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How to Hire a Private Chef: Everything You Need to Know

Learn how to hire a private chef with our comprehensive guide. Discover tips on finding, vetting, and working with private chefs to elevate your event.

Table of contents

TL;DR – How to hire a private chef:

  • Use a reputable agency or personal referrals to find private chefs.
  • Communicate clearly about your event’s needs, guest preferences, and any dietary restrictions.
  • Vet chefs based on their culinary style, experience, and social media presence.
  • Sign a detailed contract covering payment, responsibilities, and any additional services needed.
  • Avoid micromanaging the chef, but ensure they have all they need for a smooth event.
  • Prepare for potential issues like injuries, food safety, and equipment malfunctions with proactive planning.
  • Provide feedback and handle any misconduct or theft with sensitivity and care.

Why hire a private chef?

For clients who love to entertain, hiring a private chef is a convenient way to host the perfect event without worrying about planning, cooking, or cleaning up afterward.

You get fresh, healthy, tasty food backed by the white-glove experience of a trained culinary specialist. 

A private chef simplifies the cooking process and elevates your guests’ experience.

They bring a 5-star restaurant experience to the privacy and comfort of your home, and your guests will remember it for a long time.

But many things can go wrong, and there’s a lot to keep in mind about private chef hire for a smooth experience.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.

How to find the best private chefs

The best place to hire a private chef is through an agency like Good Food Studio or another one local to your area. 

Food agencies work with private chefs for various events and can get a sense of which chef would work best for your event. 

Working with an agency cuts down your search time and de-risks the process for you.

Beyond that, you can:

  1. Search on Google for private chefs. Some chefs have personal websites with rates and details.
  2. Ask a catering or events company in your area for private chef referrals.
  3. Ask your network for private chef recommendations.

How to vet a private chef

Finding private chefs for hire is merely the first step — you still need to vet them properly.

It’s hard to decide on a private chef without having tasted their food, especially because food is so subjective.

Flavour, texture, taste, their culinary background, and professional experience all play a role in the final dish. You want to ensure their cooking style suits your needs. 

A few private chefs specialise in farm-to-table cooking, while others only do certain cuisines or dietary styles, such as vegan or gluten-free meals.

Some chefs specialise in fine dining only, while others are more comfortable with big events like parties. All this choice can make the process more challenging.

To shortlist private chef for hire, consider the following:

  1. Look them up on social media. Most chefs only post their proudest creations, which invariably are the types of dishes they can make the best. If you need a vegan private chef but their Instagram feed is full of sirloin cuts and pork belly, maybe pause.
  2. Type their name into Google or Twitter. You want to ensure there are no unsavoury hits to their name. If people have complained about their meals or conduct before, maybe skip them.
  3. Ask for sample menus and tastings to check their flavour profiles ahead of schedule. Note that this may cost extra.
  4. Ensure they have experience working in an environment similar to where they’ll be on the day of the event. If you live in a multi-storey mansion or are hosting on a yacht but the chef has only ever worked at hotels, this may prove challenging for them. 

Once you’ve settled on a suitable private chef, it’s time to sign a contract.

Contracts and payments

A legally binding contract protects you and your private chef from liability and sets out engagement terms. 

At minimum, the contract should stipulate that the chef will work for [x] hours, catering for [x] people, in exchange for [x] amount of money.

A private chef contract should ideally include the following clauses:

  • Termination or cancellation: What may trigger the end of the contract.
  • Payment schedule and terms: The deposit amount and currency, when it should be paid by, and how it should be paid (e.g., EFT, cash, cheque).
  • Refund policy: Refunds typically depend on the cancellation or termination dates and who is doing it. For example, if you cancel at least [x] weeks or months before the event, you might get your full deposit back, but if you cancel two days before the gig, the private chef may not offer a full refund, if at all, to account for lost time and income. 
  • Chef’s responsibilities: This may include food preparation, cooking, and cleanup. If you need other services such as wine pairing or waiting on guests, include them — but not that they may cost extra.
  • Insurance: The contract can cover accidents with groceries (spills, drops, etc.), property and equipment damage, and personal liability. Depending on the private chef you’re hiring, they may already have liability insurance to cover such incidents — and you can request it if needed.
  • Confidentiality: For certain events, confidentiality is paramount. Feel free to offer an NDA for the private chef to sign, or to request their standard NDA template.
  • Indemnity and limitation of liability: This clause helps protect you from any third party claims against you or the chef, and can limit your liability in the event you need to pay out a fee (typically to just the total cost of the private chef booking).

If you’re unsure about any of this, consult a lawyer to help you draft a strong private chef hire agreement.

What you need to know about working with a private chef

In sum, you want to:

  1. Avoid micromanagement
  2. Lighten their workload
  3. Communicate details clearly, and
  4. Offer feedback where appropriate

Let’s dig into each of these points.


To get the most out of your private chef, let them do their job without hovering over or micromanaging them. 

Micromanagement is counterproductive for two reasons. Firstly, they’re the experts on food, not you. You hired them for their expertise.

Secondly, they don’t really want to be chatting to anyone while preparing food — they’re already on a tight schedule.

This brings us to another point about hiring a private chef: don’t make chefs do multiple jobs. 


Private chefs exist to take things off your plate. In the same vein, don’t add more work to their plate. 

“More work” can include asking for wine pairings or refusing to hire waiters for your event. 

Firstly, asking for wine pairing is a sommelier’s job, not a chef’s job, although there are chefs who do both. 

Secondly, not hiring waiters puts pressure on your private chef(s) to cook as well as wait on your guests, which takes their time away from the kitchen.

When you hire a private chef, consider hiring a sommelier, some ushers or waiters, and cleaning staff to handle any non-food tasks. 

This gives each professional the time and space to do what they do best.

Clarity, communication, and catering counts

Nothing ruins a great event like miscommunication or delays. Cancelling or changing plans at the last minute can result in a lacklustre experience.

Uncertainty around food restrictions can also cause unpleasant surprises and reactions.

This can look like a Muslim guest discovering pork in their meal or an allergy sufferer getting an adverse reaction to the food.

To avoid all this, let your chef know who’s coming, what they like to eat, and what they don’t want to eat. 

This makes ingredient shopping, food preparation, serving and plating, and pairing much easier for the chef and the rest of the team.

In the same vein, try to cater to as many people as possible with the meal and drink choices, or ensure there’s enough budget to get what everyone wants. 

If only one person drinks Moët when everyone else drinks Krone, it may not make sense to buy both brands, as the outlier will likely drink Moët with everyone else.


Feedback is always nice. Lee and the team always enjoy positive feedback, typically delivered by clients pulling them to one side to tell them they enjoyed the meal.

If you’d like to share specific feedback or thank your private chef and their team, feel free to do so. Feedback is not required, but always welcome.

Things that can go wrong

Without proactive planning and preventative measures, things can go south.

Here’s a small list of what could go wrong, and what you can do to avoid it.


Working with fire, knives, and other equipment can sometimes lead to injuries in the kitchen.

Your private chef should be pretty comfortable working with cooking equipment,

But just in case injuries happen, ensure there’s a first aid kit around and a way to reach emergency services if needed.

Food poisoning

Improper food preparation, cross contamination, and other poor food safety practices can lead to food poisoning. 

Your private chef will typically take precautions while cooking, such as ensuring food is cooked to the right temperature and cleaning up as they go.

However, don’t be shy about confirming and verifying that food is safe to eat before doing so. 

Having cleaning supplies on site can also help the chef and team clean up as they go.

Allergic reactions

Shellfish, nuts, dairy, and a whole host of other ingredients can cause breakouts, choking, and potentially fatal outcomes. 

Ensure your private chef knows in advance what to exclude from their list of ingredients, and confirm the absence of any allergens in the food before eating. 


Menu misunderstandings may occur between you and the private chef.

This can lead to meals being added or omitted when the opposite was intended, or start times being pushed forwards or backwards.

Again, over-communication is key here. Repeatedly confirm what you’d like and what you don’t want on the menu to avoid mishaps.

Also, communicate any last minute changes to the event schedule as early as possible.


While potentially harmless, burnt or undercooked food can be unpleasant and ruin the experience for your guests. 

Feel free to request further attention to food you feel isn’t cooked enough, or to ask overcooked food to be replaced with something else.

Equipment malfunction

The blender or mixer may stop working, or loadshedding may impede proceedings. These are all incidents we’ve witnessed. 

Backup appliances may help, although this may be hard to procure on short notice. 

If loadshedding affects your area, align your loadshedding schedule with your events, accounting for the prep time beforehand.


While rare, theft can sometimes occur on a job. We’d still caution leading with trust — the last thing you want is to accuse a private chef of something they didn’t do. 

Remember, a private chef wants you to enjoy the process and book them again. Theft would decrease the chances of that happening. 

If you’re worried about valuables going missing, store them away securely and use CCTV to monitor staff movements if needed.


Swearing, drinking on the job, and inappropriate conduct can sometimes happen — though this is also rare. 

Politely inform the chef(s) of the conduct expected of them, and call out any behaviour that makes you or your guests uncomfortable. 

Just remember it goes both ways — chefs don’t need guests swearing at them, touching them inappropriately, or being physical in any way. 

Patience, tolerance, and understanding go a long way toward fostering a conducive environment for everyone.

Many more things can go wrong, but the above list captures the most common incidents we’ve witnessed on jobs. Avoid these main issues and you should be fine.

Hire a private chef today

When hiring a private chef, the goal is to enjoy your event without stress. Clear communication and trust are key. 

You want your guests to have an unforgettable experience, and a good private chef can deliver exactly that. 

By taking care of potential issues upfront, you allow the chef to focus on what they do best: creating delicious, memorable meals. 

Choose your chef wisely, communicate your needs clearly, then sit back and enjoy the exceptional dining experience.

Learn more about Good Food Studio’s private chef hire service in Johannesburg.

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