How to Choose the Best Personal Chef for your Event
Hosting a private dinner party or cocktail evening can be a daunting task but can be made so much easier if you choose to hire outside assistance in the form of a Personal Chef. Your next decision then is; who is the best chef for my event? This article will outline points to consider when making your decision.
Find a Leader in Planning and Presentation
When selecting a Personal Chef it's important to find someone who is professional and well-versed in both event planning and presentation.
A Personal Chef does more than just providing the food; they partner with the host to help with the planning of the event so that everything runs smoothly and everything looks perfect. The goal is to help the host facilitate the group in having an experience that they will remember for years to come. A Personal Chef will help you plan a timetable and design decor that adds a "wow" factor. A good service includes providing several options for the type or style of event you want to have--themes, colors, hand-made party favors, serving and bar staff--these are the little details that help to personalize your event. The presentation of the food itself is also one of the highlights of these events so you will want to see examples of their plating work. A good Personal Chef will be proud to show you examples of their presentation skills.
Check their Background for Formal Culinary Training
When you are hiring a Personal Chef it's good to check their background and culinary training. How long have they been doing this, where have they previously worked and where have they studied their art? Not all chefs have formal culinary training, but formal training can guarantee that the food will be prepared in a safe manner to professional/legal standards, and that it will taste as good as you expect--or even better. Ask if signature cocktails and wine pairings are available--a skilled Personal Chef knows how to pair wine and cocktails to your menu selections and offers bartending services to meet the needs of a beverage program. Lastly, ask about cooking from scratch; if your Chef is using highly processed foods and can't prepare basic sauces and condiments then they probably aren't well trained in flavor profiles and likely to use a lot of jarred or pre-packaged foods. Ingredients should be fresh, well sourced and of top quality.
Ask about Kitchen Restoration Practices and Cleanliness
Make sure your kitchen is clean when your Personal Chef arrives. Cleaning before a service shaves valuable time off of cooking preparation and could slow down the target times you've set for your service. The Chef's job doesn't finish when the food is all cooked either--a competent Personal Chef will ensure that servers clear the table and leave the kitchen as clean as it was when they arrived. Your dishes should be in the dish washer being cleaned when they leave.
What are Other People Saying?
These days it's easier than ever to research a Chef's reputation - use the internet. There are numerous ways to find out what other people are saying about them with the main ones being; Yelp, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. Facebook and Instagram can also be great showcases where you get to see the Chef's work. If the Chef has testimonials and or a client list on their website, read it. It can give you insight into the types of groups they've worked with.
Beware of Cheap or Free "Bait and Switch" Services
While Personal Chef services are often cost effective, they're not often cheap--we bring the restaurant to you--so it's important to know who you are hiring and that you will get the service that you asked for at the price you agreed on. An experienced Personal Chef will provide a fully customized service to suit your needs and provide an itemized contract so that you know exactly what you are paying for.
- Free estimates and custom menu curation offered with quick turnaround without your input are a big red flag. Preparing estimates and menus for a special event take time; you should always have an in-depth consultation and if possible a home or site visit to determine what your needs really are. Your input is key to providing all of the personal touches needed to make your event memorable.
- No itemization or explanation of the services on your invoice/contract is another red flag. If you can't see what services you are contracting for chances are, the estimate and custom menu curation aren't free.
- Hidden service charges without definition added to your invoice after you've agreed on selected services are also something you should beware of. Adding line items described as "service charge" is often an indication that any cheap or free service is being made up for at your expense.
- Free Tastings are expensive to produce and could ultimately end up on your bill as a "service charge". Ask up front if tastings are offered and if so what the terms are. While tastings are expected for caterers (and more so for weddings), the Personal Chef space can be a bit more high end and may have a charge to produce samples.
What to Expect
A Personal Chef is not a caterer. There are a few things you should expect when you book a private dining experience that you may not think of when hiring a caterer:
Be prepared for additional costs to be incurred should you want the Chef's staff to handle and clean crystal, stemware, custom fine china or any specialty wares you may want them to use. It is not customary to ask the Chef or staff to launder items or perform extensive cleaning duties outside of what they're contracted for.
Read your contract carefully so you know what etiquette has been set and which services the Chef has contracted for. For instance, it isn't customary to request cake cutting at your dinner party after opting out of dessert service. Negotiate for cake cutting service with your Chef while deciding on your menu options so they can work with your favorite baker in case there are specific instructions--and so they have time to staff the service accordingly. Requesting services off-contract can make your service appear chaotic and not well planned.
- Tastings are reserved for wedding clients--and a fixed fee for this service is usually applied. Personal Chefs often don't have the capacity to provide tastings for smaller dinner parties; so ask for a reference or have a look at their reviews.
Partnering With Keena's Kitchen
It is important to make the most informed decision possible when choosing the right Personal Chef service for your private event. Keena's Kitchen has proven to be a trusted leader in customized event services in the Bay Area. Keena's Kitchen has the expertise, experience and qualifications to complete your project to the highest of standards.
Interested in partnering with Keena's Kitchen for your next event? Contact us for more on how we can help make your event sparkle!