Welcome to the Hamptons, the place you will tell your grandchildren about! For a private chef, the Hamptons can be a pretty attractive place to work. The real estate here is beautiful and the kitchen environments awesome. And yes, over time the pay can be pretty insane. As my friend and butler instructor Charles MacPherson of the Charles MacPherson Academy in Toronto explains it, “There is the world of private service and then there is the Hamptons.”
Then there is the Hamptons . . .
The domestic industry is huge here in the Hamptons, what with the multimillion-dollar homes that require a lot of labor to maintain. Many of the homes all have or share the need for a private chef or cook, especially because most Hamptons residents love to entertain in their lavish homes. I personally know of one family that entertains their sons, daughters, and grandkids—cooking and cleaning are all that’s going on in that house all summer. Many with the means and a multimillion-dollar home would rather be entertaining friends there, sometimes even making deals. I have had plenty of people say to me, “It’s easier to hire you, Pete, than to go wait three hours to get into the Palm and then have pay a thousand bucks with my kids hungry and screaming the whole time!”
What type of chef comes to the Hamptons?
Most of the time, he or she is an experienced chef or cook, one who can be dedicated to clients and who can handle getting thrown to the wolves daily. Chef is an expert shopper, has a drivers license with local living arrangements, experienced in all phases of cooking including desserts, and is confident enough to cover a dinner that may take up to five line cooks in a restaurant. This chef can be put in any situation and come out smelling like a rose. He is prepared to go to an event ready to cook a meal for ten but has enough energy and expertise to take on an extra fifteen guests at the last minute. At least these are the chefs who survive here: the pressure to perform at optimal level and the demands for excellence by customers willing to pay top dollar for quality cuisine pretty much filter out the clock punchers, the complainers, and anyone who has a “not my job” attitude.
The chef who works in the Hamptons tends to have a lifestyle that is different from others. Usually, he or she has the time to be here all summer, and is either single or a person who made an agreement with his or her family to be away from home for the summer season. Often, a private chef is enticed to come to the Hamptons by the excitement of cooking in a situation that involves no food costs for clients who expect only the very best. Sometimes, he or she is easily excited about the easy money to be made and the chance to meet rich and famous people. He or she may have worked for a fine hotel chain one day, is a fan of Bruce Springsteen, and perhaps bought his wife a nice leather designer bag. And at just one of his or her events he or she could easily run into the owner of the hotel chain, the producer for Bruce Springsteen, and the designer of the leather bag. Then there are the older chefs who look to still cook or perhaps manage a large staff in a beautiful home.
I find that the private chefs who succeed in the Hamptons are people with experience in cooking as well as in life. They have patience and are grateful for the opportunity to work here. They trust that, in the end, it will all come together. A good attitude and a great sense of humor, along with utmost respect for the principal clients, their guests, and the property alike will always get a private chef invited back for the next summer or maybe for a lifetime.