How much does a private chef cost? Many of us have wishfully dreamt of having someone cook for us (usually when it’s 7:30pm and you’ve just realized you don’t have anything in the house to eat, or 10pm after a dinner party and you have a bunch of dishes to wash even though you’ve spent several hours cooking already). We often turn to restaurant takeout as the answer, but often the food is not as healthy as we like (restaurant food is often designed for impulse purchases by hungry people – meaning too much fat, sugar and salt) and sometimes we get tired of the menu (there’s only so many times we want pizza or Chinese food). It turns out the cost of private chefs can vary quite a bit and it may not be as out of reach as many of us think. The exact cost of a private chef depends on several factors, such as:
- Your geography – some geographies just have higher cost of living, and this will also be reflected in the cost of hiring a private chef. For example, it’s likely that a private chef will cost more in San Francisco, CA than Pittsburgh, PA.
- Whether you need a full-time private chef or a part-time private chef (also known as ‘personal chef’) or a private chef for a one-time event – Private chefs can work in a range of arrangements, from cooking for one special dinner/ event, to cooking a batch of meals once a week, to being a full-time employee of the household. Clearly the chef’s time and therefore, the cost involved will differ across these scenarios.
- What type of experience and background you need and/or prefer – Do you need someone who has worked in a top-tier restaurant? Someone with professional culinary school experience? Or will your needs be met by someone who has neither, but is a great cook with most of his/ her experience making food and doing small-scale catering? Often, though not always, cost will vary across chefs and cooks with different backgrounds.
- Whether you are looking for someone with specific expertise – Are you on a super-specific diet that requires a certified nutritionist? Or someone who has extensive experience cooking without a common ingredient (e.g., gluten)? It may cost a bit more to find private chefs with this type of additional experience/ training.
The data available on private chef costs isn’t great, though we can look at a couple of different reports and try to get an estimate. Recruiter.com, for example, says that the median salary for a private chef is about $24,500 with the 90th percentile making about $42,800. Payscale.com has different numbers, with the median salary being about $62,500 and the 90th percentile making $120k. According to the research we’ve done at SomaPersonalChefs.com, we estimate that the median per-hour wage for personal chefs is between $40-$50. Of course, not all personal chefs are able to fill a 40-hour week all the time, but assuming a 28-hour workweek and 50 weeks worked per year, it sums up to about $56k per year.
If you are looking for a private chef to cook just one special event or a batch of meals for weekdays, you actually don’t need to pay for a full year’s chef’s salary obviously, which can make it a lot more affordable. For example, one dinner may take a private chef about 5-7 hours (or $200-$280 at median) as might whipping up several meals for a week’s work of dinner.