Should you consider getting help from a personal chef?
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Posted By: Jeanette Park, Founder, SomaPersonalChefs.com on Sep 8, 2017

Should you consider getting help from a personal chef?
 

My husband and I are in the stage of life where most of our friends either have young children or are about to have a child. Many of them moved to the Boston area for school or for jobs and sadly this has meant that they don't have as much family support as they otherwise would. While our church rallies to provide meals and other help when a child is born, in the longer term work of raising a family, it's still a challenge for many to get adequate child care, clean their home and make healthy meals for their families, especially if both parents are working. It struck me that in many places, it's now much easier (via various companies on the Internet) to find trustworthy people to watch your kid or clean your home but there's still not a good place to find someone to help cook - arguably as important as any other task of daily living!

That's why I decided to launch SomaPersonalChefs.com, an online booking request service for personal chefs. On this website, there is a directory of personal chefs across the country with a description of their background, sample of their menu, and their prices. Users can message personal chefs with questions and also request bookings directly from the website. They can also purchase gift cards for family and friends who can use the cooking help for a week or two.

I find that people often don't even consider getting help from a personal chef because they have some misconceptions about what a personal chef does and how it works. So for this blog post, I interviewed Chef Beth Beard who runs Pixie Dust Gourmet, a personal chef service, in Waltham, MA about her work and her clients.

Q: How did you get started as a personal chef?
Beth: Growing up with an Italian mother and grandmother, I've loved being in the kitchen since I was a child. I absorbed the passion for food from my family and I have so many memories of the smells and tastes that only come from home cooking. As I got older, I also learned about other cuisines from around the globe from my friends and started to incorporate new flavors into my palate and my cooking. Though I had cooked all my life, I started working in food when I was a personal chef for a number of families when I was in college and throughout my 20s. I've continued that work in some form or fashion for many years. I also discovered that I was gluten-sensitive in my late 20s so I have been cooking gluten-free since then and have been also pursuing additional studies in nutrition.

Q: How does a personal chef service work?
Beth: Typically, we will start by discussing food preferences, allergies and dietary restrictions. Then, once we start the service, I will send over a list of suggested meals every week and the client will choose the ones they are interested in. I also create a new menu every two months they can select from on my website. On the arranged cook date', I will grocery shop for all the ingredients, bring them to the client's house and cook the selected meals. I will also package, label and refrigerate the food if desired, leave directions for reheating and also clean the kitchen to its initial state. Like many personal chefs, I charge for my services and grocery costs are separate (clients just reimburse me for the cost of the groceries). I cook using whole-food local ingredients and clients can tell me if they wish to only eat organic, some mix of organic and conventional, low-sodium, dairy-free, gluten-free, the Paleo diet - you name it and I will work with you or your nutritionist to craft meals that are delicious and fit your needs.

Q: Who are your clients? Do you have a typical' client?
Beth: Many of my clients started looking for a personal chef because they wanted to take a significant step forward in eating better or because they have a condition that requires a modified diet. But otherwise, my clients are a diverse group. They include a busy family with a toddler (the wife is a vegetarian and the husband is a carnivore who can't eat dairy or eggs), a single male professional in his late 20s who wanted to eat better and was sick of eating junk food, and an elderly couple who both have multiple serious medical conditions. Many of my clients want to just eat healthier or they have some type of food allergy or sensitivity. Others have very strict dietary requirements and are even working with a nutritionist - for these clients, I have often also worked with the nutritionist to make sure that the meals I'm making meet the nutritionist's guidelines.

Q: Who do you think would most benefit from a personal chef service?
Beth: If anyone falls into one or more of the following categories, they should consider hiring a personal chef:

  1. Really lacks time: Sometimes people or families go through stretches where they really just don't have time - it might be because they are welcoming a new child, dealing with a family illness or other emergency, or going through a very tough stretch at work. So for food, they end up eating out too much, consuming meals with with more sugar, salt and fat than most people should eat. Instead, these folks should consider hiring a personal chef.
  2. Don't like to cook or isn't skilled at cooking: There are some people who never liked to cook or they just aren't good at it. They should consider hiring someone who loves doing the job for them.
  3. Have a significant dietary requirement, want to lose weight or eat healthier: If you have a severe food allergy or other requirements, hiring a personal chef might be one of the only ways you know what goes into the food and the environment in which it is made. Many personal chefs can also help you vary the flavors and kinds of foods in your meals so that you still have some range even as you meet your dietary requirements.

Q: What are some of the most common misconceptions you find about personal chefs?
Beth: One of the most common misconceptions about personal chefs is that their services are unaffordable. Of course, hiring someone to do something is always a treat but it's not that different from hiring someone to watch your kids, wash your car, or even cook your food at a restaurant. In fact, the cost many personal chefs is about the same as going to a mid-priced restaurant and the food is often healthier, tastier and more convenient for many families because you can eat at home. So if you are eating many of your meals out, it will likely cost a similar amount or even a little less to hire a personal chef to cook for you, with healthier and tastier results!

Note: The interview sections with Beth have been edited and paraphrased in some parts for flow and brevity and the final version has been reviewed by her.

Jeanette Park is the founder of SomaPersonalChefs.com, an online booking service for in-home cooking help and personal chefs.

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