Why don't cooks do their own business?

Many star chefs now want to become private chefs for the super-rich

  • In recent years, more and more top earners have been looking for private chefs with Michelin stars. As people spend more time at home during the pandemic, the trend has picked up.
  • Some of these private chefs can earn more than 10,000 euros per month.
  • The high earning potential led Neil Snowball to give up his coveted position as head chef at Gordon Ramsey's Pétrus restaurant in London in 2016.

On jobsinchildcare.com, an international job exchange for professional childcare, a current advertisement stands out next to the advertisements for nannies and tutors: A Russian-speaking family in Monaco is looking for a Michelin-starred chef for their household. According to the description, the candidates must have run a restaurant with at least one Michelin star. The offered salary for the successful applicant is up to 15,000 euros per month.

"Although we have cooking jobs quite often, this is the first time a job specifically for a Michelin-starred chef has been posted on the site," James Alger, founder of the UK-based agency, told Business Insider.

Although the Michelin Guide awards stars to restaurants and not to the people who work in them, much of the praise falls on the chefs who are responsible for the kitchen. They have become popularly known as star chefs.

Combining Michelin-starred chefs with private households may be a first for Alger, but Kate Emery has been a key part of her business for years. Since the native British founded her agency Amandine International Chef Placement (Amandine), the demand for top personal chefs has increased so much that she is in the process of setting up her own department: Amandine Stars.

“It's a service designed to match these top chefs with the wealthy people they want to hire,” Emery told Business Insider. She runs it in her offices near Nice on the French Riviera, where she moved from the UK in 2011. "For example, we recently had customers who wanted four different star chefs to cook for them over a period of six weeks," she continued.

Amandine is based in France, but has private customers in the USA, Great Britain and Europe and offers chefs who react flexibly to changes of location.

Renowned chefs who cater for one-off private events are one thing. Hiring a personal star chef is something completely different.

It is an alternative that more and more wealthy people are discovering for themselves.

“The opportunity to hire a chef trained to the highest standards, who is able to provide Michelin-quality cuisine for you at home, on vacation or on your yacht, is attractive and an idea that is entertaining more and more people these days find, ”explained Emery.

She believes this trend is being driven by our increasing expectations of good food. "All over the world, people's interest in food has grown exponentially in the past 10-15 years, sparked by the rise of celebrity TV chefs and immortalized by social media platforms, especially Instagram," she said.

Justine Murphy, who worked as a cook on board superyachts for six years before founding the agency mymuybueno Private Chefs in 2011, is experiencing a similar change. Her agency is based in Mallorca and London and offers cookery agencies worldwide.

"For our customers, the prestige of having a chef from a well-known restaurant work for them personally goes a long way," said Murphy.

Such high-quality, personal service comes at a high price.

Emery says most chefs from a Michelin-starred restaurant can earn a salary of more than 10,000 to 12,000 euros per month with a permanent job in a private household. (The daily rates start at 30,000 euros for special occasions). “The upper limit is open depending on who the chef is and what is asked of him,” she said.

The nondisclosure agreement prevents Emery from revealing too many details, but it reveals that, among the thousands of chefs in her books, Amandine has hundreds of Michelin-starred chefs, including many one-, two-, and three-star Michelin chefs Restaurants.

At Amandine, there are two categories of Michelin-starred chef positions: permanent and seasonal positions in villas, chalets or on board yachts. Guest stays as personal chef can range from a few weeks to a few months.

"There are chefs who have been awarded a Michelin star or who have worked as chefs in a Michelin-starred restaurant who have decided to make a career change," she said. "Then there are those who currently have their own restaurants and are looking for a cash injection."

But things don't always go smoothly. "Just because you have a Michelin star doesn't mean you are the best private chef there is," said Emery. “The job is very different. There is usually a large team of people working for you in a restaurant. If you work as a private chef, the team, if you have a team at all, is very small in comparison. "

Financial incentives were the reason for Neil Snowball's decision to quit his rock star job as head chef at the Michelin-starred Pétrus restaurant of British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey in London in 2016.

Snowball has worked aboard three different superyachts (and in one case at her primary residence in the US) for very wealthy individuals for the past four years.

"Back then, my motivation was to open my own restaurant," he told Business Insider.

This endeavor is currently on hold as he and two friends (the ex-head chef and pastry chef at the two Michelin-starred restaurant Ledbury in London) set up Opus Provisions to supply superyachts with Michelin-quality products. The company is based in London and supplies luxury ingredients worldwide.

When Snowball announced his resignation, many of his friends in the industry thought he was going to sell. "They thought I might as well have got a job as a burger roaster," he said. But he has learned many lessons from his time on the other side.

“When you're an ambitious chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant, you get drawn into this ego-driven system in which you have to put 25 techniques on a plate. But when you're primarily cooking for one or two people, you really start thinking about what they actually want to eat, ”he explained.

And that's not a Michelin star for every meal. "People don't want 25 tomato textures, they just want really nice tomatoes," Snowball said.

Emery agrees with Snowball. “When people come to us and say: 'We want a star chef', then that's code for: We want someone with the best training and the best skills. Nobody, no matter how wealthy they are, wants to eat fine every day of the week, ”she said.

For customers looking for a dash of Michelin shine without the price tag, there is also the option of a chef who has experience working in a starred restaurant.

"We refer an average of 300 chefs who have worked in Michelin kitchens each year as private chefs in real estate and superyachts," said Murphy. She added that such candidates can expect up to 4,000 euros more per month in their salary package. "Some are on a rotation basis but are paid year-round to still get a home or family life," said Murphy.

Being able to spend more time with his two young children is the main reason Nick Street-Brown is returning to a private role after quitting three and a half years as a chef at a French chateau.

“Family is the biggest factor for me,” said Street-Brown, a Manchester, England chef whose résumé included a year at Thomas Keller's three-star New York three-star Per Se restaurant, Per Se .

Since Street-Brown has done some private work throughout his career, he is actively looking for a job on a superyacht. "It gives me a good work-life balance with the added bonus of financial security," he said. "It also helps me that the view from the kitchen window can change every day."

“It's an exciting job,” said Street-Brown. "You can travel to different places."

The stress that a top restaurant brings with it comes with advantages and disadvantages. “The difficult thing in a restaurant is not only the working hours, but also the pressure you are under during these hours. But there's also a strong bond and a real enthusiasm for the speed and pressure of the service. When you're out and about privately, you miss that, although there will undoubtedly be new challenges that I'll find just as exciting, ”said Street-Brown.

With top restaurants closing to the public in response to the coronavirus around the globe, this is a trend that is likely to accelerate. "Since Covid-19, customers have spent more time at home and therefore want a cook of better caliber," said Murphy.

But being a great chef isn't just about having a Michelin star.

With the relevance of the Michelin rating system still a much debated topic (some restaurants have even returned their stars), Emery emphasized that it's not just about the Michelin star.

"We have some incredibly talented chefs on our books who are cutting edge but not necessarily running a Michelin-starred restaurant," she said. Other equally important indicators she named are The San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants, AA, Relais & Château and Hats (Australia).

This text has been translated from English and edited. You can find the original here.