Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Personal Chef

Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Personal Chef

Working as a personal chef entails a whole lot more than simply prepping ingredients and serving them to paying guests; it’s a never-ending journey which requires a deft mind to overcome unexpected challenges and an experience palate for food and flavours.

No two days ever look the same for our private chefs at Harper Fine Dining. One day they may be on duty with a regular client where they cook dinner for a family of four. Another day, they could be called on to create a tasty menu for a one-off event for 100 guests. Although every day is different, a lot of culinary professionals thrive in this kind of fast-moving environment and enjoy being flexible and creative.

This article takes you behind the scenes, offering insight into the life of a personal chef. While there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ workday, we’ll delve into the routine of a private chef attending to a sole client, preparing three meals daily. Keep on reading to find out more about what their day entails.

An Early Morning Breakfast Service

No matter what type of job a private chef is working, one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be an early start. The first rays of sunshine normally come well after a chef is woken up. These early mornings are vital though, as prepping for breakfast takes time.

Although some private chefs may work on a yacht or live in the residence of their clients, most have to do the morning commute like any other worker to their ‘office’ for the day. On the way to the kitchen, they may pick up a few ingredients to ensure everything they serve is as fresh as possible.

Once they arrive at their client’s house, the chef will review the day’s menu. Normally, chefs will work with their clients to create a menu that fits any specific dietary requirements and personal preferences in advance, so they will already have a good idea of what they need to do and what ingredients are required. Some private chefs may be left to take the lead and come up with their own meals, but they will normally be approved by a client before they get to the prep stage.

Depending on the client, breakfast could be a full cooked breakfast with all the trimmings, or a simple yoghurt bowl topped with fresh fruit, granola, and nut butter. If the meal is a bit more elaborate – for example involving fresh bread or pastries – the chef may have done some of the prep work the night before. Other days, they’ll prep breakfast items at the start of the day, before the meal is served.

Prep and Menu Planning

Once the breakfast service is complete and all dishes cleared away, the kitchen will become a whirlwind of activity getting ready for the next meal; lunch.

All the important prep work for lunch and dinner will happen during this period. The kitchen will be full of the sound of vegetables being chopped, the smell of spices and sauces will perfume the air, and the sound of a whisk whipping up a decadent mousse or luscious cake batter for dessert will echo around the kitchen.

As many chefs learn quickly in their career, there’s no such thing as being too prepared – especially when you’re working as a private chef. They’ll often have to deal with family members eating at different times, or deal with substitution requests on short notice. There may even be unexpected guests invited to share a meal at the last minute. It all requires a clear head, superb organisation skills and bundles of flexibility.

This part of the day, in between meals, can also be used to brainstorm upcoming menus.  Developing a cohesive, coherent menu requires more thought than you might assume. A chef will need to take into consideration what produce is currently in season, if there are any particular meals their clients enjoy or new flavours and ingredients they wish to try. Planning menus in advance is important and will keep a private chef on schedule throughout the week.

Lunch Service

Lunch service will vary greatly depending on the client. In some cases, they may not have to prepare any lunch at all if the family is out of the house at school or work – in this scenario, the chef has more time to spend on preparing a larger evening meal or sourcing necessary ingredients.

If it’s the weekend, or a holiday and the whole family is at home, a more substantial meal may be required to get everyone through the afternoon’s activities without a rumbling tummy. This can add more pressure to a private chef’s already intense workload, but it’s nothing they can’t handle – after all, they’ve done all the preparation in advance to allow for more flexibility.

Researching and Learning New Skills

The brief pause between meals during the afternoon is probably going to be the first time that a private chef can sit down and enjoy some peace and quiet over a cup of tea – and grab a bite to eat themselves. Like any other job, it’s important to take time to relax, especially when there’s more work to come preparing the evening meal.

Following a quick break, it’s straight back to work planning and preparing for the most important meal of the day: dinner. One of the most exciting parts about being a private chef is the opportunity to unleash culinary creativity and experiment with food much more than you could expect to do so if working in a commercial kitchen.

During the afternoon, a private chef will typically be testing out new ideas, looking at ways to take their menu to the next level, and trying new flavour combinations. It’s a time for experimentation, finding what works and what doesn’t, to keep future menus varied, interesting and fresh.

Amidst the creative planning, there are a lot of practical tasks that need to be accomplished, too. Inventory of the pantry and fridge will be taken to keep account of which ingredients are well stocked and which essentials are running low. They may also take this time to clean up the kitchen in preparation for the dinner rush, get all the silverware and dishes together, and set the table ready for when the family comes together to eat.

Dinner Service

At a time when most people will be winding down and finishing their work, the main part of a private chef’s workload is about to begin. It’s the all-important dinner service.

This meal gives any private chef a vehicle to display their full range of culinary skills, with a multi-course dinner that has been a whole day in the making. The family may like to begin with a formal starter or smaller appetisers, or they may like to go straight to the main meal. All the planning and preparation of the day has led up to this moment, so it should be a case of putting all of the ingredients together and presenting it in an aesthetic and creative manner.

Sometimes, a family may decide to dine out at the very last minute, leaving all the food – and time – wasted. This can be a big cause of disappointment for a private chef but is just one of the many challenges they are sure to encounter along the way.

A private chef won’t have a second to stop during the dinner service as they’re responsible for perfectly cooking each course, and expertly serving each plate. It’s often a juggling act, so a calm demeanour and the ability to work well under time pressure is an absolute must.

Packing Up and Going Home

As the final dish is plated and presented, the workday draws to a close for the chef. The only thing that remains to do is clean down and ensure the space is clutter free, clean and ready for the next day’s prep to begin.

Before they leave, a diligent personal chef may do one final sweep of the kitchen and double-check that they have all the ingredients they require for the next day – if not, it will be a case of writing up a grocery list for the next morning. It’s finally time for the chef to head home and prepare for another day of cooking tomorrow.

Being a personal chef demands an enormous amount of dedication and passion, not to mention a huge amount of culinary skill and creativity. With long hours, lots of pressure, and meticulous planning, coordination, and execution skills all vital to deliver exceptional culinary experiences, the standard is high. For those who love food, thrive in high-pressure environments, and have a real creative streak, it’s an extremely rewarding career path.

If you’re looking for a personal chef to help your household run smoothly, or need a private chef for a special occasion, we can help. Get in touch with us to enquire about availability.


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