Cooks are considered Artistic careers according to the Strong Interest Inventory®, which has been used since 1927 to help match individuals with careers based on their likes and dislikes. Artistic is one of six Theme Code Categories, each of which is associated with a number of characteristics. For instance, individuals who prefer careers in the Artistic Theme Code Category are free spirited and creative, enjoying music, art, and other expressive outlets in their personal as well as professional lives. They usually prefer flexible work environments where they have creative license over their own workplace responsibilities and functions.
Cooks for private households, prepare meals for individuals in their own homes. Private Chefs are responsible for planning menus that take into account their employers’ needs, preferences, and possible dietary restrictions. They also stock, organize, and clean kitchens and cooking utensils. After shopping and acquiring all the ingredients and tools they need to prepare the food, they peel, wash, trim, chop, and prepare all vegetables, meats, and other foods. Some Private Chefs also bake breads and pastries, or specialize in specific foods, depending on the needs and preferences of their clients. If there are leftovers, they cool, package, label, and refrigerate or freeze prepared foods. and provide instructions for reheating as needed. When they are not actively cooking, many Private Chefs direct the operation and organization of the kitchens in which they work, for instance, by shopping or ordering food and kitchen equipment, planning and preparing for large events (e.g., parties, holiday meals, business events, and more), and by documenting recipes, menus, finances, and other business-related issues.
Private Chefs are considered culinary professionals. They have mastered the use of all kinds of cooking, baking, and serving plates, platters, utensils, brushes, and bottle openers. They also use tools for actual preparation, including frying pans, baking dishes, convection ovens, timers, tongs, whisks, thermometers, knives, icing bags and tips, can openers, graters, and garlic presses. Clean-up is also essential, and may require dishwashers, sponges, soaps, scrubbers, and steel wool when maintaining cast iron and other rust-prone cooking utensils. Private Chefs also need to use different, more office-related tools for business purposes. These may include label makers, computers, thumb drives, rulers, and other things found in any office setting. For record keeping and coordination, other kinds of software are also helpful. Accounting software like QuickBooks, work scheduling software, food inventory software, and social media are all helpful resources for Private Chefs.
In order to be successful, Private Chefs must provide excellent customer and personal service. They work closely with their clients, and potentially other chefs, in order to deliver high-quality products. They should be knowledgeable in food production and preparation, including how food should be prepared, stored, and transported for consumption. Familiarity with sales and marketing, including self-branding and promotion, are essential to being a successful Private Chef. Some physical dexterity and strength is also necessary. Near vision, manual and digital dexterity, and coordination are all important for Private Chefs, as they may need to successfully complete multiple fine, precise actions simultaneously. Nearly 90% of Private Chefs responded that they are standing almost continuously, and that they are almost constantly using their hands to control other objects or tools. In other words, physical stamina is essential for a Chef.
While some Cooks (nearly 30%) have completed a high school diploma, almost all have attended culinary school or received some kind of formal training in the field. Nationally, the average Chef salary is just $26,300 annually, from available data. However, the best-paid Chefs at successful restaurants earn salaries of upwards of $77,000 per year. The national employment of Chefs is projected to remain relatively stable between now and 2024, though the employment rate in Oregon is expected to increase nearly 40%, with Washington, Kentucky, and California distantly trailing at 13% to 18% projected growth before 2024.
Below are some employment trends for Private Household Cooks:
- Median Private Chef Salary: $12.65/hour; $26,300 annually
- Employment: 36,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2024): little or no change (-1% to 1%)
- Projected job openings (2014-2024): 9,700
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- Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org