Hosting a meal with a private chef is especially popular when you’re traveling in larger groups. When hosting a multi-generational family ski vacation or an Amalfi coast getaway with two other couples, gathering for a meal in your luxurious hotel suite, chalet, chateau, or Airbnb is a perfect way to experience local food and bring everyone together. Some over-the-top hotel suites actually come with a private chef experience. But even if a chef experience isn’t built into your stay, it’s relatively easy to book a great chef in the area who’s well-versed at curating exciting culinary experiences for vacation groups.
If hosting a private chef for one meal or the entire day (brunch, afternoon canapes, and dinner) is an experience you’re after, make sure you have the space for it. Your hotel room will need an in-suite kitchen and dining room, which many five-star hotels offer in their premiere suites. If you’ve rented an entire home, the space will likely be conducive to hosting larger meals. You can coordinate the private chef through your hotel—or if you’ve booked a luxe house through a travel curator, reach out to see if they can set the private chef experience up for you.
To decide on gratuity for your personal chef, first consider what goes into the price initially. The chef may have to work with you on the menu, potentially serve multiple courses (or even orchestrate a tasting menu), navigate dietary restrictions, travel to your home (or hotel), buy ingredients, and then present a full-on dinner theatre operation. Suffice it to say, a private chef is likely to cost significantly less than a catering company, but as a one (or two)-man band, they have quite a lot to do. Because of all the legwork involved, private chefs often charge per person, increasing the price in accordance to the number of courses or quality of ingredients.
When tipping out the chef, which is encouraged, 10% is a good starting point. And if the chef brings a server, you will want to increase the chef’s tip to 20% and request that the chef share that gratuity with the server. Alternately, you can give both the server and the chef their tips separately. In that instance, you’ll want to give the server at least 15%.
Keep in mind that many private chefs run their own businesses, and customarily, you don’t tip the proprietor of an establishment. It’s therefore possible that they won’t accept gratuity. If that’s the case, move forward with tipping out the server. If you still want to do something for the chef, presenting him or her with a nice bottle of wine or whiskey is often appreciated—though that gesture would be for private chefs who come to your vacation home, not for a hotel chef preparing dinner in your suite.
For a hotel private chef, check to make sure gratuity isn’t already built into the price of the experience. The hotel may automatically add an 18% service charge for the chef or server. However, if either goes above and beyond to make the en-suite experience memorable, you can add an additional 5% such that you’re tipping more than 20%. Occasionally, when renting a luxe suite at a five-star hotel, a private chef experience will be included in the suite price. If that’s the case, you’ll still want to tip the chef, much like you’d tip your private butler or the housekeeping staff.
As for the tipping logistics, give gratuity to the chef (and server, if applicable) at the end of the meal. If you know the exact cost of the meal beforehand, set cash aside in an envelope to hand the chef as he or she leaves. Tipping in cash has long since been appreciated in the service industry, though if you are paying for the entire experience as your private chef leaves, you can give a check for the entire amount, including gratuity. If you’ve prepaid or pay with a credit card, offering gratuity in cash is still appreciated.