The red tape
Whilst you don’t need to be a qualified chef with City & Guilds or other certificates, any qualifications you do have will always help to convince your clients that you’re serious about your business as a personal chef. See our page on Training and Qualifications for chefs.
Despite formal qualifications not being essential, you must, however, be a good and experienced cook. You will also need to be adaptable and unflappable so that your clients have complete confidence in you. You should keep up with food trends and learn as many new skills as you can. There are lots of courses on offer. Perhaps you could even combine a holiday abroad with the chance of learning about another cuisine.
As with any other job involving food handling in the UK, you must have a current Food Hygiene certificate. Anyone working with you, including friends and family members, must also have this certificate.
You don’t need a special licence to cook in other people’s homes but if you are going to do any of the food preparation at home you will need to comply with the rules laid down by the Food Standards Agency.
If you are cooking at home on a commercial basis, you must comply with the laws on food safety and hygiene. The following applies to UK-based businesses. In addition to passing the basic food hygiene certificate, you will need to comply with the Food Standards Agency inspection procedures. You will also need to comply with the laws on labelling, food handling and storage. Details of what this involves and links to further information can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.
You should contact your local authority or council for advice. In addition to overseeing the Food Inspectors, they will also advise on whether you need permission to use your home for commercial purposes.
Breaking the laws about food hygiene and food processing is a criminal offence. There are serious penalties for breaking the law. Don’t risk giving your customers food poisoning. Remember – if you don’t comply with the laws you could end up killing someone.
It might sound like a lot of bother to jump through all these hoops, but it’s worth it to have the flexibility of preparing some foods at home prior to working in the client’s home. If you do this, remember you’re likely to need some form of transportation, perhaps a van, and probably some form of refrigerated storage.
Being self-employed and running your own business involves much more than just doing the job you plan to do. You need to take care of all the business side of things too such as book-keeping, accounts, advertising, budgeting and a whole host of other things. You can find out about the business side of things from the UK government’s BusinessLink site.