Guide to Hiring a Chef for Your Island Getaway
A private chef seems like a lofty idea, and perhaps unnecessary on an island as fabulously foodie as Anguilla. Yet, for many guests to the island, a romantic private dinner a deux or a private chef for a weeklong villa experience with friends is just what the vacation doctor ordered. There’s a personal touch, and the menu is catered to your palate and dream dining experience. What’s not to love?
We’ve been testing the waters with private chef services on a nightly basis at our new villa in Anguilla, which has allowed us to learn how to approach the process of collaborating with a private chef.
And it should be a collaboration. The entire process should be somewhat consultative in nature. How many people? What’s your style? What are you looking to achieve? To work effectively with a private chef and have it wow you, both parties need to understand the other’s expectations. Based on our experiences, here’s a quick guide on how to work effectively with a private chef, whether it’s a one-off experience for a special night on vacation, or services spanning your entire getaway.
Find Your Chef
1. If you’re staying at a villa, the owners or property managers will likely have recommendations to share with you. At Frangipani, we’ve been vetting chefs ourselves to find out whose style vibes best and which chefs offer the easiest experience from start to finish. We’ve had some bad eggs, but in the process we found our keepers.
Understand the Payment Terms
2. For some people, this may be a non-issue, but for many of us, it’s important to know how this process works from a financial perspective. Chefs operate in different ways and it’s important to understand what you’re getting into so everything ends as happily as it starts. Are you paying per hour or per person? Some charge a flat rate for a fixed number of people with a cost per head beyond that. Know how they operate on this front. Once you figure out that price, dig deeper. What exactly does that price include?
For many chefs we’ve spoken with, a quoted fee doesn’t include the cost of food. You may need to provide the chef cash to shop. They should return the change and all receipts. Is service charge included in that cost? Some chefs include a fee of 10%, 15% or more on top of the final bill as a mandatory service charge. What about service? Some chefs have quoted us a price that includes a chef and a server, while some charge an additional fee for service and clean-up.
Some may prefer to bartend themselves and choose their own wines, but if that’s something you’re hoping to add on, some chefs can bring in a bartender or sommelier to help craft cocktails or create a wine pairing menu with dinner.
Do know that the cost of hiring a private chef can vary hugely so don’t always assume it’s out of your budget. Many chefs will provide pricing for a one-off dinner vs. an entire week experience, with pricing becoming incrementally more enticing with more people in your party.
Ask for Inspiration
3. If you’re hiring a professional chef, they should be able to provide you with sample menus or some inspiration for your dining experience. As we’ve learned in the past: if they can’t articulate what they can offer, then you probably don’t want to be a guinea pig. The chefs we’ve had the best experiences with were able to share sample menus they’ve created in the past or were able to consult with us to craft a menu that fit our tastes and interests. Don’t be afraid to ask them to send over some inspiration – most chefs are happy to send over previous menus they’ve crafted to get the ball rolling and gauge which types of cuisine interest you.
Communicate What You Want
4. Chefs work with a huge variety of diners with different tastes, dietary restrictions, and ideas about the dining experience. Communicate what you’re looking for, or at the very least communicate what you’re not looking for. Any dietary restrictions? Be sure to tell them! Do you prefer bold flavors or do you shy away from spice?
Ask if they have specialties – you can use these or modify them to fit your taste. Chat about what a typical dinner looks like for them: is it three courses? Is it family style? Dream up what you have in mind and see how that vibes with their style and their abilities. Not a dessert person? Let them know to scrap dessert and add a pre-dinner snack (e.g. shrimp cocktail, ceviche, pita and hummus, etc.) or pre-dinner cheese plate instead.
If you’re looking at hiring a private chef for the week vs. a single dinner, talk to them about stocking your kitchen in advance for different meals and be prepared to provide a list. With a high-end villa like the Villa at Frangipani, we communicate with guests prior to arrival to provide a checklist if guests are looking for stocking services prior to arrival. Generally it’s good to come up an idea of what you want and what will make your dining – and snacking! – enjoyable.
Wanting to hire a private chef for an upcoming stay at the Villa at Frangipani? Email our concierge at firstname.lastname@example.org to check out sample menus and get recommendations!
What are your thoughts on hiring a private chef? Have you ever hired a professional chef on vacation before?