If you enjoy entertaining but cooking is not your strong suit, you may want to consider hiring a personal chef to come to your home and prepare a gourmet meal for you and a group of friends, family members and/or work colleagues. Unlike private chefs, who prepare meals regularly for a family on a set schedule, a personal chef comes to your house to prepare a meal based on a menu set ahead of time for the number of guests you are entertaining. The cost of hiring a personal chef for your event will vary based on your selected menu and the number of guests you are serving. You can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $100 or more per person, depending on your menu and where you live. Costs will increase for menus featuring more expensive items, such as premium fish and meat.
Menu and courses
The number of courses you want to serve your guests affects the price, of course, because the more food the chef must prepare, the higher your cost will be. Sat Khalsa, a personal chef based in San Leandro, California, offers three-course meals that vary in cost based on a client’s chosen menu and budget. For modest budgets, he can prepare appetizers, a vegetarian or chicken entree, and either salad or dessert for about $45 per person for a party of 10. The next step up, which could include a fish or meat entree, ranges from $75 to $80 per person. The highest-end option—including high-end fish, such as ahi tuna, and/or expensive cuts of meat, such as filet mignon—starts at $100 per person and goes up depending on the details of the menu.
Sean Weyhmiller, owner of Personal Chef Sean, out of Oakland, California, charges $70 and up per person for a three-course dinner using a standard menu. Custom menus start at $75 per person. A standard four-course dinner starts at $80 per person. A custom four-course dinner starts at $90 per person.
If you want to hire a chef to prepare food for a cocktail party, you’ll pay less than you will for a full multicourse meal. Personal Chef Sean typically charges $30-$50 per person.
Some personal chefs, like Tony Lawrence, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, specialize in creating menus paired with wine. (Lawrence is a trained sommelier and chef.) Sat Khalsa is happy to recommend wine pairings to go with any menu he is preparing for a client, but he does not have a liquor license and cannot resell wine or alcohol. Confirm in advance whether the chef will bring wine for the meal or will recommend wines for you to purchase and serve.
If your party is larger than the chef can easily cook for and serve alone, they may need to bring in a sous chef or additional server at an additional cost. Personal Chef Sean charges $250 to bring along a server for parties of 14 or more. Tony Lawrence occasionally gets help from his wife, Gigi, for larger parties. Tye Bell, owner of Main Course in Eugene, Oregon, enlists his mother, Denise, as his sous chef for most private dinners he caters.
If you do not have enough cutlery, tableware or glassware for your party, your personal chef may be able to rent them and bring them to your home on your event date. Sat Khalsa has relationships with local event rental companies and does not apply a markup on rentals for his clients.
If you have a modest kitchen setup, be sure to ask your personal chef if they will bring equipment they need. Sat Khalsa assumes he will need to bring all knives and any specialty cookware or tools needed, including backup pots and pans.
On the date of your event, your personal chef will typically need at least three hours to prepare the meal. Sat Khalsa estimates he needs four to five hours to prepare a three-course meal.
Many chefs include kitchen cleanup in their total cost, but it’s a good idea to ask to make sure.
The chef may charge an additional fee for travel beyond a certain distance. Personal Chef Sean charges $1 per mile for events more than 25 miles from Oakland.