Michelin-starred chefs are leaving their jobs to become private chefs for the ultra-rich, where they can make upwards of $14,000 a month
- In recent years, more high-earners are looking to hire private Michelin-starred chefs. With people spending more time at home during the pandemic, the trend has increased.
- Kate Emery, who founded international chef placement company Amandine, says chefs in these permanent private roles can earn upwards of $11,750 to $14,100 per month.
- High earning potential is what inspired Neil Snowball to leave his coveted position as head chef at Gordon Ramsey's Pétrus restaurant in London in 2016 to work for private clients instead.
- Cooking regularly for a family is less stressful than working in a high-pressure restaurant where you'd repeat same recipes every night, he said.
On jobsinchildcare.com, an international professional childcare jobs board, one recent posting stands apart from the ads for nannies and tutors: A Russian-speaking family in Monaco is looking to recruit a Michelin-starred chef to its household. Per the description, candidates are required to have led a restaurant with at least one
"Although we do have chef jobs quite often, this is the first time a job specifically for a Michelin-starred chef has been posted to the website," James Alger, the UK-based agency's founder, told Business Insider.
Although the Michelin Guide awards stars to restaurants, rather than the individuals that work in them, much of the acclaim falls to the chef in charge of the kitchen. In popular terms, these head chefs have become known as Michelin-starred chefs.
Connecting head chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants with private households may be a first for Alger, but it has been a key segment of Kate Emery's business for years. In the decade since British-born Emery founded her agency, Amandine International Chef Placement (Amandine), the demand for top personal chefs has grown so much that she is about to launch a division dedicated to it: Amandine Stars.
"It's a service designed to couple those top chefs with the wealthy individuals looking to hire them," Emery said, speaking to Business Insider from her offices just outside Nice on the French Riviera where she moved in 2011 from the UK. "For instance, we've recently had clients who wanted to have four different Michelin-starred chefs over a period of six weeks cook for them," she continued.
Whiile Amandine is based in France, the agency serves private clients across the US, UK, and Europe, and offers chefs who are flexible to changes in location.
High profile chefs catering for one-off private events is one thing. Employing your own personal Michelin-starred chef is vastly different.
Still, it's an option that increasing numbers of high-net worth individuals are starting to explore.
"The opportunity to hire a chef that has trained to the highest standards and is able to provide Michelin-level cuisine for you at home, on vacation, or on your yacht, is an appealing one and an idea that more and more people are entertaining these days," Emery explained.
It's a trend she believes is driven by our increasingly high expectations when it comes to good food. "Across the globe, people's interest in food has been growing exponentially over the past 10 to 15 years, kickstarted by the rise of the celebrity TV chef and perpetuated by social media platforms, especially Instagram," she said.
Justine Murphy, who spent six years as a chef onboard superyachts before founding chef selection agency mymuybueno Private Chefs in 2011, is witnessing a similar shift. Her agency is based in Mallorca and London, and offer chef placements worldwide.
"For our clients, that prestige of having a chef from a notable restaurant working for you personally goes a long way," Murphy explained.
Such high profile, personalized service comes with a hefty price tag.
Emery says most Michelin-starred chefs can command a salary upwards of €10,000 to € 12,000, or $11,750 to $14,100, a month in a permanent private role. (Daily rates start from €30,000, or $35,200, for special events). "The sky's the limit, depending on who the chef is and what they're being asked to do," she said.
NDAs prevent Emery from divulging too much detail, but she does reveal that among the thousands of chefs on its books, Amandine has hundreds of chefs with Michelin experience, including many head chefs of one-, two-, and three-Michelin-starred restaurants.
At Amandine, there are two categories of Michelin-starred chef placements: permanent positions and seasonal roles in villas, chalets, or onboard yachts. Guest stints as a
"There are chefs that have gained a Michelin star, or worked as a head chef in a Michelin star restaurant, that have decided to make a career change," she said. "Then there are those who currently have their own restaurants and are looking for a cash injection."
But it's not always smooth sailing. "Just because you've got a Michelin-star doesn't automatically mean you're the best private chef there is," Emery explained. "The job is very different. In a restaurant, you've normally got a large team of people working for you. When you work as a private chef, if you have a team at all, it will be very small by comparison."
Financial incentives were behind Neil Snowball's decision to leave his "rockstar" job as head chef at Gordon Ramsey's Michelin-starred Pétrus restaurant in London in 2016 for the private realm.
Snowball has spent the last four years working for ultra-high-net worth individuals onboard three different superyachts (and, in one instance, their principal residence in the USA).
"At the time, my motivation was to open my own restaurant," he told Business Insider.
It's an ambition which is currently on hold as he and two friends (the ex-head chef and head pastry chef at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Ledbury in London) launch Opus Provisions to supply superyachts with Michelin-grade produce. The company is based in London and delivers luxury ingredients worldwide.
When Snowball announced his departure, many of his friends in the industry thought he was selling out. "They thought that I might as well have taken a job flipping burgers," he said. But his time on the other side has taught him many lessons.
"When you're an ambitious chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant, you get drawn into this ego-driven system where you've got to put 25 techniques on a plate. But when you're cooking primarily for one or two people, you really start to think about what they actually want to eat," he explained.
And that's not Michelin-star fare for every meal. "People don't want 25 textures of tomatoes, they just want really nice tomatoes," Snowball said.
Emery agrees with Snowball. "When people come to us and say: 'We want a Michelin-starred chef,' that's code for: 'We want someone with the best training and the best skills.' No-one, no matter how wealthy they are, wants fine dining every day of the week," she said.
For clients who are looking for a dash of the Michelin sparkle, without the price tag, there's also the option of a chef who has experience of working at a starred restaurant.
"We place on average 300 chefs who have worked in Michelin kitchens each year into properties and superyachts in a private chef capacity," Murphy said. She added that such candidates can expect to see up to €4,000 a month more in their salary package. "Some are on rotation, but are paid all year round, in order to still maintain a home or family life."
The potential to spend more time with his two young children is the main reason Nick Street-Brown is transitioning back into a private role now that his three-and-a-half-year stint as an executive chef at a French château venue has come to an end.
"Family is the biggest factor for me," said Street-Brown, a chef from Manchester, England, whose CV includes a year spent at Thomas Keller's three-Michelin-starred New York restaurant, Per Se.
Having done bits of private work throughout his career, Street-Brown is actively looking for a rotational superyacht placement. "It provides me with a good work-life balance with the added bonus of financial security," he said.It also helps that the view from the galley window may change every day.
"It's an exciting job," Street-Brown said. "You're getting to travel to different places."
The stresses inherent in a top restaurant, he added, comes with its pros and cons. "The hard bit in a restaurant isn't just the hours, but the pressure that you're under during those hours. But, there's also a strong comradery and a real buzz from the speed and the pressure of service. When you go private, that's something you miss, although there will undoubtedly be new challenges which I will find equally as exciting," Street-Brown said.
With top restaurants shuttering to the public around the globe in response to the coronavirus, this is a trend that looks set to accelerate. "Since COVID-19, there has been more clientele spending time in their own homes, and therefore wishing to have a better calibre of chef," Murphy said.
Still, being a great chef isn't all about the Michelin star.
As the relevance of the Michelin rating system continues to be a topic of much discussion (certain restaurants have even given back their stars), Emery emphasized that it's not all about the Michelin star.
"We have some incredibly talented chefs on our books who are at the top of their game but haven't necessarily been in charge of a Michelin-starred restaurant," she said. Other equally important indicators she named include The San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants, AA, Relais & Château, and Hats (Australia).
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