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A day in the life of a private chef: A trend that is sweeping social media

Thousands of people follow the daily activities of young professionals who cook for private clients and share it on Instagram and TikTok

A chef from the Spanish company Take a Chef working in a client’s house. Image provided by the company.
A chef from the Spanish company Take a Chef working in a client’s house. Image provided by the company.

At 26 years old and with no professional training in the kitchen, Robert Li (or Broccoli Raab, as he is known on Instagram and TikTok) went from being a novice in the culinary world to working full-time as the private chef of a billionaire in The Hamptons, upstate New York. Li explains that he learned to cook by watching Gordon Ramsay videos on YouTube, a skill that, combined with his eye for photography and the codes that resonate among TikTok users — a mix of colorful, unpretentious dishes, hit songs, visual dynamism and a fabulous set of kitchenware — has helped him garner millions of likes and a growing community that exceeds 750,000 followers (250,000 new ones just in the last month) on that platform, as well as 992,000 on Instagram — and counting.

With a deep, soothing voice, Li recounts his work routine in a series of viral episodes. For breakfast, he delights his client with muffins, oatmeal porridge or freshly made corn tortillas, homemade granola, huevos rancheros or his favorite: puff pastries with smoked salmon. And it’s only 7:30 a.m.

@broccoliraab

buddy can’t even keep his drink in his cup | episode 13 #privatechef #hamptons #dayinthelife

♬ original sound - spready0urwings

For lunch, his client sits at the table to enjoy some cold noodles with spicy sesame, all kinds of juicy sandwiches, salads with vegetables from his own herb garden or a mushroom and miso carbonara that looks so good that everyone who sees it wants to make it themselves. Dinner begins with an appetizer: focaccias, vegetable soups or light salads, followed by roasts, fish fillets, lamb ribs garnished with roasted vegetables, couscous or oxtail enchiladas. Dessert includes all kinds of cakes, chocolate babka, tiramisu, ice cream or vanilla cheesecake. Everything is homemade, of course. By around 9:00 p.m., Robert Li has finished cleaning the kitchen and all the pots and pans. His workday is over and he heads home. The ease with which Li combines the purchase of groceries for his client’s pantry and the preparation of every dish he serves with his personal life is, to say the least, remarkable. And he still has time to hit the gym in a cool Jeep, edit his videos, caption them and go viral.

Atlanta Thompson prepares a cake.
Atlanta Thompson prepares a cake. Una Burnand

On the other side of the ocean, this intriguing profession that seems to have become fashionable thanks to its impact on social media is also the livelihood of chef Atlanta Thompson, a 25-year-old woman living in London who only two years ago found her true calling. Even though she has been passionate about cooking since she was little, she had never considered this profession as a realistic way to make a living. “I thought that I could only be a chef if I worked in a restaurant, and that is something I would never have wanted to do,” she admits.

However, after being constantly complimented for her dishes by her college classmates, while she was still working in the marketing department of a technology company, Atlanta Thompson was surprised when she saw that she had been added to a WhatsApp group with 40 other private chefs. It was then that, seeing the continuous job requests that were shared in that group, she left her uninspiring desk job, took her first job as a chef and spent an entire month cooking for her first client in Mallorca, Spain. Since then, Thompson has garnered thousands of followers by sharing some of her routines working as a private chef, an occupation that has taken her to luxury settings such as Oxford, Devon County or The Alps, where she spent three months working for another client.

@atlanta_thompson

Day in the life of a private chef cooking for an actor. This changes week to week and depends on his schedule. This week he was away a lot so I only had to make one days worth of food. #mealdelivery #privatechef #privatecheflife #fyp #chef #spendthedaywithme #stdwm

♬ Aesthetic - Gaspar

When we ask her about the nature of her clients in order to picture the profile of those that require a private chef and understand how accessible a service of these characteristics is, she describes several typologies: “I am a freelancer, so I work with a multitude of clients. I have some recurring ones, but really, every day can be different. Some are couples with grown children, some need someone to prepare food for them once a week and others are simply throwing a party and want someone to cook for them.” This unknown eater suddenly seems friendlier. Although one would tend to imagine some sort of complicated, elevated character, finding out about the existence of a “closer” client that can request the services of a chef just to stock their refrigerator with healthy, complete and tasty dishes, makes the whole thing seem much more casual.

Thompson explains that “most of my clients don’t have a specific budget.” However, to provide an estimate, she sets a standard price of her services, to which the client will have to add the cost derived from the purchase of groceries and other raw materials. For a fee that ranges between £250 and £450 per service ($315 to $570), she takes care of the purchasing process in markets, local businesses and online stores — among which she highlights Shrub, a provider of fruit and vegetables that connects buyers directly with producers, and Eversfield, a renowned ecological resource for online purchases. Thompson also buys from the local fishmonger, who brings the fish to her door, as well as her family’s own farm — Hampton Gay Farm — which supplies responsibly sourced meat.

Chef Atlanta Thompson with some of her dishes. Image provided by the chef.
Chef Atlanta Thompson with some of her dishes. Image provided by the chef.Jesse Pilkington

With a renewed interest in the trade, and also in the practicality and the small luxuries that a private chef can offer (especially now, that the small trauma that sometimes entails coordinating a meal for friends and/or family at home is still recent), it is not hard to put oneself in the place of those who may not find it so easy to find a professional — or a talented amateur — that can lend a gastronomic hand.

However, you might not need to look too hard: the guys from Take a Chef put it on the proverbial platter. This Spanish company, founded 12 years ago, operates in more than 80 countries, responding to the growing demand for personalized gastronomic experiences for a price that, they say, “is similar to that of a good restaurant.” Starting at a very affordable €50 ($55) per person, Take a Chef provides the experience of having a private chef.

A chef from Take a Chef working in a client’s kitchen. Image provided by the company.
A chef from Take a Chef working in a client’s kitchen. Image provided by the company.

After answering a few questions on their website, customers get paired with the ideal chef for their needs. “We not only take into account the gastronomic requirements, but also the personality and specialties of the chef.” They boast that currently, having experienced exponential growth after the Covid-19 pandemic, they are the main source of income for more than 4,000 chefs, “most from Michelin-starred restaurants and with experience as executive chefs in renowned establishments. Many decide to take the leap to become private chefs because they value the opportunity to be their own bosses, enjoy creative freedom outside of a restaurant environment, and, above all, appreciate the direct connections they make with their clients.”

Things have changed a lot since the days of François Vatel, the Contrôleur Général de la Bouche of le Grand Condé. The master of ceremonies, in high demand at the court of Louis XIV, would have benefited from taking a deep breath and having one of these enthusiastic professionals nearby. If the preparations for your eagerly awaited banquet are not going as expected, we strongly recommend refraining from sticking a sword in your chest; nowadays, there are many better solutions. With just one click, you can always turn to one of these culinary talents, young individuals exploring new avenues for income and fulfillment, choosing to pursue a passion that can sometimes be daunting to accommodate.

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