Dishing Up Personal Chef Services
Rockland County Times
*Used with the permission of The Rockland County Times
Michelle Gandy has had her career in the corporate world for more than 10 years, working her way up the ladder in hotel management, when she decided she wanted her own personal chef business.
“I was getting tired of not seeing my family, working 12 to 14 hours a day,” said Gandy, Pomona [New York]. “I pretty much got tired of the corporate world. With hotels, there’s not much time for a personal life… To be honest, I had gone about as far as I could go” with a career in hotels.
After several months of research, she started The Good Dish Personal Chef Service in May . The service is marketed to couples and families who are strapped for time when it comes to planning and preparing dinner. Gandy prepares meals in the clients’ homes, usually once every two weeks, and packages the meals and leaves them with heating instructions. She also offers weekly and daily meal preparation plans, as well as preparations for small dinner parties.
She also does all of the grocery shopping for the meals and brings her own pots, pans, food processor, utensils and cooking spices, using only the client’s stove [and oven] for cooking. She has usually cleaned up and left by 4 or 4:30 p.m.
Gandy was trained as a chef, with a culinary degree from New Hampshire College [and has a Master’s Degree from Johnson and Wales University in Hospitality Administration], and says she has always loved to cook. The big difference between cooking for a hotel, as she did earlier in her career, and cooking for an individual family is the personal connection with the client, she said.
“It’s more interesting. You come across a lot of different situations,” Gandy said.
The Personal Chef business is also preferable to being a private chef, she said, because a private chef has the same problems as the hotel manager—long hours, and on-call hours. Private chefs in Westchester County typically make $60,000 to $70,000 annually, she said.
With each client of her business, she starts with an assessment interview, getting specific information about their likes and dislikes, eating habits and food allergies. For example: How many times a week do they eat a particular meat or fish? Do they like their meat sliced thinly? What are their preferences with cooking with wines, or extracts, or spices? Do they have any favorite family recipes?
Besides the time factor, Gandy said, one of the major attractions of a Personal Chef service is having meals prepared to exact specifications for those who require a certain diet—lactose or gluten-free, for example, or free of preservatives. “This way, they know exactly where the food is coming from,” she said.
Gandy is a member of the American Personal Chef Association, which offers its members a website link, business advice and menu suggestions, including dishes reported to be universally liked. One of the all-time favorites, surprisingly, is a recipe for “apple meat loaf,” she said.
“It doesn’t sound that great, but people love that to death,” she said.
As for the most universally disliked dish, Gandy said, Brussels sprouts tops the list.
Gandy said she has six client families now, most added through word of mouth advertising, and she plans to add another four or so at the most. In a few years, she may consider expanding the business to the point of cooking out of a central location and hiring employees to help her accommodate a larger client base, she said.