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Have What It Takes to be a Personal Chef?

Have What It Takes to be a Personal Chef?

Janaki Jitchotvisut | Chef's Blade

Last time, I attempted to shed light on the mysterious nature of that elusive breed of kitchen ninja known as the Personal Chef. This time around, I’d like to delve more deeply into the components that make up said creature, because I’m sure it’s something of a mystery as well.

The primary ingredient, I believe, is a particular sort of motivation. So you enjoy cooking? Fabulous. Obviously, that’s an important step in the right direction. Do you enjoy cooking for other people? Even better. But I’m afraid that’s not all you need.

In order to be a successful personal chef, you have to be even more of a master multitasker than you do if you cook professionally for someone else. Beyond the mechanics and talent requirements of cooking, it requires a delicate balance of a few things. Here are just a few:

1. Passion.

Your first and most important task is to enjoy what you do. This seems obvious, but plenty of people fool themselves into going into work for years and even building entire careers out of things that they don’t actually feel very passionately about. Being a hard worker and being a passionate one are not necessarily the same thing. I made that mistake myself for many years, which is why I didn’t actually figure out that I needed to be cooking professionally for a long time. Once I did, it seemed like a lot of things suddenly slotted into place for me and made sense in ways they never had before. I won’t pretend I’ve got it all figured out, but that was an important piece of the puzzle. Even if personal chefdom isn’t your particular passion, you need to find out what is. The world is full of far too many people doing things they don’t actually love in the name of “getting by.” You may try something, and you may fail at it, even spectacularly. And that’s OK – as long as you learn from it. The best way to ensure that you do succeed, though, is to do the thing you feel most passionately about. Why? Because having that passion will drive you far past the point of reason, and sometimes, that’s what you’re going to need.

2. Reason.

In addition to passion, you’re going to need a calm, cool head that can step back from the “wow, wouldn’t it be cool if…?” part that got you here. Your sense of reason is going to be how you find ways to make your passion feasible. And if you haven’t got money saved up, you’re going to need that sense of reason in order to draw up a viable business plan in order to secure financing to realize your passion. No matter how it is that you manage to finance your passion, you’re still going to need a firm sense of reason in order to guide yourself and your business forward – even if it’s only just you that you’re in charge of. In some ways, that’s more difficult – and you need to be sure that you can be firm and disciplined enough with yourself that you can see your passion through.

3. Research.

Here’s where your eyes might start to glaze over with boredom, and if that’s the case, then this probably isn’t the profession for you. You’re going to need to do a LOT of research, of various kinds. For a start, what’s your area of expertise? Is there a particular area of cooking that fascinates you most? How can you apply that information to your target market, and for that matter, who is your target market? What methods of communication will they best respond to? What resources are available to you in terms of communities (whether in-person or online) where you can gather information? There are myriad numbers of small business associations geared toward various groups, including (but not limited to) women, ethnicities, and religions. There are also national organizations devoted to the personal chef industry, as well as the larger restaurant and hospitality industry. What, if any, of these would it benefit you most to join? These are far from the only questions you’re going to want to look into, but they’re good places to start. The thing about research, too, is that the more research you do and the more questions you answer, the more questions you’ll end up asking. As is true with most things in life, it’s always better to have too much information than not enough.