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Personal chefs: How much do they cost — and are they worth it?

Learn how much a personal chef costs — it may not cost that much more than you're already spending on food, and you'll gain back free time.

Personal chefs: How much do they cost — and are they worth it?

Americans devote an average of 37 minutes a day preparing, serving and cleaning up after their meals, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That number creeps up to 44 minutes a day for families with kids, totaling more than 267 hours a year spent in the kitchen. For many households, hiring a personal chef to gain back some of that time can feel like a pipe dream — but it might not be as expensive as you think. In fact, in some U.S. cities, a personal chef may cost just a little more than eating out — and helps reduce the extra sugar, calories and fat intake that comes with eating meals at restaurants — especially fast food chains.

Deciding whether a personal chef is right for you not only comes down to what you’re able to afford but also to how you want to spend your time. Food costs money, but your time is valuable, too. Hiring a personal chef might make sense if you value extra free time, are too busy to devote the time you’d like to high-quality meals or you buy a lot of prepared food. Plus, a personal chef can often tailor to dietary needs and keep health considerations in mind when preparing meals.

How much does a personal chef cost? 

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The national average cost to hire a personal chef is $21 per hour, according to Care data, so if the chef puts in 10 hours per week preparing your meals, that would cost you about $210 per week, not including the cost of groceries, which can vary widely by city. Keep reading for more variables that can affect the cost of a personal chef. 

If you’re like most Americans, you’re already spending a big chunk of your money on dining out. Almost 40% of the money Americans spend on food per year is on food prepared outside the home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The average American household spent $9,343 on food in 2022, with $3,639 spent on dining out, compared to $5,703 on food at home.

Current hourly cost of a personal chef for top cities*

Here are some examples of the hourly cost of a personal chef, based on location, according to recent Care data.

(Add $60-$200 a week to the cost for ingredients)

City, StateHourly Personal Chef CostWeekly Personal Chef Cost**
Seattle, Washington$26.36/hr$264/wk
San Antonio, Texas$24.13/hr$241/wk
Washington, DC$24.00/hr$240/wk
San Francisco, California$23.89/hr$239/wk
Brooklyn, New York$22.89/hr$229/wk
Chicago, Illinois$22.46/hr$225/wk
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$21.86/hr$219/wk
San Diego, California$21.29/hr$213/wk
Charlotte, North Carolina$20.73/hr$207/wk
Portland, Oregon$20.68/hr$207/wk
Orlando, Florida$20.63/hr$206/wk
Phoenix, Arizona$19.67/hr$197/wk
Denver, Colorado$19.17/hr$192/wk
Tampa, Florida$18.00/hr$180/wk
Atlanta, Georgia$17.53/hr$175/wk
Houston, Texas$17.07/hr$171/wk
* Based on rates reported by service providers listed on, as of March 2024.
** Based on 10 hours a week, rounded to the nearest dollar. 

While the prices for personal chefs in the above table don’t include the cost of groceries — that would be an additional $60-$200 per week, depending on the kind and quality of ingredients prepared — they can offer insight into how much you would expect to pay, depending on the city.

What factors influence the cost of a personal chef?

Most chefs charge hourly, weekly or by the serving, but a lot goes into how they come up with their final price tag.

Cost of living

The price of ingredients to prepare your meals will depend a lot on where you live. In 2023, for example, a gallon of milk in Texas was about $2.81, whereas the same gallon cost $4.28 in Pennsylvania. Rent, taxes, proximity to distribution centers and more can all influence the price of food. Likewise, the more expensive it is to live in a given area, the more chefs around there need to charge to make a living.

Number of servings

There is some economy of scale with cooking, but generally speaking, the more food you need prepared, the more ingredients (and sometimes work) go into it. Chefs take this into account when charging you and adjust their bill accordingly. For some, that means simply charging for any extra time or supplies needed to accommodate the larger orders. Others, however, charge a set price per serving — meaning if you want twice the food, you’ll have to pay twice the cost.    

Specialty menus

Households with a lot of dietary restrictions require more time and effort for planning than those with none, so it makes sense that some chefs would charge more for them. Creating a diverse set of meals for a household with multiple restrictions and allergies (for which chefs have to be extra careful about how they handle ingredients) can sometimes add hours to planning and prep time, and that is typically reflected in the rate. Examples of specialty menus include food sensitivities or allergies, vegan or vegetarian and gluten-free or dairy-free.


High-quality or specialty ingredients are nearly always more expensive and sometimes take more effort to buy. Families wanting higher-end ingredients — such as only locally sourced or organic food used in their meals — can expect the grocery portion of their personal chef bill to reflect those higher costs.  


Many chefs charge per hour, so it should come as no surprise that the more often you ask them to come by, the more they’ll charge you. Asking a chef to come by twice a week will be a lot more expensive than having them swing by just once a month.


Chefs cooking off-site might charge less than those coming to cook in your home. Large-scale, commercial kitchens tend to make it easier and faster to cook large amounts of food, and that can translate to a lower price overall.


A single chef working independently will likely charge more than a personal chef service. Independent personal chefs are small business owners with overhead costs to consider. Those administrative tasks (invoicing, payment processing, grocery shopping, etc.) are often centralized at larger companies, spreading out the cost over a team of chefs, allowing them to keep their prices competitive.

Experience of the chef

Just as important as all of the above is the experience the chef has at doing their job.

“There is a range of pricing,” says Holly Heath, a former personal chef based in Houston. “The more training, experience and notability, the higher the chef can charge.”

Heath herself attended culinary school and amassed an impressive client list with multiple big-name celebrities — two factors she suspects allowed her to charge a higher rate than some other chefs at the time.  

Note: Some areas might require personal chefs to have a business license and/or food handling certification. In some cases, this isn’t necessary if the food is prepared inside your own home, but it’s still a good idea to check local laws before hiring someone to make sure you’re in compliance.


If a client has a reputation for being overly demanding, picky or harsh, a chef might ask for an above-market rate to offset the challenges of working with someone who is particularly difficult.

Similarly, chefs asked to take on additional responsibilities will charge accordingly. That’s what Marcel Agnez did while working as a personal chef in New York City. Taking on things like “helping clients with service staff or getting their wine list up to date” meant he could charge more for his services overall.

“My prices over the years got better and better because I was a generalist and not a specialist,” Agnez says.

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What’s included with the price of a personal chef?

The obvious benefit of personal chefs is that they’ll provide you with meals. But there are a lot of tasks that go into that.

Meal planning

Part of the job of the personal chef is to develop a meal plan that meets the household’s dietary needs, often with input from the family. This can be especially helpful for homes with limitations on what they can eat. This can include food allergies, religious restrictions and just plain picky eaters — meaning a lot of planning and considerations can be required.

Grocery shopping

Once the meal options are selected, chefs are also typically responsible for procuring the ingredients needed to prepare the food. If families have strong preferences on the types of food — such as all organic or grass-fed meats — the chef can take that into consideration when shopping. 

Note: The time and effort to go out and buy the groceries is often included in the price of a personal chef, but the actual cost of the groceries themselves are not. Those are often tacked onto the overall rate or charged for separately.

Food preparation

While you certainly pay for the food and the planning, the bulk of what you’re getting when you hire a personal chef is their expertise in the kitchen. Many personal chefs come right to your home to prepare the food, though some might prefer to work off-site in their own home or, in the case of a larger chef service, in a professional kitchen. Regardless of where they cook, they do all the chopping, slicing, peeling, dicing and baking needed for the planned meals.

Meal storage

After the food is prepared, chefs usually package each meal in a way that can be safely and easily stored for you to eat later. If food is prepared outside of your home, the chefs will bring it to you in storage containers or pans that can be reheated immediately or placed in your fridge or freezer.


Perhaps the true beauty of a personal chef is that they clean up if they’ve cooked in your home. There are no dirty pots, pans, knives, spatulas and cutting boards to deal with after you’re finished eating!  

How is a personal chef different from a private chef?

In general, a personal chef is a professional chef who shops for and prepares meals for clients or families. They may prepare meals right in your home or outside your home in their own home or commercial kitchen and then deliver the meals to you. 

A private chef, however, is usually a chef who is employed by a single client or family and works in their private home for a fixed annual salary.  

Tips for cutting costs when hiring a personal chef

Hire an amateur

Your kitchen-savvy neighbor down the street might not have trained at Le Cordon Bleu in France, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a mean lasagna. Ask around to your family and friends to see if they know someone handy in the kitchen who might be looking to make a few extra bucks as your personal chef. These individuals tend to be much cheaper than a professional personal chef while still able to meet your family’s culinary needs. 

Share with another household 

If you have some friends or neighbors who are interested in hiring a personal chef, as well, consider going in on it with them to share some of the expenses and spoils. For many personal chefs, it’s not that much more work for them to double every batch. Once prepared and/or delivered, you can split the food however you’d like.

Consider alternatives

Many cities now have simple meal delivery services or traditional catering companies that bring you a set quantity of fully prepared meals once or twice a week. While not nearly as customizable as a personal chef, these services have options available for some of the most common dietary restrictions and are generally less expensive.