I am a private chef in the Hamptons and New York City. Here are 9 things about my work that might surprise you.

  • meredith hayden it’s a private chef in New York City and the Hamptons.
  • He spoke to Insider about things that might surprise people about his work.
  • “Overall, it’s definitely not as glamorous as it sounds,” Hayden said.

While working as a private chef in the beautiful home of a wealthy client may seem like a dream job, it’s not always as glamorous as you might think.

Meredith Hayden, a private chef and recipe developer who lives in New York City and works with clients there and in the Hamptons, spoke to Insider ahead of her appearance on the South Beach Food and Wine Festival 2023 in February and shared details about what it’s really like to be a private chef.

Here are things that might surprise you about the job of a private chef, according to Hayden.

No two private chef jobs are the same, but you may be able to live with your client part-time.

Hayden shares her experiences as a resident private chef at his instagram pagebut private chefs work in a variety of circumstances.

“Working as a private chef goes way beyond meal preparation and catering,” she said. “There are, which I have documented on my social media, opportunities to live. There are also full-time one-year contracts that people can hire you for,” she added.

While some clients ask private chefs to live and work in their homes, others may ask them to come in once a week and prepare dishes that they can heat up throughout the week, he said.

A private chef’s schedule can change with the seasons

Meredith Hayden sits outside with a mug

Meredith Hayden.

Courtesy of Meredith Hayden

During the summer, Hayden usually lives at the Hamptons home of his main client, whom he did not identify, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. She will also work on summer vacations like Labor Day or the 4th of July.

However, her off-season hours are much different because her clients are less entertaining.

“They really just need me to make meals for them to eat during the week,” she said, adding that she could work on a Monday to prepare those meals.

Customers can invite chefs to share meals with them.

Hayden said that during the summer she is invited to eat at the table with her clients. However, she added that this is “definitely not the norm in the industry.”

“I think I’m probably the only one [private chef] I know who does this,” she said. “I consider myself very lucky to work for such amazing people who have welcomed me into their home like family,” she added. “Obviously every experience is different just because it’s case by case where regarding the relationship between a private chef and his client”.

However, chefs must be prepared to work alone.

“Again, I think everyone has their own individual experience, depending on the relationship with the client and the support they have within their team,” Hayden said.

In some cases, an entire staff, including servers and kitchen prep helpers, will be working for a client. But that’s not typical of Hayden’s experience.

“That only happened to me once, where they already had people there to help me,” he said. “Other than that, I’m usually alone for most of my work.”

As a result, working as a private chef involves long, hard hours.

Hayden said that while it’s a blessing to be able to go to local farmers’ markets in the Hamptons and “make beautiful meals in beautiful homes,” the hours are long and hard. Part of that is because she works alone, she said.

“I never really wanted to set up my own private chef or catering business, so I never really hired people to join me and expand my business like that,” Hayden said.

“I think there are cases where chefs have a lot of support that could make their day a little bit easier, but overall, I think it’s definitely not as glamorous as it sounds,” she said.

TikTok has allowed Hayden the opportunity to work with just one client

When it comes to building his brand and business, Hayden isn’t shy about the role social media has played in allowing him to take his private chef business from a side job to a full-time job. Thanks to endorsements, Hayden said she’s only been able to work with one client and supplement his income with the money she earns from her TikTok.

“In the past, I was juggling multiple clients at once, but with TikTok, I’ve been able to stick exclusively to my main client,” he told Insider.

Private Chefs May Charge More Than Hayden Initially Thought

Meredith Hayden in her clients' garden.

Hayden in his clients’ garden.

Courtesy of Meredith Hayden

“Before I started doing TikTok and working as a private chef was my only source of income, I had no knowledge of what others were charging,” he said. “The only knowledge I had was how much I needed to earn to pay my bills.”

He started by “working backwards” and charging clients based on the minimum amount of money he needed to earn that month. Later, Hayden learned that she was charging significantly less for his services.

“I wasn’t really making out or getting rich from these gigs in the slightest,” he said.

“I thought he was being so slick with, ‘Oh, I’m going to charge you an extra $100 here and an extra $100 there.’ But in reality, the value of the service that he had been providing was much more than what he was charging,” he added.

The “biggest helpful tip” she received was to price her services by the hour separately from the cost of her materials. This helps cover rising grocery prices, ingredient availability and last-minute menu changes, she said.

Restaurant chefs can double their salary by adding private chef jobs to their schedule

Hayden said that while it took her a while to find her balance and price her services correctly, she has seen how lucrative it can be for people who want to transition from a typical restaurant chef career, especially if they have a good marketing strategy and some initial clients.

“If they’re willing to take that leap and take on those extra responsibilities that come with being a business owner, it’s possible to double their salary doing private chef jobs,” Hayden told Insider.

Despite cooking for a living, Hayden still loves it and doesn’t order takeout as often as she might think.

Meredith Hayden holding tomatoes in a tomato dress

Meredith Hayden.

Courtesy of Meredith Hayden

After spending hours cooking in the kitchen for her clients, “spending another 30 minutes standing alone is a misery in itself,” Hayden said, and the prospect of doing more dishes is even less appealing.

“At times like these, I try to be strategic with my leftovers, so I usually make a bunch of soup and freeze it,” she said. “So if I know I’m having a busy week, I’ll get some soup out of the freezer and make sure I have it on hand for those types of nights.”

“Cooking for a living and living on a budget has made me a little more reluctant to order takeout than most people in New York City, just because I see how expensive it can be,” Hayden said. “I’m more likely to stock up on Trader Joe’s frozen meals, rather than order takeout during those desperate times.”

Despite cooking for her career, Hayden said she still loves it.

“It’s really more of a matter of physical and mental exhaustion from everything cooking, but I always enjoy cooking,” she said.

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