Personal Chef Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a personal chef?

A personal chef is different from a private chef. A private chef is an employee of an individual or family, often "lives in" and is much more expensive. A personal chef is a business owner and serves numerous clients–generally one per day–providing multiple meals that are custom-designed for the client’s particular tastes, dietary and food allergy requirements. The meals are packaged and stored according to the client’s needs to be enjoyed at their leisure.

Where are the meals prepared?

All the meals are prepared in the safety of your own kitchen according to required food safety guidelines. On our agreed upon cooking date, I will bring fresh ingredients, utensils and equipment needed to prepare your selections. At the end of the day, your kitchen will be left clean with nothing left behind except your mouth-watering food and the aroma of good home cooking.

Can you cook at home and deliver my food?

It is not legal for me to cook at home and deliver your food. Food prepared by me, any other personal chef or any caterer must be prepared within the safety of your own kitchen (where you already prepare food) or in a licensed commercial kitchen that has been inspected by the local health department. If you choose home delivery, commercial kitchen rental costs will be added into your service cost. You should also be aware that it may take additional time to find a commercial kitchen that has availability. My preference is to cook in your kitchen.

I’ve looked at your site. Now I’m interested in hiring a Personal Chef. How do we get started?

I recommend that we start with a phone conversation (330-604-8537). We can start a dialog that includes answering any questions you have about the service as well as preliminary information about what types of food you are interested in, any special dietary concerns and the size and make-up of your household. After that, if you’d still like to proceed, we can schedule a complimentary consultation where we’ll go into depth about likes, dislikes, allergies, sensitivities and any special dietary goals you have in mind. You can schedule a cook date by paying the service fee and grocery deposit in advance. On the cook date, I will shop for fresh ingredients and arrive with cookware and equipment from my mobile kitchen. I will label your meals, store them to your requirements and provide heating instructions. I'll leave your kitchen as clean as I found it. You will only know I was there because your fridge or freezer will be stocked, and you’ll smell enticing aromas.

How long will you be in my home?

I'll be cooking several different entrees and side dishes from scratch, so it will take several hours. I cannot say exactly how long, but generally it is 5-8 hours. I am willing to work with your schedule to make arrangements in advance so that my cook date is compatible with your needs. Please be aware that some days of the week may already be booked by other clients and so will not be available.

How much room do you need in my fridge or freezer?

It depends on the number of meals you request and the size of the containers, but it does generally take quite a bit of space. Please have space available in your fridge or freezer when I arrive on each cook date.

What will you store the food in?

For the first few cook dates, I recommend using disposable containers that I will purchase for you while I am grocery shopping. Early use of disposable containers will allow you to evaluate my service with minimum commitment to container cost; you can also determine whether your initial packaging preference really works for you (did you select family style but think a switch to individual portions might work better?). As service continues, you can select from a number of options such as disposable or permanent Pyrex containers. Pyrex containers are often chosen because you buy them once and reuse them, making them eco-friendly. The cost for a basic set of ten containers for family-style service is about $150. If you choose individual or double portions, I will need to purchase more pieces for a total of about $200. Plastic containers are less expensive; however, you will need to transfer the meal to an oven-safe dish if you’d like to heat the food in a conventional oven. Whatever option you choose, I will purchase appropriate containers for you; you do not need to go to the trouble of finding what I need. Please wash reusable containers in your dishwasher and have them ready each service date in a predetermined location. The containers belong to you if you discontinue the service.

Can you use my containers?

That is generally not the best option for a couple of reasons. First of all, uniform size containers appropriately sized to the food will tend to take up less space in your fridge or freezer. Secondly, you may not have containers of the right size or shape available on the cook date because you may be using them to store other items.

Do I heat the food?

Yes. The entrees and side dishes should be heated using the heating instructions I provide. Be aware that all ovens and microwaves vary in performance, so the exact heating time may be slightly different from the instructions. If you have chosen frozen service, meals should be taken out of the freezer the night before and thawed in the refrigerator overnight. For food safety reasons, do not thaw food on the counter. For best taste, do not thaw in the microwave.

What are the side dishes you prepare?

I usually prepare side dishes that complement or complete the entrées. Side dishes may be a seasonal fresh vegetable, a potato, rice, pasta, grain or bean dish, salad, quick bread or light soup. I leave you a menu along with heating instructions so you know which side dishes are meant for which entrees.

The cost seems to be about the same as what I would pay for an entrée in a restaurant–why is that?

The fee represents all the components of a professional personal chef service: A detailed assessment of your needs and dietary requirements, special diet research, menu planning, sourcing and shopping for ingredients, meal preparation, packaging your selections and cleaning up. One of the beauties of the service is that recipes can be completely customized to your needs and preferences; that customization is also part of the service included in the fee.

The cost of groceries is over and above the fee. By paying a separate cooking fee, you are hiring me to cook groceries you would have had to purchase anyway. Paying separately for groceries allows me to buy whatever types of meat or seafood you like. You can even choose organic vegetables if that is what you want.

When you go to a restaurant, you may need to drive there, find parking, wait for a table, take a chance your server is having a good day, hope that your special requests are honored, pay for your meal, tip the server and drive home. If you have a personal chef, you can heat a scrumptious entrée that was custom prepared for your palate and dietary requirements. No travel required, and you can even eat on the couch in your “jammies” if you feel like it.

My personal chef service may even help you control your food costs as you will be less likely to impulse-buy in the grocery store or resort to fast food or frozen processed food. Your food waste may be lower, too, since I will cook up everything I buy. You won’t have to let things go bad in the fridge because you just got too busy to use them in time.

When and where do you shop for ingredients?

The best ingredients make for the best meals. I shop for fresh ingredients–including produce, meat, fish and poultry–on the way to your home. I usually shop at a Giant Eagle that is close to you. I will, however, be happy to shop at your favorite store or market as long as travel time is not excessive.

Is it possible to order only one or two entrees?

Yes, but I would still have to charge my minimum fee. This is my business and in order to be profitable and offer my clients the best value, my fee starts at $275 plus groceries. There is very little difference in the amount of planning, shopping and preparation between one or two entrees and the smallest package I offer.

How long will the food last and how often will we need your service?

It will depend on how many nights you eat at home, the number of entrees and servings ordered and the size of your appetite. Three meals of 4 servings will feed a household of 4 three times but may feed a household of 2 six times.

I’ll be happy to help you determine just how often you will want to schedule my service to best fit your needs. Service dates are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. You many choose weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or occasional service. Occasional services are scheduled around regular clients.

How do I pay for the service and am I locked in for a period of time?

In order to reserve a service date, you must supply a check for the service fee plus the grocery deposit. Advance payment allows me to reserve an entire day for you. Most people find it easiest to leave a check for the next service plus grocery deposit on the day I cook for them. Monthly advanced billing can also be arranged if that is convenient for you. Grocery fees are reconciled on a periodic basis depending on your service schedule. Service fees are subject to revision once a year. There is no contract and you are not obligated for any period of time; our mutual arrangement can be terminated by either of us at any time with advance notice. When we begin service I will provide you with a service agreement that outlines the terms of service along with our respective roles so that the service runs smoothly. The terms of service include your obligations if you need to cancel as well as my obligations if I am unable to perform your service as scheduled.

I’d love to learn from you. Can I watch?

Of course I want to say hello to you, hear what you thought about the last meals I provided and get to know you a little better. You may also wish to get a glass of water, cup of coffee or a snack, all of which are fine. That said, your kitchen is my work space. I often work on multiple meal components at the same time, and I work with hot ingredients, knives and other sharp objects. In the interest of providing you the highest quality meals, fewer distractions mean less chance that I will forget an ingredient, omit a step, spill a hot item or drop a sharp object. So I ask that kitchen visits be kept to a minimum. For their safety and mine, I also ask that children and pets be kept out of the kitchen.

If you are interested in a private cooking class for yourself, your friends and / or your family, we can make separate arrangements. We can tailor the lessons to what you’d like to learn. It can be a lot of fun.

Should I plan to be at home or away while you cook?

It is your home, and your choice. If possible, I like to schedule the initial cook date when you or a member of your household is available to let me in and perhaps stay the day. That way if I have questions about your kitchen, those questions can be easily answered. For subsequent cook dates, you can give me a key or a security code to access your home. Of course, I understand that schedules can be difficult. I will work with you to find the best scheduling solution for you. Please note, The Flavor Connection, LLC is insured. Whether you are home or not, I will treat your kitchen as carefully as I treat my own (and believe me, my kitchen is my favorite room in the house).

Can you provide me with samples?

I am not able to offer samples. Remember, though, that we will have a detailed conversation about your likes, dislikes and food sensitivities. All your meals will be custom designed for your household. As we continue to work together, my understanding of your palate will grow. You are always welcome to call or email me with any questions, concerns or changes that you would like to make. If you want to "try out" the service, I suggest that you select one of the smaller packages. You are not required to book any minimum number of cook dates beyond any dates you reserve in advance.