2013 August 26
From The Daily Summer: True Life! I'm A Personal Chef
(NEW YORK) In the final installment of our anonymous and always juicy tell-all series, we go into your kitchen to dish and tell with the cook. Want to know how to rub your private chef the wrong way? The Daily Summer has the recipe. INTERVIEW BY EDDIE ROCHE
How much do private cooks even cost?
I usually charge a daily fee because the shopping takes more time than the actual cooking. My fee is from $750 to $1,250 a day depending on the difficulty of the job.
Does that include the food?
No—and if people want French or Russian service, it’s double that. The new kids out here might charge $15 an hour for their services, but that’s just not realistic. You get what you pay for.
What’s your schedule like?
In the summer, I work at 17-hour day. The shopping and the traffic are a time killer.
When should you be booked?
In the Hamptons, if you’ve been doing this for some time, your good clients are going to book you in February for the entire summer and keep you very busy. Anybody who calls me now, I’m booked. I’m booked like a year ago.
What are the kitchens like?
Right now I’m working with the best kitchen of my life. It’s sick. There’s an outdoor kitchen with a Wolf oven, an outside dishwasher, tons of counter space, even an outdoor icemaker. The place goes for almost $400,000 a month. There’s six Sub-Zero dishwashers in the house, which is really important.
Where do you shop?
Citarella in Bridgehampton is, hands down, the place to go. If you go there at 5 p.m. you’ll run into every private cook around. It’s like a CIA reunion.
What’s the highest budget you’ve ever gotten for a meal?
$5,000 for 40 people. I almost fell out of my chair. I was shocked. Some people in the Hamptons have no idea what money is.
We’ve heard. Any odd requests?
One guy made me make him fresh chocolate chip cookies after every meal including breakfast. They were really heavy duty with Venetian vanilla and Irish butter. Meanwhile, he had a private trainer and was working out all the time. It was crazy that he’d just eat like a pig and then just work out, but would always stay the same weight.
Any major gripes about the job?
Everybody has a ton of allergies lately. They’ll send you shopping and they’ll look through every little thing you buy and tell you they can’t eat this or they can’t eat that. It’s a horror show. If people are too picky, I just walk away. Nuts is one thing, but people have allergies to oil or wheat flour. With some people, it’s almost everything.
Do you ever have families with trashy eating habits?
Sure. There are some people you are just disgusted by. I had one guy who was a father and he was smoking weed all the time in front of his kids at the dinner table. I thought that was disgusting. How can they eat good food and be in that state the whole time? That was messed up.
What about cooking for kids?
Most of the kids are awesome and raised well, but some of the new rich kids are absolute horrors. I had a kid who woke up at 7 a.m. in the morning last summer and started screaming at me to make him pancakes. He was so whiney and demanding. I wanted to kill the little brat. Some of the kids in Water Mill and Bridgehampton are so foodie centric. They’ve grown up with Momofuku and know who David Chang is. I can’t compete with their world travels.
What are some other interesting requests?
I had one family where I had to make two different kinds of cookies in a day and I couldn’t repeat in the month period unless there was a request for them. I had another couple who wanted lobster and prime rib available at any time in case they craved it. I’ve never seen so much lobster gone to waste. They had a staff of nine, but they didn’t like the food the family ate. They wanted mac and cheese. I couldn’t even unload it. Don’t even get me started on the diets...
We’ll let you off the hook on that one. Is there a difference in the eating habits between the born rich and the nouveau riche?
There sure is! The old money is really simple. We’re talking Quaker oatmeal. They are very easy and you can work a four day week and make $5,000. They also have better manners. The new money are a pain. There was a guy who was out here and I had to make an entire meal for his dog. People will give me a funny stare if they see me eating something in the kitchen, but they won’t think twice about asking me to make dog food. It is what it is. At this point, I choose not to work with those types of people if they call again.
Do you hear everything that goes on?
We hear things, but we don’t talk about them. You never talk about people’s business or even who you work for. You’re cooked if you do! No pun intended. At the end of the day they pay us and give us such gratuity that it’s all love at the end.
What are some other misconceptions about your job?
Most of the people in the Hamptons like to think they have a personal chef if they use me three times. They’ll call a friend and say, “my chef.” Everybody wants to be cool like they have their own private chef, but that’s a bunch of bulls--t. Unless that guy is giving me work every week, I ain’t his chef.
Have you ever had trouble with anybody not paying you?
Only once. It was a guy who I would also work for in the winter and I didn’t threaten to sue him until February. I knew it was cold and he wasn’t going to want to leave his house to go out to dinner. He paid up.
Are people thankful enough for the meals?
Yes! If they aren’t, I don’t go back. Some people are just jerks and you can’t please everybody. We go out of our way to give people what they want. I’ve done some meals where afterwards I’ve gotten a standing ovation and that’s really nice. That would never happen in Manhattan. Sometimes you even get a couple hundred bucks from the guests. That’s how you know you did a good job.
Does getting tips from the guests ever make you feel awkward because you aren’t technically working for them?
You pretend that you don’t want to take it, but we’re like prostitutes out here. You don’t care. They can afford it. Your cooking is just another day of cooking for you, but for these people, it’s like they’re going out to dinner. They’ll get dressed up. If you go to a restaurant out here you have to wait an hour-and-a-half to get in and the food at half these places isn’t even good. We’re banging it out for 40 people in a kitchen in somebody’s house. It’s a great experience and we take it very seriously. I wouldn’t trade this job for the world.
So where do you eat on your day off?
Townline BBQ in Sagaponack. It’s the best. You get in, you get out, and it’s cheap!
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