Inside the Life of a Personal Chef!

Personal chef services have really increased in the past few years. With many people lacking cooking skills or time yet still wanting to eat healthy (& homemade!) meals, the market for a Personal Chef is really taking off.


I recently came across a really delicious recipe for Basil Pesto Chicken, Farro & Nectarine Salad. I’m always looking for something new to make… and this recipe caught my eye when I saw that it won an original recipe contest. It must be good if it won, right? RIGHT. VERY RIGHT. It was not only easy to make but also became my new favorite lunch meal since it almost tastes better the next day. Almost.


The creator of this recipe is Whitney Reist, the owner of Dietitian in the Kitchen. She’s actually a colleague of mine and with both of us making moves in the past couple of years, I completely lost track of her Personal Chef journey. I thought it would be really neat for those of you interested in cooking healthy dishes to see how she got started on this path and how she has done so well running her own business based on healthy & REAL food! Read on for a short interview with Whitney…


Whitney Reist Headshot       dietitianinkitchen


1.     Did you always know the Personal Chef role was your end goal?

Absolutely not!   This was an opportunity that evolved for me as I was in culinary school and still working as an Oncology dietitian at Baylor University Medical Center.   To further practice what I was learning at Le Cordon Bleu and help pay my tuition, I moved in with a family and worked as their live-in personal chef.

Through  experience at school and working as a live-in personal chef, I began to see that working as a personal chef was something I wanted to pursue for a career.  By the time I had graduated culinary school, I had enough people interested in using me as a personal chef that I decided to do it on a part-time basis.  After about 6 months of doing this, I made the decision to resign my position at the cancer center and took on more personal chef clients so I could do it on a full-time basis.


2.    What helped you the most when trying to combine good nutrition with tasty food? 

Remembering that simple preparation methods with highest quality ingredients are what makes healthy food look and taste most delicious.  Buying ingredients seasonally, using fresh herbs and bold spices, and using citrus juices to brighten flavors are key tips for making this happen as well!


3.    What’s your advice to those just starting to cook healthy for themselves?

Make a small goal that you can easily attain to start out with.  That may be cooking a healthy meal 3 times per week and making enough to have leftovers the next day.  Planning your menu of what you will cook a week to a month ahead of time is also key to making your goal happen.  The last thing you want to do is get to the day that you are supposed to cook and not know what you want to make and on top of that have to shop for the ingredients.


4.     What’s one (or more) good resource you recommend when looking for recipes?

My favorite healthy recipe sites with simple preparation techniques and minimal ingredients are www.cookinglight.com and www.myrecipes.com.  You can search for recipes to fit in specific diets, calorie ranges, and save them to menus as well as create shopping lists for the recipes you choose.  Both sites are a “one stop shop” for planning, organizing, and making healthy cooking happen!


5.    Do you remember your first “aha” moment when you made a really delicious yet healthy recipe? What was it?

This would definitely be when I made Basil Pesto at home for the first time and started adding a bunch of spinach or arugula to it.  It was a nutrition powerhouse condiment that tasted amazing and looked beautiful.  I learned that I could take salads, grains, pasta dishes, fish and chicken dishes to the next level with a spoonful or two of this delicious stuff in minutes!  It also makes a good pizza topping, sandwich spread, and egg mix-in.  The possibilities are truly endless!


6.    Any suggestions for time management when the average person is trying to meal prep for a few hours on the weekend?

Yes – I will even provide tips with bullet points for extra organization!

  • Make a prep list – before you start your cook day, jot down a list of the recipes you will make in order that you are going to make them.  This will keep you focused and organized while ensuring that you won’t forget anything in the hustle and bustle of cooking.
  • Follow the rule of “Mis en Place” – Have all of your ingredients and cooking tools that you need for the day organized and within easy reach on your countertops before you start cooking.  Making multiple trips to your fridge, pantry, and cabinets add lots of time to your cooking day, so try to minimize this as much as possible.
  • Streamline putting a recipe together by having all your veggies and/or fruit washed and cut into the size you will use before you start cooking.  Also measure spices, dry ingredients, and liquids before you put the recipe together.


7.    How did you learn to pair certain flavors with foods?

I read LOTS of recipes and cookbooks – this is something that’s somewhat of a hobby for me.  I find it so intriguing to note the differences in how different authors and magazines write recipes and the flavors that they tend to pair together.  After a while, I notice trends in food pairings that I try in my own kitchen and then from there figure out what my personal pairing preferences are.


8.   Do you have any go-to recipes for a quick weeknight dinner that is fail-proof?

I find that if you always have a whole-grain bread/flatbread/wrap available with low fat cheese, a lean protein, and 2-3 vegetable options with a marinara sauce, hot sauce, or salsa that a healthy well-balanced pizza or Panini sandwich is only a few minutes away from satisfying a hungry belly!  This never fails to be our go-to on busy nights when we are tired and time is limited.  I also try to keep 1-2 dishes in the freezer for backup dinners – enchiladas, chilis, and soups tend to work well for this strategy.


9.    Do you have advice for those interested in pursuing a personal chef career & targeting clients that want healthy options?

Before you get started, it’s important to know what your state’s health codes are in the event that you ever need to cook out of your own kitchen or to know if that is even an option.  I prefer to cook food in my client’s kitchen so that I can store it for them as it is prepared and limit liability issues.  Applying for an LLC is also worth the time and effort.

For obtaining clients, word of mouth has been my most valuable avenue of advertisement.  Talk to people everywhere you go about your business – wear your chefs coat to the grocery store when shopping for yourself to drum up conversation with potential clients and visit gyms and health clubs to talk about your services.  Chef In Demand has a great blog and LinkedIn community that offers wonderful advice for personal chefs looking to build their business and find clients quickly.


…Head on over to Whitney’s site where you can get the recipe for this amazing dish:

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Questions for Whitney? Have you ever considered using a Personal Chef or becoming one? Leave a comment below!


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