Hiring cooking help
November 9, 2017 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Hubs is about to start working a terrible schedule and I'm considering bringing in outside help with chores. I think I want someone to come in and cook the family's meals for the week. If you've done this, will you share your insight?

1. How did you find the person you hired?
2. Did you sample the person's cooking beforehand or have a trial period?
3. Did the person cook your recipes, bring their own or both?
4. Did you plan a menu together?
5. Did you buy groceries or did the person bring them?
6. What was the pay arrangement? Per hour, per meal, flat rate?
7. Were there any pitfalls?

Feel free to share anything else I haven't thought to ask. Thanks!

P.S. I'm in Austin, TX if anyone has local leads.
posted by erloteiel to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I love this idea. I tried it once when I went back to work after my second kid. I found someone online who came to our house, interviewed us, and gave us a proposed menu from her recipes. However, she was super open to doing anything else we wanted. We kind of told her "we'll eat anything" - in retrospect I probably should have given more specific guidance. She shopped, came to our house, cooked, and left the food in our fridge. There were a few things that didn't work out that well:

- she doesn't take into account ingredients we already had, so we wound up with some random leftover condiments that weren't the brands/types we would have bought to keep in the house.
- I told her that my use case was specifically to freeze the food and use 1-2 meals per week for a month. Several of the dishes were not good ones to freeze and reheat (such as skin-on chicken, which I didn't realize was the case when we reviewed the menu). Some were not easily portionable to split into freezable meals. For all of them, I had to do extra work to portion them into freezable smaller containers. I probably should have given better thought to what containers to use and been really specific with her. However, I had been really clear about the freezing aspect, and I expected food that would be good coming out of the freezer.
- She told me she would leave the house cleaner than she found it. However, the kitchen floor was greasy and I had to mop right after I got home. I was not expecting her to scrub top to bottom, but there was definitely more grease than she found it.

The food itself was not bad, but she massively underseasoned it - she told us she did this on purpose the first time to learn our tastes, but then we told her to please not underseason it because we liked flavor.

I feel like most of this was specific to the person more than to the idea. I didn't want to try with her again because all of the feedback was just more than I wanted to deal with. We would up not trying again, but I would try again if I got a referral for someone really good - I mostly didn't want to go out searching for yet another person and deal with it.

Good luck!!
posted by handful of rain at 5:28 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree that handful of rain's experience is more about the particular personal chef she hired than the basic personal chef model. I briefly had a personal chef business myself for a couple of years in the mid-2000s, and the outline of what she's describing is the way most personal chefs work.

One way I found clients was through advertising in the local "parents' paper" that had lots of ads for services aimed at people going back to work after a new baby or trying to juggle schedules. If there's such a publication or website in your area, you might find someone that way. Angie's List might also be someplace to look for recommendations.
posted by briank at 5:53 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mom was a nanny for a family for about 12 years. Her main duties were the kids and preparing dinner. She always used their recipes and all the ingredients were in the house. She may have done a weekly market run, but she would have been given a list. Meals were pretty straightforward, for two adults and two kids.

Fwiw, this was a family who probably wanted to outsource as little as possible and would have preferred to have the time to do it all themselves, so this was an uncomplicated situation.

This was long ago enough that she probably found your job please your classifieds in the newspaper.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:06 AM on November 9, 2017

There's also now a service called Josephine that's less personalized. Local private cooks post available meals online and you pick them up on the way home. You might be able to find someone near you through this service that would be willing to take on a personal chef role in your home.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:59 AM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who does this. She met the person through the neighborhood - that person took care of a neighbor's kids after school. So now she gets to the neighborhood about an hour early and starts at my friend's house. My friend plans the menu and grocery shops and the woman preps everything so it's either already in the crockpot when she gets home or it's in the fridge on trays ready to go into the oven. If she could improve it, I'm sure she'd rather not have to do the menu or get the groceries but right now even what she has is a big help.

oh, also, if the woman has time after prepping dinner, she works through a list of chores as well - stuff like laundry, bathrooms, etc.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:03 AM on November 9, 2017

You'll find various types of services on Craigslist under "personal chef" and "cook" (mine seem split between the Services and Gigs sections), from cook-in-your-home to pickup or dropoff cooking services (and you might decide to do a mix of more than one type of service). I notice that in my area there are several listings for (I assume graduate-level) dietitian students who need to do a certain number of hours of meal planning and cooking. I am also in Los Angeles where everything is available for a price, so just googling "personal chef los angeles" also nets me a dozen services, though most of them are cooked elsewhere and delivered. There's also some on Yelp.

There is no One True Model, you'll just have to decide which items on your numbered list are requirements and which are flexible and choose someone who does it the way you want. Pretty much everything is possible if you're willing to pay for someone's time and effort.

I am not quite ready to pull the trigger on a service like this, though I've been eyeing it for a while. I wouldn't want someone to cook in my home because I work from home and the whole point is to not be distracted. Right now I'm using Freshly for six meals a week (same price as Blue Apron et al but it's all cooked already and there are always options that are not too carby) and strongly considering going to 12 because it's working out really well.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:46 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are personal chefs in your area on care.com.
posted by beyond_pink at 10:28 AM on November 9, 2017

1. CL; after winnowing down responses my husband met with 2 or 3 candidates in a public place (we have a McD's around the corner), both sides discussed expectations; 2. Did not do a tasting but agreed by both sides that first couple of weeks would be a trial period and then we could discuss readjusting expectations if needed (we didn't need to change anything); 3. Person was open to cooking our recipes but I didn't want to hassle with that so we asked her to suggest 6 entrees each week, from which we would pick three. After a while we just asked for certain things over again; 4. see #3; 5. we bought groceries to save cost, person agreed to buy groceries if we paid for her time and immediate (same day / day of service) reimbursement of costs, but our budget was tight and already having her service was a luxury; 6. we negotiated a flat rate, after a year we offered a raise; 7. no particular pitfalls, it was win/win. We no longer need the service but I've recommended her to several of my friends.

Well I suppose one thing I would caution is I think it works better for both sides to negotiate a flat rate. You never know if the person works fast or slow (for example, I can prep and cook multiple things at once, our person could not and in my opinion took about 2hrs longer per service than needed. A couple of times she burned or made mistakes on a dish and had to start over. I didn't really care but I would have cared more if I'd been paying by the hour. I offered what I considered a generous flat rate; judging by my own skills I thought the rate should have worked out to $20/hr, but it worked out to less because she was slower than I anticipated. You could probably find someone for less, but I didn't want someone who would suddenly jump ship for $2/hr more somewhere else.

The only other thing is a couple of times I had pans or dishes broken. That was NBD for me, it wasn't like it was the heirloom china, and it wasn't like hubby or myself are immune to breaking things. But just be aware going in that it happens. Our person felt horrible but again I wanted her to keep coming back so I made sure to let her know that it wasn't a big deal.
posted by vignettist at 3:19 PM on November 9, 2017

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