The benefits of sitting down to a home-cooked meal with family are well established: Better nutrition, closer bonding, and even better behavior and school performance. The challenge is how to get it on the table while juggling work and kids' schedules. For a growing number of families (couples and singles, too), personal chefs are becoming as common and indispensable as housekeepers. They're the answer to "What's for dinner?"

Personal chefs and private chefs are different. Private chefs usually work for one client exclusively, while personal chefs have several clients. Some personal chefs specialize in specific types of food (low-calorie, for example), or menu items. Others plan menus with their client, customizing meals to suit family preferences. 

How do personal chefs work? It starts with an initial meeting to determine what the client wants (and doesn't want) to eat. Then, about once a week (more or less), the chef comes to the client's home (often while they're at work) with a carload of groceries, cooking supplies, and spices. They stay for four to six hours to prepare a week or two of food. Meals include a protein, carbohydrate (starch), and vegetables, and maybe dessert. The chef packages the meals in storage containers (labeled with their contents, preparation date and reheating instructions) and places them in the refrigerator and freezer. Some chefs do the cooking in their own kitchen and deliver the meals to their client. When the cooking is done, the chef cleans up the kitchen.

Is it expensive? It depends on the size of your family and the type and quantity of meals you request. Personal chefs charge (on average) $200 to $350 dollars for a week's worth of dinners for a family of four. Groceries are extra. When you consider how much your family may already be spending on take-out, dine-out and fast-food dinners, personal chef services may cost less.

What are the benefits of hiring a personal chef?

  • They save you time. Planning, shopping, preparing, storing, serving, and cleaning up requires a large investment of time. Driving to and from restaurants is also time-consuming. Hiring a personal chef to tackle dinner may add a couple hours to the end of each day. That's about 15 hours of free time per week.
  • They improve your diet. Processed foods, fast food, and restaurant meals are quick and convenient, but they're loaded with fats and unhealthy calories, and they're short on nutrition. Personal chefs tailor menus to suit your preferences, but provide balanced, nutritious meals that are a whole lot healthier than dinner-in-a-bag.
  • They decrease your stress load. Not everyone enjoys chopping, sautéing, steaming, baking, and serving dinner at the end of a workday. Some people find it downright stressful. Having someone do the kitchen work for you frees up time that can be spent on more (or less) productive activities. You no longer have to worry about what's for dinner. It's all taken care of.
  • They introduce you and your family to new foods. No more "that again?" dinners. Personal chefs offer a range of menus like, Italian, Thai, Indian, Japanese, French, and other options from all over the world in addition to traditional comfort foods like potpies and casseroles. New flavors and culinary styles may open your family's eyes to food options they'd never tried before.

Where do you find a personal chef?

They're easy to locate through a quick online search. Or ask a caterer to recommend one.