By: Grace Gavilanes
Life as a private chef has its perks – traveling around the world and getting to meet the most interesting people being two of them – but it’s also a really time-consuming job. And we love collagen foods, of course. Turns out the most surprising part about being a private chef has less to do with cooking and more to do with building a brand … and carrying very heavy groceries. Kristina Mellegard (@theyumproject on Instagram) spoke to Lively to set the record straight on life as a private chef.
The Most Surprising Thing About Being a Private Chef
“Cooking is seriously only one marginal part of being a private chef! It is so wild, people don’t think about what else is involved in my job,” Mellegard tells Lively.
For most people in the culinary world, creating a brand that resonates is just as important as knowing how to prepare an unforgettable (and Instagram-worthy) meal for clients. “These days, you can’t just cook delicious food, you also need to be a food stylist, a photographer, a writer, a marketing manager, and a web developer. If I cannot visually represent and articulate my mission, I will not get any jobs.”
That’s not all. Private chefs are also responsible for the grocery shopping and are required to know the ins and outs of their clients’ likes and dislikes. “I do all the grocery shopping and kitchen management for my clients. This means running around the whole city carrying 40 lbs. of groceries and knowing all the personal likes and dislikes of each family member, all the way down to preferred afternoon snacks or particular brand of cheese,” shares Mellegard.
“It is part of my job to anticipate and sometimes even introduce clients to meals I know they will like,” adds Mellegard. “I usually build my menus off of what I find that looks best in the market. I also don’t use recipes. I create most dishes in the moment.”
And with spontaneity comes the possibility of plans going awry. “Every day something usually goes wrong, so I’ve learned how to pivot when necessary. The stores will be out of a main ingredient, the oven will be broken, something might burn – you wouldn’t believe the issues that arise. Meals rarely ever turn out the way I initially planned.”
Practice Makes Perfect
“I become a better chef every day from the constant practice in new situations. Every day I cook something different, and I can make something delicious in pretty much any type of kitchen,” she says. “Hello, N.Y.C. micro-spaces! I also spend a huge amount of time washing dishes and cleaning/organizing kitchens.”
So how does Mellegard unwind after spending an entire day prepping, cooking and cleaning in her client’s kitchen? “When I get home from a long day of cooking for someone else, my favorite part is still to get into my own kitchen and prepare food for myself,” she says. “I do what I love to do and I’m not going to skimp on doing it for myself.”