What Is a Personal Cook?

Explore the career requirements for personal cooks. Get the facts about job duties, experience requirements and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Personal Cook Do?

A personal cook works in private homes preparing daily meals for individuals or families or menus for special occasions such as parties. They may work for one household or several if they are employed by an agency. Personal cooks could also prepare meals for businesses. Overall, they are responsible for ordering supplies, cooking, serving meals and cleaning the kitchen or work space when they are finished.

The following table provides some basic information for this career:

Education Required Culinary or catering certificate program (recommended)
Training Required Food service and preparation industry experience (minimum)
Key Responsibilities Prepare food according to specified directions, clean kitchen, order groceries, food service
Job Growth (2014-24) 9%* (for chefs and head cooks)
1%* for cooks in private households
Average Salary (2015) $45,920* (for chefs and head cooks)
$37,680* for cooks in private households

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Personal Cook?

As a personal cook, you have to cook food according to the directions of your clients. This may include meeting special dietary needs or preparing foods a specific way. Ordering groceries, cleaning the kitchen and serving meals are duties you may have in addition to cooking. You may work alone or with a team of kitchen staff.

You may be self-employed or work for a private chef company. You may only work for one client or you may have several clients. You may live with the family or you may only come to the home as needed. Your job may include cooking for special events such as parties where you must prepare food--in advance or to order--for a large group of people.

What Are the Education or Experience Requirements?

You may only need experience in food service and preparation for a job as a personal cook. Many companies or clients prefer that you have professional training in cooking and meal preparation. A common educational choice is completing a culinary or catering certificate program. In this type of program, you study cooking techniques, business management, nutrition, health and safety for approximately one year.

Many personal cooks learn through on-the-job training. You may work under a chef to learn cooking techniques and methods. You also have the option of completing a formal apprenticeship program, which provides classroom training and on-the-job training. Most apprenticeships last about two years. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers apprenticeship opportunities, but these may be included as part of a college program.

The ACF also offers certifications that allow you to prove your skills and abilities as a personal cook. ACF certifications are voluntary and include Personal Certified Chef and Personal Certified Executive Chef options, which are specifically for personal cooks (www.acfchefs.org).

How Much Can I Earn?

Income for personal cooks is influenced by who you work for, your geographic location and your experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chefs and head cooks earned a mean annual salary of $45,920 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com offers a more specific breakdown according to experience level, reporting as of 2016 that the median income was $42,000 for personal chefs with zero to five year's experience, but $51,000 for those with over 20 years of experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other careers with similar education and training requirements include restaurant chefs and head cooks, food preparation workers and bakers. Chefs and head cooks work in dining establishments and are responsible for preparing food as well as overseeing kitchen operations. Food preparation workers prepare food under the direction of cooks and chefs. Bakers make baked goods such as breads and pastries, and may work in manufacturing facilities or in businesses such as retail stores and bakeries.

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