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Hiring a Chef

There are many ways to find a chef. Call your favorite restaurant and ask whether the chef cooks for private parties. Or call cooking schools, many of which have placement offices. Talk to caterers and request a chef to cook in your home rather than having one bring prepared food. Or contact the American Personal Chef Association (800-644-8389, personalchefsearch.com).

Chefs generally charge from $10 to $50 per person, but for especially high-end cooking, expect to pay up to $200 per person. Some charge an hourly rate (usually around $50) for their services and add the cost of the food plus a small markup. Others charge a flat fee for the event plus the cost of the food.

Typically, you’ll start by discussing the occasion, purpose, or theme of the party with your chef. Next, the chef should ask what you like to eat and send sample menus. Feel free to make as many changes as you like. Cali Bergold, owner of ChefCali (312-656-1363, chefcali.com), says, “We can go back and forth three or four times before a menu
is settled.”

Some chefs like to visit a client’s kitchen before the event to see what equipment the crew will need to provide. Others prefer to wing it. Steven Obendorf, executive chef at Deleece (773-325-1710), says, “I can come in a couple of days before, or moments before.” Chefs bring all the food, including spices and seasonings. And they are prepared to provide waiters, bartenders, dishwashers, and flower arrangements if requested.

Bergold says it’s important to know which of the client’s dishes and platters she will be allowed to use. (She says she tends to open all the cabinets and pull out things she thinks will look beautiful with certain foods on them.) She also loves preparing six-course dinners but knows not everyone has enough dishes to serve them. In those cases she will bring dishes. Mary Mastricola, chef/owner of the restaurant La Petite Folie (773-493-1394), often brings dishes from her Hyde Park restaurant because they are oven-grade, so the food can be plated and served hot.

One of the best things about hiring a chef to cook at your party is the sense of intimacy, says Vicki Goldwyn, owner of As You Like It, Specialty Catering (773-493-1717). “The food is tailor-made for the clients’ tastes, served in their homes, often on their own dishes. I can even prep for five hours in their kitchens, then leave out the back door just as the guests are arriving, if that’s what the client wants.”
—P.S.

Cooking Schools:

Photography: Chris Guillen

Big Night

Hiring a Chef

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