I managed to steer her to how we as personal chefs are different than private chefs, and just how accessible the service is to regular folks. Although I had to give her a few tidbits of capricious requests from my days as a private chef to a billionaire…
I pointed her towards the lovely Chef Debbie Spangler of Yummy~issimo in Cincinnati, who was quoted, and a friend who cooks for “The Boss” in New Jersey. She also quoted my good friend Denise Vivaldo of Food Fanatics.
Despite the celeb dishing, she wrote a very balanced article, I think, and kept in much of what I stressed to her about how a personal chef service is great for regular folks, and not JUST for celebs.
“You hear stories — ‘I want this particular ice cream [so] send the pilot to go get it,’ ” says Mark Tafoya, who briefly worked as a private chef for a New York-based billionaire with a jet and his own island in the Caribbean.
It’s not uncommon for a private chef to get a last-minute order to cook a luncheon for 60 people or to produce a favorite dish on a yacht in an exotic locale. (“I brought a lot of bagels,” recalls Tafoya of his frequent trips to the Caribbean.)
Of course, if the price is right, some say no request is too extravagant.
“I always say I don’t work with celebrities because they’re interesting and brilliant. I work with them because they have money,” says Vivaldo, who wrote the primer, “How To Start a Home-Based Personal Chef Business.”
And then there is the intimacy that comes with cooking another person’s meals three times a day, seven days a week (with the occasional day off).
“I haven’t had anyone walk in naked on me, thank God,” jokes Debbie Spangler, a personal chef for musician Peter Frampton (a strict vegetarian) and several members of the Cincinnati Bengals. (“I’ve never seen a group of men eat so much in my life!” An average meal consists of a pound of protein per player — from stuffed pork tenderloin to bacon-wrapped turkey medallions — plus trimmings.)
Unfortunately, Vivaldo wasn’t spared the following burst of oversharing: A client once asked her to brew up a pot of joe — because they wanted to make a coffee enema.
“I said, Is that regular or decaf?” she recalls. “I was astounded.”
All of this explains why so many in the business ultimately choose to forgo a full-time job as a private chef to an eccentric celeb or blue blood, opting instead for the role of “personal chef,” which involves working for multiple clients, often at different income brackets.
“We’re not just for the uber-rich [who want] caviar spoon-fed to them on their private yacht,” explains Tafoya, who runs his own personal chef business, the Manhattan-based Remarkable Palate. He says he’s seen an “enormous upswing” in demand for his services in the past decade — especially among single workaholics and double-income professional types busy starting families.
While private chefs can earn as much as $100,000 a year, personal chefs usually charge by the hour or flat fee (about $50 to $75 an hour, plus groceries). Some whip up a whole week’s worth of meals — neatly labeled and ready to reheat — as part of a day’s work. Others prepare swoon-worthy engagement and anniversary dinners, or meals are sometimes “given” as wedding gifts. (A dinner for two typically costs somewhere between $300 and $500.)
But even ordinary New Yorkers can act like high-maintenance celebs when it comes to their food. No matter what or where he cooks in the city, Tafoya says one thing remains constant: “The size of the kitchen and the niceness of the appliances is inversely proportional to how much they’re used.”