As Seen in the Boston Globe
Personal chefs cater to the time-starved
By Cindy Atoji, Globe Correspondent | March
Susan Yates of Lexington was tired of feeding her
family pizza and Trader Joe's enchiladas every night, so she decided
to "outsource" her cooking. That meant hiring personal
chef Andrea Silver, a move she says has saved her 10 hours a week
because she doesn't have to grocery shop, chop vegetables, or stand
over a hot stove. "My kids used to eat a bagel or a protein
bar in the back of the car while driving to dance lessons,"
says Yates, a senior vice president for global marketing at Bank
of America. "Now we can actually sit down and have a meal together,
even if it's only for a half hour."
Personal chefs like Silver, the proprietor of Sweet
and Savory Personal Chef Services in Brookline, are no longer for
just the rich and famous. Busy two-career families like the Yateses,
people with restricted diets, single professionals, and seniors
who can't cook for themselves are increasingly using the services
of personal chefs , says John Moore, executive director of the United
States Personal Chef Association. He estimates there are 5,000 personal
chefs nationwide, serving about 72,000 clients. In the Boston area
alone, there are over 100 personal chefs. Personal chefs are not
to be confused with private chefs, who typically live in a client's
home and cook for only one family, says Moore. Personal chefs have
numerous clients and are known for home-cooked meals that must be
cooked in the client's kitchen, unless they are prepared in a commercially
licensed kitchen. Their services can include customized menu planning
and grocery shopping. The best way to find a personal chef is online
through associations such as Personal Chef Network (PersonalChefsNetwork.com),
American Personal and Private Chef Association (PersonalChef.com),
and the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA.com).
Pricing can vary . Some chefs will include groceries
in a flat fee; others add groceries to labor charges, which are
usually around $50 an hour. The contract signed is a nonbinding
service agreement with rules about cancellation and rescheduling.
The bottom line: Including groceries, personal chef service costs
about $300 to $400 a week for four portions of five entrees and
side dishes (known as a "five by four.") This is about
20 dinner-size servings or a price equivalent to your family eating
out 4 to 5 nights per week at a family restaurant. The chef usually
packages the meals in disposable containers, vacuum-seal bags, or
Pyrex for easy reheating or freezing. There are no worries about
cleanup, since the chefs bring their own supplies and clean up afterward,
often "leaving the kitchen cleaner than it was originally,"
Janelle Marshall, a single mother of two in Methuen,
says the price of hiring a personal chef is offset by cost by the
time and irritation she saves by not having to deal with the "what's
for dinner problem." Marshall, who uses Chef en Route, which
serves the Merrimack Valley, says she loves coming home to a bubbling
crock pot or an elegant spread of mango salsa with tuna.
Marshall, who is a hairdresser in Salem, N.H., says, "My income
is limited, but this is far better than going through a drive-through
or having sandwiches for dinner. No more food on the run for us."