Brigitte Thériault is a personal chef, master menu planner, and a personal chef business coach. With 10 years of experience doing what she loves, not only does she focus on food that’s good – and good for us – but she enjoys helping other personal chefs understand what it takes to get started – and to become successful.
As for Brigitte’s philosophy on feeding ourselves and our families, it’s this:
Eating good food is about respecting your body as much as it is about delighting your palate with intricate flavors and textures.
I hope you will enjoy this post on the personal chef as entrepreneur, from Brigitte Thériault of White Apron Chef. Do be sure to visit her blog for some especially useful tips as we head into the holidays.
What Is a Chef Coach and Why Do You Need One?
As a personal chef for the last 10 years, both in New York City and San Francisco, I’ve come to understand the value that I bring to my clients. And I’ve loved getting to know them, in all their varied personalities and lifestyles.
My clients have ranged from privileged Manhattan socialites to brilliant San Francisco tech gurus – the sort that made a fortune selling their companies. I’ve also cooked for hard working families who were comfortable but not rich. Mostly, I’ve gotten picky about who I’m willing to cook for. After a decade, I can tell right away which clients are trouble and which ones are not. I have a great time with the latter and I avoid the former like, well… a bad meal.
A personal chef may not be a therapist, but we are definitely involved in the care and feeding not only of your physical health, but your mental health that comes from eating well – and enjoying it! But a personal chef is an entrepreneur. Success is half cooking skill and half business sense.
As a personal chef business coach, I help those who are personal chefs better understand their markets and their business models.
A Personal Chef Is an Entrepreneur
As a chef-entrepreneur, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve made a mistakes in my own business – undercharging, not having contracts in place (and clients decide to cancel at the last minute), and not standing up for myself with entitled clients. That last item is a real issue in the personal chef world. If you’re an entrepreneur in another field – maybe you’ve encountered this, too.
Working for the rich can be wonderful and it can also be trying. Some clients expect you to clean their houses, baby-sit their kids, and be at their beck and call whenever they deem convenient. I had a client who once decided to bring a friend on to his food plan, without asking me. Cooking a couple of extra portions wasn’t a big deal. But when he demanded I also deliver the food to a location that was an hour away from his place and 45 minutes away from mine, I said no.
I was earning okay money from him and needed the cash badly. But I refused to budge on the issue and he refused to pay more. After a confrontation with his assistant, I stood up for myself and I let him go as a client. You heard that right. I let him go. I refused to be bullied into wasting my time to run around for his convenience. He was worth millions and he clearly valued his time but not mine. Paying me for my services shouldn’t have been an issue.
Knowing Your Skills and Your Limitations
Drawing a line can be tough when you are starting a business, and personal chefs get stuck in these situations often. Boundaries are extremely important because it’s easy to get scared into thinking you’ll never find another paying client again. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can be the best cook in the world but if you don’t know how to brand and market yourself, you are not going to make it as a personal chef. You will get stuck in less than stellar situations and take on the wrong kinds of clients for small sums of money. I will say it again: Being a personal chef is half cooking skill and half business sense.
The other trap I see is personal chefs who try to do their own branding. I know money is tight when you are first starting out. There’s a DIY mentality amongst the personal chef community. I get it. I want to do everything myself, too.
But I don’t.
What I’ve learned is that outsourcing web design, copywriting and photography to the pros yields far better results. I hire people who are smart and who have specialized skills – and it works. You gain paying clients faster. You win respect. You distance yourself from people who expect you to mop their bathroom floors.
Time, Energy, Expertise
I’m not going to tell you how much I spent on my last website. But it was worth every single penny. I’m now attracting the right clients – the ones who respect the time, effort, skill and energy that goes into a personal service. These are clients who are willing to pay for my time and energy.
We forget how valuable these two resources are. Time and energy. Are you really going to trade it for $20/hour? Sure, that is more than you would make in a restaurant as a cook, but if you’re on your own, don’t forget you have other expenses you wouldn’t if you worked for someone else. So that $20/hour is hardly a living. And you are worth more than that.
A personal chef coach (moi) will help you understand how to position yourself in the market, and where you need to enlist outside, specialized expertise as in my example of web design. I help you, the personal chef, the entrepreneur – make better choices about the clients you take on. And this helps you make a lot more money faster, and saves you from years of mistakes.
A hard investment, maybe, when you are starting out. But all entrepreneurs make difficult decisions as they start and grow their businesses. And all personal chefs could do with reducing the number of missteps and the amount of wasted time, saving yourself years of hardship, and climbing the rope quicker than you can ever imagine.
Loving What You Do
On a last note, loving what you do always translates. I love cooking, I love being a personal chef, and I love seeing the pleasure that great, healthy food can provide. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Food is what connects me to other humans. It’s the medium I use to help others connect, too.
You don’t get into the food industry because you want to make millions of dollars. There may be celebrity chefs doing just that, but they are exceptions.
You get into this industry because you love it and because it brings you purpose. And if you’re entrepreneurial, you can make a good living. But at the core, this business is about passion and following what you naturally love because it feels good, it tastes good, and you can’t picture your world without it.
© Brigitte Thériault
Brigitte Thériault is a personal chef, master meal planner and personal chef business coach. She has 10 years of experience as a personal chef in New York and San Francisco. She believes eating good food is a basic, hedonistic pleasure that demands good, simple ingredients to nourish body and soul. She also believes in entrepreneurship as a way of life and thrives on helping people figure out how to make more money doing what they love. Visit Brigitte at White Apron Chef, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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