California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Cooks, Private Household in California

May also be called: Private Chefs; Personal Chefs; and Certified Personal Chefs

Specialties within this occupation include: Personal Chefs

What Would I Do?

Private Household Cooks are in charge of everything having to do with food in a private household. They are in charge of all meals for a single family and possibly other household staff. As part of their job, they also shop, budget, stock, organize, and clean kitchen and cooking utensils.

In some cases, Private Household Cooks must follow the requirements of special diets. They cook for social events and holiday meals and may be expected to prepare meals ahead of time for their employer’s later use.

Private Household Cooks must be aware of the daily schedules of each family member, as well as all upcoming social occasions and vacation schedules. They also know of the work and whereabouts of other private household workers, such as chauffeurs and nannies. In a fully-staffed home, the Private Household Cook works as part of a team and helps other members out when needed.

Social manners are important to the job, as Private Household Cooks often serve meals to guests in small or large settings. In addition, they must keep conversations they hear around the dinner table or at breakfast confidential.
When a large event is held in the home, Private Household Cooks may not cook but will oversee a caterer and menu planning, as well as manage other activities such as coat check and serving staff. Some live in the home, while others do not.

Personal Chefs are chefs for hire. Personal Chefs cook in private homes -- sometimes four or five homes per week -- leaving behind customized and packaged meals that meet the taste and nutritional profiles of their clients. They interview clients, plan menus, purchase ingredients, prepare the meals, and refrigerate or freeze them. By law, all meals must be prepared in the client’s home or in a licensed and certified commercial kitchen. Some Personal Chefs specialize in preparing menu items for dinner parties, catering events, or even teaching culinary classes. Since they are self-employed, Personal Chefs must continually market their business.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Plan menus according to employers' needs and diet restrictions.Active Listening
Shop for or order food and kitchen supplies and equipment.Management of Financial Resources
Peel, wash, trim, and cook vegetables and meats, and bake breads and pastries.Manual Dexterity
Prepare meals in private homes according to employers' recipes or tastes, handling all meals for the family and possibly for other household staff.Service Orientation
Stock, organize, and clean kitchens and cooking utensils.Multilimb Coordination
Specialize in preparing fancy dishes and/or food for special diets.Originality
Create and explore new cuisines.Active Learning
Direct the operation and organization of kitchens and all food-related activities, including the presentation and serving of food.Management of Material Resources
Plan and prepare food for parties, holiday meals, luncheons, special functions, and other social events.Time Management
Serve meals and snacks to employing families and their guests.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Private Household Cooks stand throughout their work day in a kitchen environment, which can be warm. They must deal with the pressure of promptly producing meals that meet quality expectations. Some employers may be hard to please, or may change a menu at the last minute, which can be stressful.

This job requires flexibility of work hours. When several houseguests are present or special events occur, Private Household Cooks may work as many as 15 hours a day. At other times, such as when employers are away on vacation, only a few hours per day may be required.

Personal Chefs’ work environments change from customer to customer. Some customers may not have a well-equipped kitchen so Personal Chefs need to carry essential tools from job to job. Private Household Cooks and Personal Chefs are not represented by unions.

Will This Job Fit Me?

This job would appeal to those who prefer to work independently, are flexible, have a keen sense of taste and smell, are creative with recipes, and who can work efficiently to turn out meals rapidly. People who enjoy serving others might like this type of work.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Some Private Household Cooks receive bonuses for completing special occasion events, working after-hours, and travel expenses. Earnings of Personal Chefs are unknown as this specialty is not surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their earnings will be determined by what people are willing to pay them for the convenience of their service.

Private Household Cooks often reside on the property where they work since they are cooking three meals a day. Room and board benefits enhance their wages. Other benefits, such as medical and dental, depend on what the employer is willing to provide.

Personal Chefs are self-employed, as are Private Cooks who work on a contract basis. They need to factor the personal expenses needed for health insurance and retirement savings into their fees charged.

What is the Job Outlook?

Estimating the number of Private Household Cooks in California is difficult due to a number of factors. Job prospects for Private Household Cooks will generally be best in high-income neighborhoods or areas.

While relatively few people can afford a full-time, live-in cook, many people with a lifestyle of eating most of their meals in restaurants have found the services of a Personal Chef a healthy and affordable alternative.

No outlook information exists for Personal Chefs as it is an emerging variation of Private Household Cooks. Economic conditions, as well as skills in marketing their services, will determine the opportunities for these workers.

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Education and training, whether formal or on the job, generally starts with basic sanitation and workplace safety subjects, instruction on food handling, preparation, serving, and presentation. Cooking methods and meal planning are either learned on the job from a chef or at a culinary program. Length of training varies for this job. Apprenticeships often last two or three years, while culinary academy programs can be more intensive and last one year or more.

Experience can come from a combination of jobs in the service and restaurant industry, such as cooking in fine restaurants and catering. A California driver license and current, clean DMV record is usually required for shopping needs. Most employers will do a criminal background check on all their household employees.

Early Career Planning

Culinary arts courses will develop skills in food handling and preparation. High school economics and accounting courses can help students understand the financial operation of a business. Foreign languages can expand the customer base, and speech classes can develop skills and confidence for cooking demonstrations.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

The American Culinary Federation sponsors apprenticeship programs around the country and accredits formal training programs. Vocational programs may offer courses in basic food safety and handling procedures, plus general business and computer classes for those who want to be Cooks or Personal Chefs. Many school districts, in cooperation with State departments of education, provide on-the-job training and summer workshops for cafeteria kitchen workers who aspire to become Cooks.

Continuing Education

Private Household Cooks and Personal Chefs are encouraged to attend seminars and conferences to keep current on culinary trends, equipment and tools, food presentation styles, and business and marketing skills.

Certification

The American Culinary Federation, Inc., in conjunction with the American Personal and Private Chef Association, and the United States Personal Chef Association offer certification programs for Personal Chefs. For other certification programs, check with sources listed at the end of this guide. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Private Household Cooks work where their name implies: in private households. This includes rectories or homes where religious leaders such as ministers or priests reside.

Finding a Job

Job leads for this occupation often come through word of mouth, although sometimes through advertisements and association postings. Those seeking employment should be ready with a portfolio of proven successes in the form of recipes and events, as well as solid references.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Cooks, Private Household.

  • Chefs
  • Churches
  • Domestic
  • Employment
  • Staffing

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Advancement for Private Household Cooks comes in the form of jobs in wealthier homes where private employers are willing to pay higher wages. This comes with a solid reputation in cooking, organization, and social skills.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Cooks, Private Household with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Chefs and Head CooksGuide
Cooks, Institution and CafeteriaProfile
Cooks, RestaurantGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification35-2013
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Cooks, Private Household35-2013.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ARC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Restaurant, Culinary, and Catering Management/Manager 120504
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Restaurant and Food Services and Management130710