HELPFUL ALUMNI is a series where we profile some of the talented people we’ve placed over the years. We hope their expertise is interesting and helpful. And without further ado, here’s our Q&A with personal chef Gaby Dalkin.
THE HELP COMPANY: How did you become a chef?
GABY DALKIN: I went to culinary school on a whim and during that time I started working as a private chef for a family in Malibu. Claudia helped shape where my career went from there. I came in, talked to her, she got a sense of my personality and cooking style — I’m California modern, farmer’s market focused, seasonal, fresh, with the occasional indulgence. You can’t not have cookies. Claudia made a match between me and whatever client was best.
HELP CO: What do you enjoy about this line of work?
GD: I was a private chef for 4 years. I loved it, I had the best clients, and I was really happy the entire time. Having great clients makes a huge difference. As I mentioned, it’s kind of a matchmaking process for that to happen. Now I have my own business – I have a food blog, cookbook, I’m a food personality in the food world. Being a private chef was great because I was able to cook for someone every day and create all these amazing recipes that helped influence my cookbook. It was a test run in a way. It was wonderful to have someone trust me to give me the opportunity to cook whatever I wanted in their house.
HELP CO: What advice would you give to others looking to do this type of work?
GD: You probably do need to go to culinary school. You need to be very flexible because you never know what’s going to happen – 2 people can become 25 all of a sudden. Being a smart shopper is really important. I shop mostly in the produce section or farmers market. I know my go-to items. You have to be a little bit of a people pleaser. You have to be personable with everyone who comes into the kitchen. You can’t be awkward! When I was working in a client’s house, the kitchen was my domain but people would come in all the time and chat with me, maybe even taste what I was making. At first it was hard because multitasking all the food prep and being sociable is a lot to handle at once. But it worked out and I became a part of my clients’ family. I knew everyone in the family and I knew all their friends and it really was a big community.
HELP CO: What is one of the craziest things that has happened to you in the course of your personal chef work?
GD: I cooked for one client while she was pregnant so we were dealing with pregnancy cravings. It was nothing weird, but I’d plan on going in and making something for lunch, and she’d feel like a giant loaded salad or something. I think it’s super important for a private chef to be well versed in cooking for different allergies, especially this day and age where everyone has so many food restrictions. But, if you’re always ready for things to change, there’s no such thing as a crazy request.
HELP CO: Why do you like cooking?
GD: I love feeding people. It makes me really happy to work a couple hours on a meal, watch everyone’s expressions, see everyone get really excited. I like educating people about what they’re eating and helping them eat better. I’ve been able to turn on a lot of clients on to farmer’s markets and convince them to eat really fresh. I go and come to their house with lots of reusable bags. We taste what I’ve bought, I’ll tell them what I’m going to make and where I got it. Eventually you’re changing their taste buds so they’re going to ask for you to get your food there. Of course none of my clients actually go to the farmer’s market. It’s up to me to do that!