There are countless skills a training chef must learn to master: food safety, knife skills, presentation techniques, and inordinate preparation methods. And that’s just the beginning.
Most chefs, both in the private and public sectors, attend some form of culinary school.
But many also work their way up: Rachel Ray, famed celebrity chef, tv show host, and author of numerous cookbooks, started her career behind a candy counter.
Regardless of how one becomes a chef, though, one undeniable fact remains: passion alone won’t get you customers or clients.
A (Private) Burden
Personal and private chefs no doubt enjoy a number of perks over their colleagues in the public restaurant industry. They can get to know customers personally, work more flexible hours, and even enjoy greater autonomy in what they prepare.
But personal and private chefs also have to attract customers. In the restaurant industry, a full kitchen, a manager, and often marketing specialists work to persuade diners to come in through targeted ads, specials, and menu selections.
In the private sector, chefs must do all of this themselves. The problem? Many private and personal chefs have the culinary training but lack marketing expertise to target clients.
While you certainly don’t need a marketing degree to succeed as a personal or private chef, you do need to make sure you’re attracting clients and not driving them away.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes personal and private chefs make when targeting clients, and how to avoid them.
You haven’t Found a Niche
Preparing meals in client’s homes offers convenience, flexibility, and fresh meals-enough incentive for anyone to hire you, right?
The problem is that all other personal and private chefs can boast the same. Like any small business, it’s essential there is a clear brand: that is, both your culinary speciality and a clear sense of exactly who you are appealing to. Without this, you run the risk of being passed up chefs who have a clear sense of who they’re cooking for, and what.
The Fix: Use your connections. If you know other chefs, that is one, ones you aren’t competing directly with, consider networking, especially if they are established:, a known name acts as a source of authority to vouch for your own expertise as a chef. Identify your model clients: even if you want to cook for “everyone”, you’ll find more success identifying an age range, as well as considering what you can offer (cuisine, schedule, other special services like catering) and whose needs your expertise best meets. Then, make sure you include at least three things in your listing: cuisine type, special offerings, and availability. And consider what keywords would most appeal to your target clients.
You Try to Do it Alone
While most personal and private chefs tend to be self starters, that doesn’t mean going it alone is a good idea, especially if you’re just beginning or trying to remodel your business. In fact, relying too much on your own resources can result in exhaustion, less innovation, and missing out on potential clients.
The Fix: Make connections before you open for business. Mapping out a plan and who you need to know will keep you prepared, as well as help you to identity areas who might need some additional help with. At the very minimum, you should be connected to another chef, a handful of local and distant food services and sources, and at least a few member informed about the community. and it doesn’t hurt to have a business partner: having a team, of any kind, is important for all chefs.
You don’t pay Homage to the Local Culture
You can have the best platform, the best recipes, and the best marketing strategies in the world and still fall short on attracting clients. The big mistake? Not considering local trends, cuisines, and culture. In other words: cooking, like any art, is not done in isolation, but in response to other cooking.
The Fix: First things first: if you haven’t already, get to know your city! Research local food markets, grocer’s, outdoor markets, restaurants, even food festivals and events. Get as involved as you can in the community. Not only will this help you assess local trends, as well as potential needs, but it will also make you a recognizable face to potential clients. If you can, use fresh but also local ingredients that play homage to the local community. Consider playing with signature spins on local cuisines . If nothing else, make it clear you are a chef who is deeply concerned with the local community.