“Fresh healthy meals that exactly fit our tastes and dietary needs – sounds perfect. But I’m sure we can’t afford a personal chef.” We hear this all the time, yet many of our clients tells us what a tremendous value their personal chef provides. Quality, professional fresh meals exactly tailored to your family’s lifestyle, preferences, and individual dietary needs – that’s what personal chefs specialize in.

Why do people expect a personal chef to be really expensive? Many have a confusion between a personal and a private chef.  A personal chef is a culinary professional hired by several clients to prepare in-home meals or drop off service, based on the specific dietary needs and food preferences.  Although this is not a new industry, having been developed more than 25 years ago, it’s gaining popularity all across America.  Personal chefs are providing a lot of value to their clients by saving them time, customizing their menu, or simply preparing delicious meals that are ready to eat when you are!

On the other hand, a private chef typically works for one family preparing their daily meals.  Clients are generally more affluent such as professional athletes, corporate officers, or celebrities.  A private chef can cost $60,000 and well upwards, not including the cost of groceries.  The fees for a personal chef appear to be more affordable for a more modest income.

What Can You Expect For Your Money With A Personal Chef Service?

1.)  Meal Planning:  Your personal chef will plan a unique menu for you based on your preferences, dietary concerns, and addressing any potential food allergies.  Many personal chefs will collaborate with the client in the process.

2.)  Food Shopping:  Your chef will shop for the freshest, best ingredients from local grocery stores, farmer’s market, or other food vendor prior to arriving at your home.  Often, a chef is willing to pick up extra items you may need from the store like milk and eggs which is a real time saver.

3.)  In-home Meal Preparation:  Some personal chefs like to bring their own equipment like pots and pans but others prefer to use those of their clients.  The hours in the kitchen can range from 2 – 5 hours depending on the menu and number of servings .  Some chefs serve two families in one day offering a half day rate for preparing a lighter service.

4.)  Food Storage:  Once the cooking has been completed, the chef will package the meals in the preferred container (glass, plastic, or aluminum) with a label that is easily read and store in the refrigerator or the freezer for when you are ready to eat!  Chefs typically leave a list of instructions for re-heating or include them in the label.

5.)  Clean Up:  You can count on your personal chef to leave your kitchen sparkling clean as they finish their day in your home.  Food production can be messy and many clients are surprised to see the kitchen so clean after hours of cooking.

6.)  Planning Next Service:   Some personal chefs will plan their next menu with the client at the end of the day while others prefer to communicate via phone or e-mail.

Most clients have their personal chef into their home weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.  Many personal chefs offer more services than meal preparation including special event catering, cooking classes, and healthy lifestyle support and coaching which are all priced separately.  In my area for instance, a dinner party for 10 can be billed at $80 – $100 per person.  Many chefs have a minimum so you might not expect that a personal dinner for two could be had for $160.00 necessarily.  Pricing is as individual as the service provided.  Travel time, planning, shopping, and preparation offsite are the behind the scene elements of a successful event and those hours are chargeable.  Be sure to communicate your expectations and you will be sure to have a relaxing, delicious event where you are able to enjoy your guests and the celebration while leaving the details to your personal chef.

What Does A Personal Chef Cost?

As you might imagine, there are lots of variables when determining rates charged by a personal chef.  Some charge an hourly rate that can range widely across the nation from $20.00 – $110.00.  Others charge a fixed rate that includes the cost of groceries.  The most common pricing structure is a fixed rate based on the number of meals prepared plus the cost of groceries and this is how we do it at Dining in by Dawn.

Let’s look at the average price for 12 meals which is the average number of meals/servings in a typical day of cooking.  You may want to ask your chef to prepare more servings of  each meal and that will increase the cost of the service (time and talent) but will reduce the cost per meal (stretching the ingredients).

Dozens of personal chef services across America have been surveyed revealing the average cost for preparing 12 meals (typically 4 – 6 different entrees) ranges from $100 – $400 which does not include the cost of groceries.  These fees are much higher in certain areas like LA, New York, and Miami.  In my local California Bay Area location, personal chefs earn approx. $45 – $50,000 annually. That cost for a personal chef breaks down to $300 – $450.00 for a service or $60 – $80 per hour based on data from Thumbtack.

Research shows that the lower cost personal chef services in the $100 – $150 price range may be affiliated with a larger organization, franchise network, or have a team of chefs working for one business so they can “benefit from economies of scale” according to Nathan Allman with chefsforseniors.com.  Individual owner/chefs, or sole proprietors typically charge the higher end prices yet sometimes have challenges attracting and retaining clients over the long haul.  While some clients view a personal chef as a luxury, others who rely on us to provide convenient, healthy, custom meals consider the benefits as well worth the expense.

Grocery costs for your service are basically controlled by the choices you make as a client regarding menu choices, number of servings, etc.  For the average client they can range from $75.00 to $125.00 for the 12 meals we’ve been discussing but for the client interested in organic, kosher, or high end ingredients, you can expect to pay more.

Other Easy Meal Prep Options

There are many choices now when it comes to dinner time.  Long gone are the hours of planning, budgeting, shopping, coupon clipping, time spent standing in line at the grocery store…and that’s before you get home to sort, store, and in some cases prep the groceries for the week, and then oh right, actually cooking the dinner.  Frequently the groceries go uneaten because of unplanned pizza nights, or an unexpected dinner invitation so that counts as a loss of the cost of that beautiful food.

For some people the answer could be the meal kits like Home Chef (top ranked), Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, Blue Apron, and Plated where the ingredients and recipes show up at your door and you can cook the meals yourself.  Sun Basket offers many different plans but a basic one includes 4 meals for 4 people at the cost of $145.00.  There are discounts and enticements to try the various kit companies, but in many cases, the ingredients are unfamiliar, and the recipes too complicated to be helpful for a busy family on a weeknight.  In fact, I acquired a client who was a Sun Basket client.  She wanted the kits to accommodate herself and one of her 3 children’s need for anti-inflammatory, gluten-free meals.  She told me the boxes arrived and the clock started ticking…long, complicated cooking techniques, ingredients that didn’t appeal to her children, and too much food for their needs.  She abandoned the box for ready to eat meals professionally prepared to her family’s specifics in just the right portions.  For them, a personal chef was the ideal solution.

Recently added to the at home dining experience include fully prepared meal drop off services like Freshly and Thistle that cater to several eating regimens like Paleo, vegetarian, and vegan.  I find their menus to be innovative and appealing and they do provide a solution for those whose lifestyle fits that model.  Most clients who choose to hire a personal chef have specific goals they’re attempting such as healthier eating, avoidance of food allergens, and/or the desire to spend more valuable time out of the kitchen with family and projects.  They simply prefer to pay a highly-qualified, trained, professional to provide delicious personalized meals for their family.  Some clients are caring for elderly parents and appreciate the help with meals suited to their tastes, and any medically necessary dietary restrictions.  This frees them to spend more quality time together with their loved ones.

When hiring a personal chef there’s a lot more than prepared meals that come with a service such as mine where I offer nutritional assessment, goal setting, with coaching and support towards optimal wellness through diet changes.  There’s also peace of mind when you know your elderly parents are eating well and enjoying their meals.  Many chefs have unique expertise and work with athletes, seniors, occupationally challenged, chronic disease such as diabetes and CKD as well as other specific dietary requirements or restrictions.  Personal chef services are all about customized menus and personalized attention to client needs and requests that make them a valuable member of a support team and that, for some….is priceless.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, a phone call with a personal chef can give you an idea if it’s a fit for you very quickly. We’ll discuss your goals, schedule, family situation, dietary needs and I’ll let you know how I can help and what it will cost. If another personal chef would be a better fit, I’ll give you a referral. You can call us at 415-574-0192.

To find a personal chef anywhere in the U.S., visit the United States Personal Chef Association website: https://www.uspca.com; their chef locator is at hireachef.com.  The USPCA provides certification and training guides for standards of excellence for their chef members across the United States and Canada.