Name: Paul Chisholm
Age: 53 Occupation: Personal Chef
Location: New York
Duties: Consults with contracted clients to prepare fine cuisine to their specifications.
Paul Chisholm has always loved to cook, but he didn’t become a personal chef overnight. After 27 years as a microbiologist, 21 of them in the Army reserves, Chisholm “got bored. I had spent a lot of time in the military,” he reflects. Upon his retirement from the military in 1991, he searched to find his professional niche. A friend suggested that he consider attending culinary school.
Chisholm enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, and after almost two years of study, he became a certified chef. He also took continuing education courses at New York University and the Culinary Institute of America. “I’ve been a chef since 1995, and I’ve found my niche,” says Chisholm, who enjoys the creative nature of cooking. After graduation, the Rainbow Room, a restaurant in New York, hired him. Chisholm says that he didn’t work as a restaurant chef for very long. “Working in restaurants is too impersonal for me,” he says.
After realizing that he preferred working with clientele on a personal level, Chisholm stepped out on faith and took total creative and financial control over his career. “I had had enough of the 9 to 5’s. If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, then why are you wasting your time?” Since going into business for himself in January 2000, his client list has contained everyone from journalists, musicians, doctors, and authors, to large families and single professionals.
He says that most people confuse the duties of a personal chef with those of a private chef. Private chefs prepare meals for their clients daily, whereas Chisholm’s work as a personal chef involves cooking for contracted clients on a per project basis only.
“Someone might hire me for a night, someone else might hire me for an event. I control my own time,” maintains Chisholm, whose work entails traveling, and the ability to be aggressively creative. In addition to doing some consulting work, he also gives back to the community by teaching kids the joy of cooking.
Salary: Hourly rates for personal chefs can range from $25 to $60 an hour. Yearly pay scales for personal chefs can start from $40,000 a year and go to “wherever you want to be,” says Chisolm. “You can live a comfortable life doing this.”
Training: Going to culinary school is a plus. The formal experience will help you expand your cooking talents, and help you develop your business sense as well as creative abilities. Most culinary schools also provide job placement and a networking base for graduates upon certification.