How to go the extra mile as a private chef (and get rebooked again and again)

If you’re reading this, chances are you are a professional cook or private chef. So, you’ll know that the catering industry is hardly a cake walk: competition is tough when it comes to booking jobs. And being booked once doesn’t necessarily lead to being booked again, not even if you whip up a feast that would have Alain Ducasse quaking in his boots.

Because cooking for a private client or household is about more than just food. Read on for our comprehensive guide to getting booked (again and again)

1. Be flexible

No one wants to work with a ‘no’ person for whom every request or change is treated like a life-threatening crisis. Private cooks should expect plans to change – it’s the nature of the beast. It is also worth remembering that if you are on the whole a relaxed, ‘yes’ person, when you do need to put your foot down and say ‘no’ – it will be met with a great deal more respect.

2. Listen to the client

Obvious, hey? You’d think so. But it’s amazing how many of us are so eager to show off our skills that we forget what we are actually there for. If the client has asked for a comforting apple crumble they will not be best pleased to see a plate of homemade lavender macarons emerging from the kitchen – no matter how intricate or delectable. Don’t let your ego eclipse the brief.

3. But make sure you wow them when the occasion calls for it

Making something that you know your client cannot cook themselves is the ultimate treat. Why not ask them to come up with a wish list of dishes they would love to eat during your stint with them? You could also ask if they would like a surprise.

4. Create a visual feast

There is literally no point in making delicious food if it is presented like prison slop. Finger prints on plates or sauce dripping off the sides are both absolutely unacceptable not to mention completely unbecoming.

5. Being a tidy worker

Overflowing bins, bags of flour upturned on counters, unmanned pans bubbling away furiously on piping hobs – scenes of chaos in the kitchen are a major turn-off for clients. Plan ahead, work steadily and methodically and clean as you go are all rules to live by. Needless to say, the kitchen should be spotless when you’ve finished.

6. Keep it clean

You, personally, need to be clean and tidy, there are no two ways about it. If you have dubious personal hygiene no one, but no one, will want you to cook their Sunday lunch for them. Trust us. It is SO NOT OK to come to work in a kitchen without having showered or while wearing something which has yesterday’s béchamel sauce embedded into the weave.

7. Think ahead for your client

We think it’s lovely to box up and label any leftover food. This shows real thoughtfulness – and is likely to score major brownie points from clients.

8. Be nice to other members of the household

Working in a private household means you’ll be at close quarters with other people – housekeepers, cleaners but also the hosts’ children and guests. It is essential that you are polite, courteous and kind to everyone in your orbit. Even if they are annoying. Even if they are nosy. Even if you’d really like five blooming minutes peace so you can ice the cake or whisk the eggs or sauté the potatoes or fry the bacon. If you aren’t going to play nice, you won’t be asked back.

9. Avoid being overfamiliar

No matter how well you get on with the client, you are still an employee. Be very careful about asking personal questions, accepting drinks or generally doing anything that distracts you from the job you are there to do.

10. Communication is key

There’s a fine line between checking in with a client to make sure they are happy and appearing needy for affirmation. Be open to both criticism and praise, and if it’s the former, be sure to work on it!