My first job as a private chef was the hardest to get, because I was young and making a really big career change. Although at that time I had a resume with Ritz Carlton training, along with a culinary degree, breaking into this particular (and sometimes peculiar) field was not going to come easy. Looking back now 10 years later, It’s understandable that when chasing my first freelance chef gigs I ran into obstacles. What did i really know about working in the homes of High Net-Worth Individuals? Who was going trust me with the personal duty of feeding their family? I’ve had successes and failures over my 17 years as a cook, but my career had always come out on top. I learned that if you’ve got a love for food, a pleasant personal disposition (and perhaps some smart mentorship along the way!) I guarantee you too can have success in your freelance career; listen as I just let me tell you how I got my big break…
I moved to Los Angeles in 2007 knowing full well it was an American culinary capital and I’d be just another young cook showing up with a knife roll and a resume. After a year of working three jobs and still barely being able to pay the rent I gave myself an ultimatum. A) Figure out how to make a living wage or B) find a new career. That second option really left a bad taste in my mouth so I started thinking bigger. At that time I shared a funky apartment in West Hollywood, a bohemian oasis that shares a border with the bourgeois Beverly Hills. Opulence and abundance was right outside my door and I promised myself that i’d be working in the million dollar mansions that lit the hillside at night.
But a six figure salary job doesn’t come together quickly as a basic vinaigrette. This would be a layered process more along the lines of a fine French demi glace; Step One: combine aromatics, , Step Two: Simmer and add pressure Step Three: Strain and reduce a melange of ingredients that are combined and simmered/reduced over time and then finally mounted with butter upon finishing…
Yet right away, I tried to go right to the source “The Agencies” you know headhunters for freelance chefs and clients. Although using an agency can pay 20% up to 30k as a signing fee.
The agencies (gate keepers) wanted nothing to do with me. They said you’ve got a great resume so far but “who have you cooked for?”. Come back when you have “experience”.
It felt like getting denied for my first credit card: “we’ll give you some credit after you first establish your credit…” WTF!!! how am I supposed to become a private chef if you wont even consider me for a job!?
The answer: You go and do it your damn self.
From that moment on I was fully vested in my ‘new life’ “new future”, one that I had never lived, had “no prior experience in”, but a life I was determined to make a tangible future. So in order to show a serious dedication to new career path.
Some food for thought; this was before social media AND before you could create your own website complete with shopping cart and built-in following.
It took late nights working on resumes, menus, client relations and some craigslist ads (Like I said, it was before Facebook Fan pages and Instagram didn’t exist!)
I picked up odd catering gigs and random part-time drop off clients as I built up my clientele, a self-made private chef with the references crazy enough to vouch for me.
Sure I was cooking out of my apartment as I tragically catered (and ruined) a wedding in Santa Monica. Admit-tingly, for weeks on end I cooked out of a toaster as the only heating source because my utilities had been shut off when working for an early ‘drop off’ client. Nothing could deter me from learning the ropes, paying my dues and staying in LA. Because I couldn’t swallow the thought of having to call it quits, admitting that “I couldn’t cut it”.
But, Just like a good soup, time is the most crucial ingredient. Time, If you’re willing to invest some time building a solid base of a career, the more likely you are to be pleased with the result. You see, over time I got good at this pirate rockabilly catering thing. I did test cooks and catered events, heck, I was doing pop-up events before there was a #hashtag for it…
Then, over time I learned that I didn’t want to be a catering company I didn’t have the refrigerator space, truck capacity (0r desire) to do massive events. I focused my full and complete attention to attaining full time status with one client.
By that time, I had made it through the meat grinder and I came out the other side ready for consumption. I’ll never forget when I randomly got a call one night inquiring if I was available to work full time for a family in Sherman Oaks! Finally! I almost count believe it… She had seen my ad online and wanted me to come over and do a dinner for the family. This was the break I was looking for.
Just a week earlier, I had went back to the agencies that initially rejected me with updated resume and client references in hand. They saw I was serious and they too started calling me for jobs. Opportunity was coming at me from all angles and my career as a private chef was solidified.
I went on to cook as a celebrity chef and see the world as a result because of that one thing that kept me going: a love of cooking. The determination to cook as a career was a calling and now I’m here to help others do the same. Contact me to learn about chef jobs and private chef mentorship.
“Life is similar to cooking because It all depends on what you add to the mix. Sometimes you’ll follow the recipe and at other times, you gotta get creative.” – Chef Nate