How a Midwest boy became a premiere LA private chef

Born and raised in “Motown” Detroit, I owe my life and work ethic to the blue-collar upbringing of my loving parents. Mixing grit, optimism and passion in a _ ratio, this is the story of the success and challenges that followed. Grilling outside in the dead of winter? Loved it, even as a kid. Sweating over a deep fat fryer at the local seafood bistro? Had a blast at my first cooking job!

Food would lead me across the globe and back again. As you’ll read, I took some risks in bootstrapped wanderlust and made some possibly fatal career mistakes along the way… Yet, it was wide eyes and culinary curiosity that lead me on a path to become one of the finest private chefs in Los Angeles.

Chef Nate trained with The Ritz-Carlton’s finest.

Five star finishing school

In 2001, along with a degree from Henry Ford, I jumped from the fish-fry of a local bistro to the kitchens of The Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn, Michigan. They took a chance on me (what a green culinary grad I was!), and I set to work. The chefs of the Ritz exuded efficiency, refinement and a mastery of craft that had me in awe. I was humbled yet excited to work with these culinary giants. I studied cookbooks at night, and by day I refined my craft when cooking alongside my peers.

Orange County + the land of milk & honey.

Go west, young man!

Taking only what would fit in the back of my Chevy, I made the 2,700-mile drive west where I spent about four years working in all five kitchens of The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, including the Five-Diamond “Club Grill.” At 23, I was wild, self-assured and overly confident young cook, because by then I’d built up solid fundamentals. Yet knife skills and recipes alone don’t make you a Chef, there was more/I had some work/ to do still had to earn it…

After my first stints in LA, I decided to simultaneously destroy my credit and more beneficially change my life forever when I headed to Europe for a bootstrapped three-month, 13-country backpacking tour de force. I quit work and traveled by train on a schedule that was loose and fast. Through cuisine and culture I feel in love with life as my perspective of at the world (and my place in it) opened in my heart. I ate everything from pizza in Napoli to Schnitzel in Munich, observing cultural nuances and reveling in new, authentic ways of life that resonated as I returned back home.

Nate fishes for dinner in Hawaii
Nate fishes for dinner in Hawaii.

Aloha, Maui

I had to choose, working the three jobs I picked up just to-get-by, or bet it all on a temp gig in Maui, Hawaii. I had to again risk the life I knew in order to become the Private Chef that I wanted to be. I cooked on the island farming estates of Ted Firestone, cooking for the boss seven days a week, three meals a day. I pushed my creative limits as fish, fruit and the abundance of Hawaii became my muse. It was then that I came into my own food style and culinary philosophy: Respecting the precious, life-giving nature of food and its relation to the terroir, not to mention joys of sharing a table that still resonates to this day. I fed the chickens who gave me eggs for breakfast, I hunted venison for bonfire parties and foraged for passion fruit to temper my pastry skills. Life was never the same again.

Cher’s private chef at her home in Malibu and Las Vegas residence.

I cook for you babe

Nothing in my career had prepared me for the unique challenges of celebrity cooking where you work out of the home or on-the-road, either way, it better be good! I was Cher’s Chef both at her Malibu estate and in Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, where the artist performed her residency. In her employ, health-conscious and nutritious became my new normal. At first, it wasn’t easy… but if I could hang with Hawaiian locals and wrangle wild boar, I think I could handle a few goji berries!

After believing in “life after love”, I picked up the intuitive skills that chefs be successful within the dynamics of a high net-worth home. Working for Cher as her Private Chef helped me learn how people’s desires change when they eat at home instead of out at restaurants. As soon as I understood this, I found my services in higher demand than ever before.

Chef Nate cooked & traveled in luxury as a private chef

Billionaire boys’ club: Monaco, Thailand, and the Maldives

Over the next few years, I had the great fortune of cooking for both the California billionaire Tom Gores in Beverly Hills and on the French Riviera of Monaco for a certain Russian billionaire (best left unnamed!). I explored what were to me uncharted waters as we sailed to the Maldives, Thailand, Croatia and beyond…

Chopping, on the rolls of the ocean, the life of a “yachtie” (yacht chef) cruises at (how fast do super yachts sail?) Km per hour working in a cramped kitchen galley. The disco bounce of Michael Jacksons “Rock with you” roils from a boombox, a self-aware soundtrack to choppy seas. Through the port-hole window, buddhist temples, fishing boats and sunsets.

Paris, France-completing training of 'Hautes Etudes du Gout’ with Le Cordon Bleu Chefs
Paris, France-Completing training of ‘Hautes Etudes du Gout’ with Le Cordon Bleu Chefs

French Finishing School

Next, I applied to study in one of the most prestigious culinary programs in the world – the once annual “Hautes Etudes du Gout” at the University of Reims in Champagne, France. I enrolled to become one of 12 students hand-selected in 2011, I attended lectures on subjects like “The aroma of taste in cooking” by leading theologians and enjoyed meals conducted by some of the finest French chefs. My understating of the table as a showcase for family, culture and culinary art deepened as a result.

Nate tours with and cooks for Lady Gaga.

A Gig Going Gaga

In early 2012, I was ready to unpack my suitcase, but life had other plans for me. As the private chef for Lady Gaga, I embarked on a world tour with a round-the-clock, seven-days-a-week lifestyle. We traveled all over the world: Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, South Africa, Russia and North America. It was exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world – because the world is exactly what I got to see. Best. Job. Ever.

Tour chefs cook backstage for VIPs making five-star food on the fly, sometimes in adverse conditions. Folding tables and induction cook-top stoves would comprise a make-shift kitchen. Make it good and make it quick, because the tour bus is ready to depart; you and your food better be on it!

Nate with Chef Daniel Boulud during five-star restaurant internship.

New York, NY

After the tour concluded in 2013, I secured internships at two of New York City’s most beloved restaurants, working with Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert at Daniel and Le Bernardin, respectively. You might think I was getting tired of trying new things. But in food, that’s what motivates me: What’s next?!? What’s new?!? Because food is always evolving Mentorship under chefs you respect ain’t only for newbies! Successful chefs never stop learning.

Rocket Chef

Ready to finally unpack my suitcase, I started looking for a private chef job back in Los Angeles. When I heard that Sir Elton and David Furnish were hiring for their Beverly Hills home I jumped at the chance. I’d heard the job was difficult not only because of Elton’s well-known temper, but also because the chef needed to double as a house manager. So, in addition to preparing delicious, nutritious meals, my responsibilities included hiring maids and household vendors, overseeing work and caring for the expensive artwork and in multimillion dollar property. Needless to say, I worked seven days a week when they were in town! I’d heard that many had failed before me in this dual position, but this time was different… I thrived on the challenge and enjoyed the complexity and care that’s necessary when working for the ultra-discerning.

Private Chef Consulting

Now with over 14 years of crazy good, hard-fought, globetrotting culinary refinement, I’m back at your service with (PCC) Private Chef Consulting where I do chef mentorship and chef placement. Helping guide private chefs and clients through the job placement process, I help make it easy to find and hire the finest private chefs in Los Angeles.

Yes, I’ve come a long way from the Motor City, but don’t think for a second I’ve forgotten what got me here: hard-work the under the guidance of professionals. Now, the network and credentials I’ve earned across my career are available to you. Contact me or sign up for the newsletter.