How to Become a Personal Chef

Over 30,000 private chefs are currently working in the United States. As a personal chef, you can deliver a more customizable and intimate dining experience for your clients and prepare the food right in their kitchen. Does it sound appealing to you to learn how to become a personal cook? Keep reading to find out which steps and personal chef insurance policies you need to boost and protect income.

How to Become a Personal Chef

Several steps to consider when grasping how to become a personal chef include buying tools, choosing your business structure, and getting work experience:


Buy Chef Tools

One of the first steps to follow when discovering how do you become a personal chef is to buy and practice with the right cooking tools. Below is a comparison of typical tools you need to be proficient with as a chef:

Tool Use Cost
Chef Knife Cutting meat and vegetables into smaller pieces. You must train on the proper way of cutting different ingredients $60-$200
Meat thermometer Helps you cook meat to the right temperature to kill bacteria and parasites $20-$80
Cutting board A durable area to cut ingredients to avoid damaging tables and counters $10-$150
Saucepan Applies heat to ingredients to start the cooking process $20-$200
Scale Get accurate measurements to satisfy your recipes $14-$50
Whetstone Keep your knife in top shape $10-$60


Decide Your Business Name

Are you wondering how do I become a personal chef? Once you have decided to start a business as a personal chef, you need to choose a name for your business. A separate business name is a requirement for many business structures. Take your name brain-storming seriously because it will take a lot of work to change your name later. Choose a name that communicates your brand’s message to your clients and is easy to research online.


Choose Your Business Structure

The next step of how to become a home chef is to form your business into a legal entity. You could choose to be a sole proprietor, where you keep all the profits for yourself but have to take on the business risks if the business fails. Another option is a limited liability company or LLC. With an LLC, it costs more to start. Still, you are protected from business liabilities if you accumulate debt you cannot repay.


Get an EIN from the IRS

To register your business on the federal level, you need an employer identification number or EIN. This number identifies your business for tax purposes and is needed before hiring employees. You can apply for an EIN for free from the IRS website.


Get Work Experience in a Restaurant

One of the best ways to kickstart your personal chef career is to get experience working in a restaurant. You have to think on your feet at a restaurant and quickly fulfill orders. If you can learn how to prepare food under stressful conditions, you will be an expert by the time you start offering chef services in a client’s private home. Restaurant experience can also help you learn techniques and recipes from your peers. Work experience is also necessary for eventually getting certified as a personal chef.


A personal chef putting food on a plate.


How to Become a Private Chef

To answer the question of “How do I become a private chef?” there are more steps to consider, like trying different cooking styles, hiring employees, and getting the necessary permits for success:


Try Different Cooking Styles

The best way to prepare yourself to be a private chef is to experiment with different cooking disciplines. Different culinary practices have different rules that you must learn to prepare an authentic dish. You never know what kinds of food your client will request to eat. Some culinary traditions to learn from include:

  • French cuisine: With French cuisine, you create complicated dishes and flavors from simple ingredients, often paired with wine and cheese

  • Italian cuisine: Italian cuisine uses different types of pasta and cheese. Many Italian dishes make generous use of tomatoes and are healthy when prepared properly

  • Thai cuisine: In Thai cuisine, you often use contrasting flavors and hot spices. You might be preparing stir-fried Pad Thai or a traditional green curry

  • Japanese cuisine: Japanese dishes utilize “umami,” which adds a savory taste to veggies and meat. Japanese dishes utilize miso flavoring and place a heavy emphasis on rice

Practice Meal Preparation

As a personal chef, you will need to master the art of meal preparation. This will include knowing where to buy ingredients that you need for your recipes at the best prices. You will also need to plan a menu for your client that balances the nutrients they need every week. For some meals, you will need time before the cooking process to begin to prepare the ingredients. Some dishes require meat to be cooked at a low temperature for 12 hours or more.


Get Licenses and Permits

You will need certain licenses and permits depending on the state or city where you operate. Check your state and local laws regarding the names of which permits you should be applying. These licenses are often procured from your local or state government. Typically, the licenses and permits you need to be a personal chef include:

  • Vendor’s license: This license is required before charging customers sales tax for your taxable services

  • Food handler’s license: A license you need before serving food to customers. To get this license, you must pass an exam course that tests your knowledge of food preparation safety and proper storage

  • Caterer’s license: A caterer’s license may be required if you deliver food to a client instead of preparing the meals in the client’s kitchen

Hire Employees

While you can run your business as a one-person show at first, eventually, you may want to hire employees who can help you manage the growing aspects of your business. You could hire bookkeepers to help you maintain a strong financial plan for your business. A business assistant would be helpful to communicate with clients and set up a schedule. You could also hire additional chefs to send to other clients or assist you with the cooking for one of your existing clients.


Open a Business Bank Account

When starting your business as a personal chef, you can use a bank account to separate your business finances and apply for loans. With a merchant services account, you can process credit card transactions for your clients. If you want to invest the profits from your business, you can utilize a savings account which earns interest over time. Another option is a money market account with a variable interest rate typically higher than a savings account.

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How to Become a Certified Personal Chef

While becoming certified as a personal chef is not required to get hired in the industry, it can go a long way to establishing credibility with your clients. The following steps are critical if you want the best chance of getting certified:


Take Courses

Before getting a personal chef certification, you should take courses that will teach you the skills to pass the exam and succeed in the industry. You could take a course in your favorite cooking discipline at your local culinary school or online through a program like America’s Test Kitchen.

Become an Apprentice

Apply for a culinary apprenticeship in your area or join the American Culinary Federation (ACF) apprenticeship program. With an apprenticeship, you can get formal on-the-job training that allows you to learn classroom knowledge with a hands-on approach. With an apprenticeship, you can learn alongside an experienced instructor how to prepare dishes and learn the skills you desire.


Reach the Required Experience Level

Most certifications will have an experience requirement to get certified. This ensures that chefs aren’t getting certified overnight without first having a chance to become skilled and gain experience. Depending on the certification, you need at least three years of entry-level cooking experience or one year working as a full-time personal chef.


Attain an Associates Degree

To get a leg up in getting certified, consider getting a formal culinary education and completing a two-year associate’s degree. By getting an associate’s degree, you fulfill one of the minimum requirements for earning your certification.


Get an ACF Certification

The American Culinary Federation offers a certification called Personal Certified Chef (PCC). To earn this certification, you must meet several prerequisites that include:

  • Three years as an entry-level chef or one year as a personal chef. You must have attained this work experience within the past ten years

  • An associate’s degree in Culinary Arts, and you must take 30 credit hours of courses in Food Safety, Nutrition, and Business Management

  • Completion of a written exam covering culinary topics

  • A practical exam that tests necessary culinary skills

How Long Does It Take to Become a Personal Chef

To become a personal chef, it will take up to five years to get the necessary experience before you can reasonably expect to get hired at a private kitchen. You must follow the steps described earlier, including working at a restaurant and learning to execute recipes perfectly.

If you already have a good experience level and cooking knowledge foundation, why not start your business immediately? As long as you register your business and find the right clients, no restriction prevents you from starting immediately. You can earn money from your clients to help you afford operating costs like advertising, kitchen equipment, and getting your personal chef certification.

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Insurance Requirements for Boosting Income

As a personal chef, insurance coverage is essential to success. Without proper protection, you leave your business exposed to liabilities like lawsuits and proper damage costs that can cripple it. The following policies are recommended coverage for personal chefs:


Business Owner’s Policy

A business owner’s policy provides commercial property and general liability insurance coverage in one policy. NEXT has a business owner’s policy that includes business income interruption coverage. They are an affordable insurer that can get you policy quotes within 10 minutes. NEXT has an A- rating from the Better Business Bureau.


General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance protects your personal chef business against claims by clients and other third parties. The policy typically protects against bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury claims. For this insurance protection, we recommend Thimble. With Thimble, you get fast quotes and can purchase an active policy within hours. You can purchase short-term general liability insurance that you set the policy period yourself. Thimble has sold over 125,000 policies and has an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.


Professional Liability Insurance

With a professional liability insurance policy, you are protected against the consequences of business mistakes. This policy protects against negligence, copyright infringement, slander, and libel claims. If you are a small business and need this policy, choose Hiscox. This insurer specializes in tailored policies for small business customers. The company serves over 500,000 customers and has a 4.7/5 recommendation rating from its surveyed customers. Hiscox has an A rating from AM Best.


Commercial Property Insurance

Commercial property insurance protects your business equipment, materials, and buildings from damage from sources like fire, theft, water damage, and vandalism. Are you going to have a building for your business? If you need this coverage, choose CoverWallet. They have multiple insurance partners with policies to choose from. You can compare quotes with top names like Hiscox, Markel, Progressive, and Chubb. CoverWallet has an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.


Commercial Auto Insurance

If you use vehicles to pick up groceries or for other purposes in your business, you need commercial auto insurance. This policy covers your vehicles for damage and accidents that they get into. For commercial auto insurance, choose Tivly. They are an insurance platform with over 200 partners. After a quick phone call, you are quickly matched with the perfect policy with the coverage you need. The Better Business Bureau gave Tivly an A rating.


Workers’ Compensation Insurance

A workers’ compensation insurance policy helps pay for medical costs for your injured employees. It also helps employees who cannot work by paying disability benefits. This policy is required in most states if you have regular employees. For this insurance, an excellent option is The Hartford. They have over 200 years of underwriting experience and a 100% rating from the Corporate Equality Index. With their policy, you can benefit from being an AARP member. They have a nurse-back-to-health program, ensuring your employees get help throughout recovery. The Hartford has an A- rating from AM Best.

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