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Tips for first time holiday cooks

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.

Ella's Tips:-

  • 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.
summer cooking

Brilliant first job for newly trained cook

We have recently taken on a job, based in West London, which is catering for the most important little people in London! You will be responsible for catering a variety of Children's Parties across London and will be cooking for HNWI and their little families! 

This is a fantastic opportunity for a newly qualified cook, or someone who has perhaps completed a couple of ski seasons, to get some incredible experience under their belt. Alongside catering for the childrens parties, you will also help out with some of the larger events during busy times.

Working with a team of fun people in West London, this is an opportunity for a keen and enthusiastic cook to really get themselves involved with something amazing. If only I could rewind the clock 12 years and I would take this job myself!

See more details here or e mail cv@sugarellacooks.co.uk with your CV, and should I think you are suitable for the position I will contact you to discuss.

Fantastic opportunity for a cook to cater for the most amazing childrens parties in London!

Fantastic opportunity for a cook to cater for the most amazing childrens parties in London!