving at your home, I am happy to pick up any incidental items you need (milk, diapers, pet food, cereal, etc.)—up to about six items—for reimbursement only.
Is it possible to order only one or two entrees?
I would still have to charge my minimum fee. This is my business and in order to be profitable and offer my clients the best value, my fee starts at $350 plus groceries.
How long will the food last and how often will we need your service?
It will depend on how many nights you eat at home and the number of entrees and servings ordered. Whether it’s weekly, biweekly, monthly or as-needed, we’ll make sure it works best for you and supports your lifestyle without putting pressure on you. Service dates are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. Occasional service and gift certificate purchases are scheduled around regular clients.
How do I pay for the service and am I locked in for a period of time?
A check for my service in addition to the grocery deposit will be required in advance of the cooking date. Payment is required in advance because I am reserving an entire day for you. I will guarantee the cooking fee for one year; after that it is subject to increase. Because our relationship is based on mutual trust, please have a check ready for me when I arrive on each subsequent cooking date. There is no contract and you are not locked in for any period of time; our mutual arrangement can be terminated by either of us at any time with advance notice. I do, however, have a service agreement that outlines the terms of service along with our respective roles so that the service runs smoothly.