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Freelance Chef: Job Description, Income & How to Become

Do you want to take your passion for food to the next level? If so, then you might want to consider a career as a freelance chef.

Today’s hectic lifestyle often makes it difficult for individuals and families to cook healthy meals at home. That is where a freelance chef comes in!

Being a freelance chef gives you more freedom and allows you to make money doing something you love. If you’re ready to take the next step in your culinary career, this article is for you!

What Is a Freelance Chef?

A freelance chef is a personal chef for hire who works with many clients to prepare meals and make money.

They are independent contractors who work in different settings, such as private homes, restaurants, events, or catering companies.

Freelance chefs take care of their clients’ culinary needs, from planning and preparing daily meals to shopping for all necessary ingredients, managing kitchen supplies, and everything in between.

What Does a Freelance Chef Do?

A freelance chef oversees kitchen operations, including menu planning, meal preparation, purchasing and managing inventory, and sanitation. The responsibilities and duties of a freelance chef are diverse and can vary based on the setting and their role.

Apart from cooking, you may need to perform other tasks. Your specific job duties can vary depending on where you work and the position you hold.

Here are some common job duties that a freelance chef typically handles:

  • Prepping food (washing, cutting, chopping, peeling, etc.)
  • Preparing daily meals according to the client’s preferences
  • Customizing menus to fulfill the client’s dietary needs
  • Shopping for groceries and the necessary ingredients
  • Hosting private dinner parties or other special events
  • Cleaning and organizing the kitchen
  • Estimating costs and maintaining budgets
  • Hiring and training new kitchen staff
  • Communicating and coordinating with other kitchen members and house staff

Top Freelance Chef Jobs and Careers

For people with years of experience and who love to do creative things with food, there are many different but related jobs available with high income potential.

Here are a few of them:

  • Private Chef: A private chef works for individuals or families, preparing and serving fresh meals based on their preferences and needs. A private chef is also known as a personal chef or private cook. You can work in a private residence, restaurant, diner, and more.
  • Executive Chef: A highly trained professional who oversees kitchen operations and the staff in a high-end restaurant. They play a managerial role in the kitchen, hiring, and training assistant chefs and kitchen workers, as well as preparing the highest-quality cuisine.   
  • Sous Chef: A sous chef is second in command of a kitchen and takes much of the responsibilities of managing kitchen operations and overseeing kitchen staff on behalf of the head chef. You can work in cruise ships, resorts, private business entities, etc.

Where Can a Freelance Chef Work?

A freelance chef can work wherever there’s a kitchen.

For instance, they can work in private residences cooking for individuals, large families or in all types of restaurants, including chain restaurants, hotels, upscale restaurants, diners, and so on.

Some chefs work for catering companies and in institutions such as universities, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

If you’re experienced enough, you can prepare delectable dishes and menus for guests in resorts, cruise ships, yachts, or even private planes.

What It’s Like to Be a Freelance Chef

Being a freelance chef is one of those career options that offer great opportunities for collaboration, experimentation, creativity, and constant learning.

It can be quite fulfilling and satisfying, whether you’re just getting started or looking for your next job.

Is Being a Freelance Chef Hard?

A career as a private chef can be highly rewarding but also challenging, particularly if you’re an entry-level chef with no experience and who’s seeking opportunities in culinary arts.

Being a freelance chef requires dedication and hard work. The nature of cooking itself requires a knowledge of the art and science of cooking, what style and services to offer your clients, and everything in between.

As with any career, there are pros and cons, so balancing the good points and the negatives will help you succeed in this career.

Is a Freelance Chef’s Job Stressful?

It’s a highly competitive field that often demands long hours and entails working in high-pressure, often stressful environments.

In a restaurant setting, you often have to work under tight deadlines and collaborate with others to prepare high-quality dishes.

As a chef, you’re under constant pressure to ensure things go smoothly and customers receive their orders on time. It’s a job that requires a high level of organization, stress management, and strong communication skills.

Does This Career Field Embrace Work/Life Balance?

The responsibilities change as you climb the culinary ladder.

For example, the executive chef is the head of the kitchen and therefore has more responsibilities, while a line cook is much lower in the chain of command, which means fewer responsibilities.

In short, the higher your position, the more responsibilities you hold.

Overall, the chef job is a demanding one and often requires working extra hours, even on weekends. If you’re looking for a good work/life balance, stay away from this line of work.

Freelance Chef Salary & Income

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for culinary professionals, particularly chefs, is good. The BLS predicts that many new positions for chefs and head cooks will be created over the next decade.

Because people love to eat, whether at fast-food joints or high-end restaurants, they’ll need chefs, which means the number of jobs will continue to grow.

Do Freelance Chefs Make Good Money?

Although some careers in the culinary arts offer lucrative opportunities, such as being a personal chef or a private chef, many don’t pay as much, particularly when you’re just starting out.

Many chefs take the traditional approach and slowly work their way up doing the same business for years, but recently chefs have started to look into freelance and private work.

How Much Do Freelance Chefs Make?

According to Salary.com, private chefs make somewhere around $86,447 a year on average, but the average median salary ranges from $74,418 to $99,853. The salary can vary depending on your skills, certifications, education, and experience level.

How Do Freelance Chefs Get Paid?

Freelance chefs typically get paid a flat rate depending on the scope of the project and their experience. Most private chefs are salaried contractors who are paid weekly or bi-weekly.

Some chefs may charge per event or catering service, while others would want to negotiate long-term contracts with their clients. The rates and conditions are often discussed before starting the work.

Payments are usually handed out through direct deposits or online payment platforms, depending on how you want to be paid.

Requirements, Skills, and Education Required for Freelance Chefs

Freelance chefs understand what good food means to their clients on a personal level – it’s more than just taste. Being a chef is not about preparing meals; you have to tailor your offerings to your skill level.

Here’s what you’ll need to become a freelance chef:


As a personal chef, you need to be flexible by being proficient in different cuisines and having basic culinary and nutritional knowledge. You should be familiar with various cooking styles and techniques to cater to all types of clients.

You’ll also perform other duties in addition to cooking food for clients. The chef industry is a competitive market, and you must remain patient and dedicated when pursuing a career as a freelance chef.

If you wish to start your chef business, you may have to research your local, state, and federal regulations to determine the requirements for your business. Some states will require you to obtain a freelance business license to legitimately operate your freelance chef service. 


Kitchen management is no easy task, and the skill requirements for chef roles can vary greatly depending on the position. There are different types of freelance jobs available that involve food and cooking, but every chef is different and has different responsibilities.

For example, an executive chef and a baker are also chefs, but of a different kind. They all have one thing in common, though: the passion for cooking.

Being a chef requires specific characteristics that involve creativity and culinary skills. Other important skills include time management, business skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, etc.

As a chef, you must plan and prepare menus according to your clients’ culinary preferences and dietary requirements. This also requires the ability to consistently make excellent meals even when you’re not feeling your best. 


A culinary degree or diploma is often a must these days and may give you a competitive edge over others who don’t have a degree. Most freelance chefs go to a culinary school for 1-2 years, where they take apprentice programs to learn the fundamentals of cooking.

Another important thing you’ll learn at a culinary school is safety and sanitation. You cannot understand how important this subject is until you’ve attended a culinary school.

A degree is not a strict requirement, but having one under your belt will give you an upper hand if you want to become a credible freelance chef. Whether you want a degree is up to you, but there are many classes offered both online and in-person to help you be successful.


Keep in mind that you’re not just representing yourself; you’re representing an industry, and your employers will mostly judge you based on what and how much experience you have with the industry. It’s a competitive field, and advancing to the next level requires experience.

The experience you gain from working in real-life situations is invaluable. Every little experience counts, whether it’s a small restaurant you’ve worked in or community places you’ve volunteered.

Give your clients a solid reason and some credibility by letting them know they’re making the right decision by hiring you. All classes and training programs you take will add up to your knowledge and experience.

Who Should Not Consider a Freelance Chef Career Path?

While it can be fulfilling for many, the job is not suitable for everyone. For instance, this isn’t a career for those who aren’t passionate about food or those seeking a good work/life balance.

Identifying your strengths and work-style requirements will help you determine whether becoming a freelance chef is the right career path for you.

One good example of this is to consider whether you’re comfortable working in a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines and fixed schedules.

How to Become a Freelance Chef

A passion for cooking is the most important trait of being a freelance chef. But is it enough? Here’s a roadmap of how to start a career as a freelance chef from scratch:

1. Choose to Go to Culinary School

A culinary school is not a prerequisite, but some formal training in culinary arts is essential to kickstart your career. Culinary school is a great way to get started and create a solid foundation on which to build your skills.

You have a couple of options when attending a culinary school. You can obtain a certificate from a community college or earn a bachelor’s degree from reputed institutions such as The Culinary Institute of America or the International Culinary Center.

2. Land an Apprenticeship

Most freelance chefs go to culinary school to brush up on culinary skills and learn the ropes. Another great way to gain practical, hands-on experience is to take an internship or land an apprenticeship. It’s an effective way to learn from the experts and develop your skills.

If you have little or no prior experience working in professional kitchens, an apprenticeship program or just any volunteering work will help you perfect different cooking methods and skills that would normally take years to acquire otherwise.

3. Get Certified to Demonstrate Your Credibility

Certifications are valuable tools that can help you build a strong portfolio to demonstrate your skills and qualities to potential employers. It shows your employers that you’re well-rounded and have all the qualities to work in a professional kitchen.

Some of the recognized certifications include:

4. Start Your Job Search

Now that you’re all set and have reached the final stages, it’s time to go job hunting. Before that, you should determine what type of culinary job is right for you because there’s no one-size-fits-all role for a freelance chef. For example, if you thrive under pressure, you’d want to work in a restaurant or hotel.

Luckily, there are many online platforms and websites for freelancers where you can find all types and levels of freelance chef opportunities. Some of the most popular job marketplaces include Upwork, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.

Similar Careers to Check Out

If you’re still not sure if this is the right career path for you, consider looking into other alternatives such as:

  • Freelance Artist: If you want to work short-term gigs rather than commit to long, stressful hours of work as a freelance chef, consider a career as a freelance artist.
  • Freelance Writer: If you’re looking for a lucrative career and have excellent writing skills, you could become a freelance writer and make good money.
  • Freelance Personal Trainer: Do you have a passion for health and fitness? Are you looking for a job that involves sharing your passion with others? If yes, then become a personal trainer and make money doing what you love.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Highest Paid Type of Chef?

Some of the high-paying chef job positions include Research Chef, Sous Chef, Executive Chef, Private Chef, Chef De Cuisine, Chef Manager, and more.

How Much Is a Freelance Chef at Home?

The cost can vary greatly depending on location, number of meals, number of persons, etc. If you’re looking to hire a full-time private chef to cook all your meals, it could cost you around $60,000 a year in salary.

Wrapping Up

Being a freelance chef can be both rewarding and challenging and even allows you to showcase your creative and artistic skills.

When landing your first job, be humble. You just don’t walk into a restaurant and expect to land an executive chef position. You need culinary experience and education to land your desired role.

The question is, where do you start? Use our comprehensive guide to know everything about the job, the salary of freelance chefs, the skills required, and how to become one, step by step.

Loved our article? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also, feel free to share it with others who’d be interested in a career as a freelance chef. 

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