A chef’s dream job is surely working in a private house: getting to know one client and settling into one environment. But these are coveted roles. So, how do you make sure you are pipping all the other excellent chefs out there to the post and landing that career-changing job? We’ll tell you…
From Shoreditch to Thailand to Norway, creating recipe videos, cooking for adults, children and even a dog...Over the past few months we have placed cooks into some brilliant jobs and, unsurprisingly, given the skill of the chefs on our books and the exciting opportunities we offer, there are some very happy candidates and equally happy clients!
Imagine booking an expensive hotel with no pictures of the rooms, recommendations or trip advisor scores....
Imagine visiting a restaurant where you are expected to spend a lot of money which has no reviews, no menus in advance for you to see, and no one has ever heard of it...
Imagine buying an item of clothing off the peg online without knowing what it looks or feels like....
So - you want to cook in a private home. That is great, and we look forward to working with you. There are just a few things we would like to remind you:-
- We have numerous cooks on our books. And they all think they are as good as you. We are a young company and, for now, have less clients than cooks, so it helps to be nice to us, to stay in touch with us, and to let us know your whereabouts. That way it is likely you will be our first call when the next amazing job comes in.
- You should be able to provide us with at least two recent references from your most recent employers. These should be private client employers, regardless of how famous/busy they might be, we work with numerous chefs and clients and can always get references from someone, whether that be the clients PA, or the client themselves, it is possible. Unfortunately without references, we cannot use you. How will we know who you are and how you work in a private home?
- We advise all our chefs to have a DBS certificate. You are working in a private home, around young children, and invading someones private space. We want to know you are who you say you are, as much as the client does. Apply for one here.
- Photographs of your food. This is really important. If you are a chef in this day and age, we advise you have your own website with lots of photographs of your food. Or at the very least, an instagram page which shows pictures of your food ONLY. We don't want to see what you get up to on your days off - create a private personal page for this. You may even find you get jobs from clients direct through your own instagram page or website.
- Up to date CVs and references. When you finish a job, ask your client if they are happy to write a reference for you and if they are happy for you to pass their details to future employers. Update your CV, send it to us and let us know the amazing things you have been doing.
- Reply to our e mails and phone calls. As much as you like to get a response from us, we like to get a response from you. If we contact you in regards to something, even if it is not for you, please just acknowledge us and let us know where you are in the world. If you are no longer needing work, we then no longer need to bother you.
- Once a job is confirmed, contact the client at your earliest convenience to arrange menus, logistics and travel arrangements.
- Flexibility. Being a private cook is not easy. We never said it was, and we know how hard it is ourselves, having been there and done it, and still doing it! Please expect the long hours and days, and understand that some jobs will be harder than others....
- If you can do all of the above, get your chef whites ironed, your knives sharpened and....enjoy the experience.
To work for Sugarella Cooks or to book a cook, please contact us.
I have written a few tips for cooks going out on their first jobs abroad cooking for a family. These are things I found useful when working as a private cook, and hopefully they will help you as well.
- Take any knives/cooking equipment you really like (in hold luggage)
- Make sure your flight is booked in your FULL NAME that is shown on your passport. I once had a disaster as my full name is Eleanor, but the clients had booked the flight under Ella and I almost was not allowed to fly.
- Leave PLENTY of time to catch your flight. It will not be a good start to the holiday if you miss your flight, this can easily be avoided. Be organised and prepared. If you get to the airport too early, you can keep yourself amused with magazines and books, but it is best to be too early than too late!
- Once arrived and settled, you can ask for the WIFI Code (if there is one) to allow you to keep in touch with the outside world and book in upcoming jobs, particularly important if you are a freelance cook
- Take lots of books, magazines etc and download some things to watch on IPAD if you can for when you get time off.
- Photocopy or write out a few recipes from books that you think may be useful. Avoid taking big bulky books with you.
- Always clean up after yourself and work in a tidy environment
- Take plenty of chef whites and/or aprons with you to wear.
- On a day to day basis, wear comfortable shoes (eg trainers/chef shoes), chef trousers/jeans and top or similar - always wear hair tied back and have a clean apron. If you are going to a very hot place you may like to invest in some cool linen 3/4 length trousers or similar. Avoid wearing flip flops in the kitchen. It is dangerous and you may burn your feet/drop something on them. No nail varnish, you should not wear jewellery when cooking and minimal make up! You must remember you are on a cooking job, not a fashion parade! It is important you look clean (clean hair included) and smart at all times, but not too "made up".
- Take an adaptor for the plugs so you can charge your phone etc.
- Find out where the washing machine is to wash tea towels, oven gloves etc - always have plenty of clean ones and if there are not enough, you should buy them.
- Find out where hoover and mop and bucket are to wash kitchen floor – this should be done daily. Whenever you leave the kitchen during the day, make sure you sweep the floor and leave everything clean and tidy.
- Keep kitchen area very clean and tidy at all times, clear up as you go
- Mark any food you do not want people to eat with a label to say 'please do not eat!'. This is particularly important if you are working for a family with teenagers or young 20 year olds, as they may do midnight fridge raids so make sure you cover yourself for all situations!
- Keep smiling, even if you are exhausted!
- Keep fridge and oven clean. Leave the kitchen in a better condition than when you found it!
- Keep your accommodation clean and tidy. If there is a cleaner that cleans your room and you have left it in a mess, this will go back to the client. You will probably need to wash your own sheets – find out where replacements are and where you should do your washing etc.
- Buy J-cloths and cleaning cloths if they don’t appear to have any
- Always empty bins when full and at the end of each day - when hot these will get smelly - ask them where they go when you first arrive
- Always have a nicely stocked fruit bowl for people to help themselves to - display it nicely
- Find out where loo is for you to use
- IF time, it is good to do little extras like biscuits/cakes, canapes before dinner etc (even if not asked)
- Crisps and nuts can be useful for nibbles before supper if you are running short of time, so have a good stock
- Simple is good - keep food fresh and simple. Never over complicate things and avoid cooking something you have never done before, or dishes you do not feel confident cooking
- Make sure you have plenty of washing up liquid, dishwasher tabs etc before you do your first shop
- Always drink plenty of water as you will be working long hours and will wake up with a bad headache if you are dehydrated
- Don't forget to eat! Ensure you put aside at least 30 minutes a day to sit down and eat a PROPER meal. Avoid picking, it will just make you feel bad. Make sure that you make yourself something each day and do not be embarrassed to eat. If necessary, try to find a room where you can eat in peace away from the clients.
- Find out where all the stuff is for laying the table when you first arrive
- If you can, lay as much out for breakfast the night before (not always possible if they use the same room to eat in at all times)
- Be professional but friendly, chat when spoken to etc...but not overly chat
- ALWAYS make friends with the other household staff. These are your allies, and must not become your enemies. It is likely they will have worked for the clients for years, so the clients will have a huge amount of trust and respect in them, so you must stay friends. Avoid gossiping with the staff, stick to a professional but friendly manner with them. If they like you, they will help you. If they don't, they won't! Do not make them feel threatened at any time. Always offer them left over cooked food, a good sweetener!
- Be discreet at all times - do not gossip about clients or their friends!
- Try to find out timings they would like to eat. When the food is ready at their times, go and tell client politely
- Depending on what the job is, if it is a family summer holiday, lay things out in a buffet style for them to help themselves to, unless otherwise specified
- Have a few menus jotted out - write out a few lunch and dinner ideas before you go
- The kitchen you are working in will be very much a domestic kitchen with people walking through, perhaps getting cups of tea etc. You must be patient about this, and also stick to simple cooking that you don't mind people watching you cook. They may ask you questions/try to talk to you while you cook, so you must have a calm manner and be relaxed and talk to them in a professional way, rather than getting in a flap!
- Write a time plan at the start of each day with everything you need to do, and when - have a tick list
- If the clients have young children, try and put some time aside to do some baking or a cooking lesson with them, this will go down a treat with the clients! Do ask the clients permission to do this first before suggesting it to the children!
- Any money you are given for shopping, have a separate purse to put it in and use that to also put in receipts for shopping
- If you use the BBQ, make sure you clean it down the next day and leave it in the condition you found it. If it is a Gas BBQ make sure there is enough gas to cook with!
- Find out how the oven works if not obvious!
- Find out how the dishwasher works, if not obvious!
- Remember to take bags to the supermarket in case they do not have them - they should have them at the house
- Use your day off to rest and enjoy the area/go to beach etc. Try to avoid going into the house/kitchen as you may end up working/washing up!
- Remember you are abroad but you are NOT on holiday. You are on a job, and working, therefore you will be expected to have a working attitude during the dates you are employed. It may not always feel nice cooking in a hot kitchen while others are relaxing and enjoying themselves, but you did sign up to the job, and will get a nice amount of money at the end to enable you to enjoy yourself in some way or another! If you work hard and the clients like you, it is very likely that they will ask you back to cook for them again, or even recommend you to their friends for other jobs.
- If you have long hair, I suggest wearing a bandana, or something to avoid hair falling into food.
- If you are concerned about anything at any time, do get in touch with me. I am fully aware of the ups and downs of working for private clients and I am a very good listener and can offer some sound advice.
- Remember the job is an incredible experience to cook for some lovely clients in some beautiful places, so do enjoy it and have fun experimenting with all the local produce in the area.