By request, I am doing an AMA. Some background: I have worked in the food service industry all my life. I've been a dishwasher, busboy, waiter, and bartender, and I've worked every position in a kitchen. I worked for years in a James Beard award-winning restaurant. I don't have a culinary degree, but I have trained lots of CIA interns. I quit working in restaurant kitchens fifteen years ago due to health reasons.

I have been working for my employer for twelve years now. He made his money by creating a stock brokerage from the ground up. Now he has sold his company and is retired, but he is still highly respected in the investment community.

My employers own houses in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and on a tiny private island in Florida. They travel seasonally, spending summers in New Hampshire, Winters in Florida, and the rest in Pennsylvania. They are wonderful, down to earth people. I wish to protect their privacy, so please excuse me if I am vague on some details here. Also, please excuse slowness of response, as I am a terrible typist!

Edit: Okay, wow, this is taking off fast! There is no way I can type fast enough to answer all your questions. I'll keep trying the best I can, though!

Second edit: Okay guys, I'm stunned by all the response, but it's been seven hours now and my fingers feel like they are going to fall off. I had no idea that people would find this so interesting. I'm going to take a break to watch the Cowboys/Eagles game, and will be back on in a few hours to answer more questions. Thank you all for being so nice!

Comments: 4239 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

CreativeUsernameLOL1263 karma

What is your yearly salary?

Mange-Tout1869 karma

In the low 50k range, with bonuses. Luckily, my wife is the main breadwinner in the family!

iDiedYesterday2525 karma

I thought the chef would be the... nevermind.

iateacrayon2136 karma

She's the breadwinner, but he gets to arrange the bread on a fancy plate.

Mange-Tout1795 karma


biggbuckz375 karma

What kind of bonuses does a personal chef get? Serious question - I don't understand what kind of bonus structure there could be.

Mange-Tout933 karma

They give me bonuses in the summer and around Christmas, usually in the $1000-$1500 range. Occasionally the will give me an extra bonus because they are just that cool.

Fade2blk2268 karma

What does your wife do?

Mange-Tout850 karma

She is a mid-level corporate manager. She makes about 70k a year. We don't have kids, so we do pretty well for ourselves.

livinlavidal0ca321 karma

Please tell us this, as it is very important for me to know how much I need to make in order to afford my own private chef

Mange-Tout471 karma

You can hire a personal chef to cook for you. That's a different industry, and it's a cheaper solution that can be afforded by upper-middle class types.

PasDeDeux334 karma

How's that different from a private chef?

edit: thanks for all the responses, guys.

tl;dr: private = cooks for one family only (every meal, fresh), personal = cooks and buys groceries once a week for multiple families.

wallst07540 karma

personal chef = Buys groceries , comes to your home , cooks then leaves. Then goes to other's to do the same. You pay for time/groceries only.

private chef = chef works for you only, nobody else, you pay salary. Possibly lives in house if necessary otherwise shows up to work like a normal job.

Mange-Tout282 karma


Bongson323 karma

I'm pretty sure a private chef would be on grounds at all times to cook whatever the family wants whenever they want. Y'know how in movies there's always that fat guy with a beard in the kitchen? That's probably OP.

Mange-Tout822 karma

As a fat guy with a beard, you pretty much nailed it.

redditwinsinternets862 karma

are there any outrageous things he ever requests? what are some of your favorite dishes you love to cook?

Mange-Tout1162 karma

He would love it if I made snapper soup (turtle soup), but I have never found a supplier. I don't use commercial suppliers like a restaurant kitchen does, because my needs are far too small.

My favorite dish that I love to cook would be roasted chicken with roasted root vegetables, specifically the recipe from the book Roast Chicken And Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson.

wurtis16688 karma

Approach a in practice chef at a restaurant and purchase through them. They'll make a lil coin and you'll save a ton.

You can even split sides of beef and split hogs. He'll save a boatload.

Mange-Tout707 karma

I've done that on occasion. I should try it more often.

redditwinsinternets260 karma

as a chef myself i have never tasted turtle was never something i was interested in tasting as it's in my list of "animals i would never willingly eat" what are the ways u acquire the ingredients depending on the location and also is he a very specific type of eater? i.e. only likes steaks done medium rare

Mange-Tout643 karma

I'm not sure where to get turtle meat. I assume the restaurants in Philadelphia have some local supplier.

My employers are not picky eaters, but they do have some fairly serious dietary restrictions that make my life very difficult. Mr. boss is on a low salt diet and wants to avoid carbs. Mrs. Boss can't have any dairy products or egg yolks. One of their grandkids is a vegetarian, and many of their children prefer veggie-based meals. Its a real headache providing variety with so many restrictions. I often make separate dishes for different people.

AnnanWater1155 karma

D'Angelo Brothers on South 9th in Philly has turtle meat.

909 South 9th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19147

Phone: 215-923-5637

Mange-Tout714 karma

Oh, thank you! I love D'Angelo's!

YouListening242 karma

Would you say that any of your boss's kids or grandkids don't respect the work you do?

Mange-Tout824 karma

They all respect me. They have the most awesome family. I joke that they are like a Norman Rockwell painting that has come to life. They actually have family singalongs during the holidays!

Scout776829 karma

What is your most delicious dish that is easy to make?

Mange-Tout1487 karma

Pasta Puttanesca. It's dead easy, all the ingredients have a long shelf life, and it tastes fantastic.

Edit: Yes, Puttanesca does mean "Whore's Spaghetti". I was told that's because in Italy the prostitutes were only allowed to go to the market one day out of the week, so that the other women would not be offended by them. By the end of the week the prostitutes would run out of fresh produce, so they would make pasta entirely out of canned and long-lived ingredients. Or so I was old many moons ago.

Scout776320 karma

How do you personally make it? If you don't mind explaining.

Mange-Tout1823 karma

It's simple. Boil up some spaghetti. While it's cooking, gather these ingredients: Several cloves of chopped garlic, one small can of diced tomatoes, crushed red peppers, capers, chopped parsley, half a lemon, olive oil, white wine, black olives, and anchovies or anchovy paste. Heat the oil in a pan, lightly cook the garlic, add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, add white wine, add all the other ingredients except for the parsley and the lemon, which you should add at the last second. Toss with the pasta and serve.

This will not be a thick sauce. It will just lightly coat the pasta, with the tomatoes and olives adding a bit of chunky texture. Good luck!

tonuorak3168 karma

Your cooking sounds amazing. Compared to how I cook

Mange-Tout156 karma

Thanks! I'm not the greatest chef in the world, but i try hard to please.

Carlos_Spicy_Weiner684 karma

1.) When going to a new house for an extended period of time, do you travel ahead of your employer to prep the kitchen and stock the pantry, so to speak?

2.) Is it just you, or do you have a small cooking staff; one or two others?

3.) You mentioned he is pretty old fashioned when it comes to his meals, do you ever try to mix it up and surprise him with a new dish?

4.) Are you allowed to create new menus for him, per his approval?

Awesome AMA by the way, thanks for answering!

Mange-Tout855 karma

Yes, sometimes I have arrived several days in advance to prep the kitchen. Things tend to fall apart when a house has been left vacant for months, especially in Florida where the salt air and the bugs destroy EVERYTHING!

I'm the only full time staff. They have house cleaners, handymen and landscapers, but those guys just come and go as needed. During big dinner parties, however, they will hire a bartender and servers to help.

I do try to mix it up, and in fact I do that all the time. Mr. Boss usually grouses and says, "Well, that veal Saltimboca was good, but I prefer it if you just pan fried it with lemon."

special2plumsfor1655 karma


Mange-Tout487 karma

They are pretty much clueless about food cost. They almost never buy anything themselves.

showinoffshit577 karma

What do you cook most often?

Mange-Tout1034 karma

You might be surprised, as I mostly cook normal home cooking. My boss is elderly and old fashioned. He likes things like meatloaf, roasted chicken, pan fried fish, etc. Dinner parties are a completely different matter, though.

crazyxpro467 karma

what are some of the things you cook most often for dinner parties?

Mange-Tout812 karma

An easy thing for semi-casual dinner parties is prime quality Filet Mignon, pan cooked with a simple deglazed sauce. The meat is ridiculously expensive, but it tastes so damn good you don't need to do anything fancy to make an awesome meal.

randombabble137 karma

do all the staff in the house get Filet Mignon leftovers for dinner that night?

Mange-Tout294 karma

I'm the only full-time staff, so no.

ThatChap560 karma

What is the most complicated dish you've had to create?

Mange-Tout1007 karma

I once replicated a dish from a Roy Yamaguchi cookbook that was a ridiculous amount of work for the end product. If I remember correctly it had layers of pasty, seared scallops, potatoes, two different kinds of squash, cheese, all arranged like a checkerboard Napoleon with two different sauces and garnished with flower petals. It was a serious pain in the ass to plate up for twelve people when you are working by yourself. It didn't even taste that good.

Edit: I found a photo of that stupid Scallop/Squash Napoleon! For some reason I can't format that properly.

PrettyStupidShit447 karma

Sounds cool,

  • Do you make more than if you were employed in a similar position at a well known restaurant?

  • What's your favorite dish to make?

  • Do you cook the same dishes over and over?

  • Are you happy doing what you do now?

  • If your employer turned out to be an evil genius would you poison him/ her?

Mange-Tout928 karma

I make more than the average cook in a restaurant, but less than a chef in a major kitchen will. My salary is in the low 50k range.

My favorite dish to make would be roasted chicken with roasted root vegetables, specifically the recipe from the book Roast Chicken And Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson.

I have a long list of menu choices, but things tend to get repeated. This is in part due to multiple dietary restrictions and because my boss just happens to like certain things and he grouses if he doesn't get his pot roast often enough. Nevertheless, I try not to do the same dish more than once a month.

I am extremely happy doing what I do now. My employers are wonderful people and I consider them to be close friends. Working in restaurant kitchens was great, but the stress was bad for my health. Working as a private chef is so much less stressful, plus the working environment is so much better. For example, I can currently watch dolphins play in the ocean from my kitchen window while I work!

If my employer was an evil genius, I'd probably just quit.

Lincoln33715 karma

I can currently watch dolphins play in the ocean from my kitchen window while I work!

That, sir, is fucking awesome.

Mange-Tout685 karma

That's one of the main perks of the job. The places they live are all beautiful.

Polluxi412 karma

I'm a cook and think being a private chef would be cool. How does one get into such a specific and probably rare position?

Mange-Tout652 karma

It's difficult. Private chef positions are rare and highly sought after. the most important thing is you have to be totally flexible. When I first put out an add seeking a job I announced I was willing to move worldwide. I got a couple responses from Dubai!

Mostly, you have to be willing to sacrifice your personal life. If you cant do that, then you won't make it as a private chef.

steaminferno63 karma

How many sacrifices did you make in your personal life?

Mange-Tout176 karma

Moving every four months means it's almost impossible to sustain friendships or dating or a marriage. Having children is almost impossible. Also, I generally fit my schedule to suit their schedule so I do not have regular days off or regular holidays. I haven't had a Christmas with my family in at least seven years, and I'm always working on Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and other major holidays.

That being said, in almost any chef job you have to make sacrifices. The cooking life is not an easy one.

Pludge350 karma

When they travel do you go with them? If you don't then what do you do while they are away?

Mange-Tout624 karma

I travel with them to Florida and Pennsylvania. I used to travel with them to New Hampshire as well, but after I got married that was no longer feasible. Now I take the entire summer off and I hire another guy to take my place temporarily. I do not travel with them when they go on vacation, however.

Glaurung135 karma

Do you still get paid during the summer? If so, do you pay for the replacement chef out of your own pocket or does your boss pay both people's salaries?

Mange-Tout243 karma

No, I don't get paid during the summer. I tend to do occasional catering work to pass the time, plus I work on fixing my house. The replacement chef gets a completely separate salary, and those negations are left up to my boss.

dan820500 karma

And now I just realized you get paid better than you're letting on, 50K for 9 months of work is really nothing to sneeze at (especially with the three months off coming all at once)

Mange-Tout40 karma

I told you I wasn't complaining about the pay! I love my job.

mistercottonsparrot337 karma

If your employers asked you to make some righteous pot brownies, where would you look for a good recipe?

Mange-Tout697 karma

On the Internet, of course.

evrythnggetscanceled309 karma

How many meals do you make a day? Do you also provide snacks if they ask for them? Are you on call for any midnight snacks? Do you live with them?

Mange-Tout495 karma

Three per day, during the season. Two a day in the off season. I always keep fresh snacks on hand and leave home baked cookies and other treats around.

I never will get called for a midnight snack. they respect my privacy too much to do that. I used to live with them, but after I got married five years ago I moved out and now only work for them 8 months out of the year, with summers off.

sagisage305 karma

What is the worst mistake you have made in a dish you prepared for someone else?

Mange-Tout674 karma

I once made a Vietnamese noodle salad and served it to a vegan. It turns out I forgot that I put a lot of fish sauce in the dressing...

jahfooley65 karma

Were you able to explain it to them and take it away?

Mange-Tout153 karma

They had already eaten half of it... I felt so bad!

FSMCA56 karma

Did they notice? Did you confess?

Mange-Tout113 karma

I confessed. I felt horrible.

frust_INC273 karma

Do you believe in The 3-Second Rule?

Mange-Tout381 karma

Oddly enough, my Boss actually does! I do my best not to use anything that has touched the floor. They can afford for me to throw it out.

Gnarlet262 karma

Do try treat you like "the help", or do they actually treat you like a human?

Mange-Tout579 karma

They not only treat me like a human being, they treat me like family. I've met other private chefs that weren't so lucky, however.

bah319259 karma

How do they request what food you make? Are you free to make war you want? Do you make large meals and serve them over several days? What's a day like?

Mange-Tout380 karma

Oddly enough, they rarely request specific dishes. I have complete menu control, and usually they do not even know what they will be eating until I put it down in front of them. I make normal-size meals, but i do tend to make a bit extra so they have something to eat on my days off.

My days are long but easy. Technically I work from 8:30am to approx. 8:30pm five days a week, but in actuality I have lots of downtime between meals. Actual hours worked are about 7-8 hours a day.

mcpiggles228 karma

So what do you do in that downtime? Just chill somewhere in the house?

Mange-Tout400 karma

I spend most of it on Reddit, of course! They give me my own room/house depending on location, so I can retreat to there to chill out.

bignasty160165 karma

Wait, so you spend 7-8 hours a day cooking three meals?

Mange-Tout410 karma

Well, I also do all the kitchen cleaning, and since Mrs. Boss is a real neat freak that takes a lot of my time.

namesopitional221 karma

What celebrity chefs do you admire or even hate?

Mange-Tout556 karma

I've loved Anthony Bourdain since I first read Kitchen Confidential in the mid 1990's. I am in awe of Ferran Adrià. I love Morimoto, and have eaten at his Philly spot several times and have chatted with him in person.

I don't hate any chefs, but I do think a lot of them are bullshit artists.

B0SSARU182 karma

What are you views on Chef Gordon Ramsay? Would you personally work with him?

Mange-Tout535 karma

I would work with Ramsey on the short term because he's terribly talented. I'm afraid I'd stab him if I had to work for him in the long term, though.

grandjete140 karma

Which chefs do you think are bullshit artists?

Mange-Tout321 karma

Wolfgang Puck and Paul Prudhomme spring to mind.

urban-fox214 karma

What is their kitchen like? Is it like a professional kitchen at all? Is it full of technology and gadgets? (If yes - what are some of the gadgets you use?)

Mange-Tout461 karma

Their kitchen is a mix of the wonderful and the pain in the ass. The kitchens themselves are large, roomy,and beautiful. Two of them have multiple ovens/sinks/refrigerators/dishwashers.

However, its not like a professional kitchen. For one, Mrs. Boss is a stickler for neatness, and she likes those damn electric smooth-top ranges. I hate those fuckers! They work like shit, and I have to clean them three times a day to keep them looking nice.

SFindlay179 karma

Will you make porkchops at midnight?

Mange-Tout187 karma

I would, if they asked me. However, they highly respect my privacy and would never drag me out of bed for anything less than a medical emergency.

row4land163 karma

This one will be fun guys! Here are my questions for your current employment only: 1. What is the strangest request one of these guys has made? 2. What is the cheapest request any of these guys have made? Kraft macaroni? Ramen noodles? 3. Most expensive request? 4. Do you get tipped on a nightly basis? At all? 5. Ever made any of them mad by cooking something wrong? Did you give them the ass cake special afterwords?

Thanks for the AMA?

Mange-Tout302 karma

The strangest request was for Snapper soup (turtle soup). However, I couldn't make it because I cant find a supplier.

They don't go for packaged foods, and in fact they have NEVER eaten in a McDonalds their entire lives! the cheapest food they request is spaghetti aglio e oilo, which costs virtually nothing to make because its just pasta, oil, and garlic.

Their most expensive request was caviar. The price of caviar has really gotten ridiculous, and good luck finding real Beluga. I had to settle for Osetra last time.

edit: I accidentally saved too early! To finish, the only time I ever get tipped is occasionally when a guest will drop a fifty or hundred on me. My boss does give me thousand dollar bonuses two or three times a year, however. They never get mad when something is cooked wrong because they are awesomely cool folks and they treat me like part of the family.

helloworld252159 karma


Mange-Tout395 karma

The only thing that ever shocked me was their house in New Hampshire. It's stunningly beautiful, right on a lake and built in the Adirondacks style. Otherwise they are fairly simple people. I once asked my boss why he didn't own a yacht, which he could easily afford, but he simply said, "I don't want one.".

homiedcdn159 karma

Is there a dish that you are just totally sick of making at this point?

Mange-Tout313 karma

Nope! I love all food.

Parnachaka127 karma

I always wanted to find a job like that (I am a cook) How did you find this job? Are you well paid? And is it not difficult to have a personal life if you are following him all the time?

Mange-Tout157 karma

I'm paid better than the average cook but worse than a chef at a major restaurant. I make in the low $50k range. I found this job by advertising on an old site called I don;t think it exists anymore.

If you want to work in my field you have to sacrifice your personal life and be willing to uproot yourself and travel to where the jobs are. When I got married 5 years ago, and so I had to stop working summers for my boss and hire someone to take my place. My wife didn't like the idea of me being gone for eight months out of the year! She still misses me terribly during the winter months when we are separated, and i miss her too.

bart7118 karma

  1. Do you prepare all meals and serve them just after they're prepared? I mean: do you need to be early in the morning to prepare breakfast and stay late until evening to prepare supper?

  2. How much time do you spend working daily on average? If you have free time during the day (between meals?) - please tell how much time do you spend actually working and how much time do you spend “at work” meaning between you start your working day and finish it.

  3. Seven days a week? Do you have any holidays beside taking the summers off?

  4. Do you shop for ingredients yourself? If yes, do you simply go to the nearest store and buy what you need or do you take care to find and visit reliable suppliers of high quality, healthy food?

  5. Comparing to the average family standards, how much more (in percentage) does your millionaire family spends on food? I mean how much do they spend comparing to what average same-sized family would spent?

  6. Do you cook for larger events? I don't mean 100-people party, but some family gatherings when some extended family visits. If yes, do you get some help hired for such events?

Thank you.

Mange-Tout185 karma

I prepare all meals and immediately serve them, with the exception of meals that I will make for them to eat while I go on vacation.

Technically my hours are long, 8am to 8pm on average, but I have lots of down time and I only actually work for about 7-8 hours a day. Dinner party days are very long and tiring, though.

I work five days a week, with random days off. I get a week of vacation each winter that I always spend with my wife back home. I work on most holidays, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.

I buy everything myself, and I shop all the time. I use a variety of different shops, and I prefer to buy from farmers markets and specialty shops for fish, meat, deli items and cheese.

My boss probably spends about twice what a normal couple would spend on food. Part of that is the wine, which is always of good quality, but I also tend to buy other things that are top quality. Prime steaks and lobster are not cheap.

The largest events I will cook for are in the 40-50 person range. When that happens, they will get a bartender and several servers who can also act as kitchen assistants.

Greystorms76 karma

What's your weekly food budget? Does Mr. Boss give you say $3,000 on Monday and tell you "Make delicious stuff this week"? Do you do all the food shopping, or does someone else take your lists and get the groceries?

Mange-Tout41 karma

I have no budget. They give me a credit card and I buy what's necessary. They keep loose tabs on me, but they have learned to trust my judgement. I buy quality stuff, but I don't do stupid things like blowing $500 on a bottle of champagne.

gummmi75 karma

What's your relationship like? Do you hang out? Is he a cool guy?

Mange-Tout128 karma

We have a wonderful relationship. They are almost like a second set of grandparents. We talk all the time about current events and have long debates about them.

Theothor43 karma

What do you eat when you're working? Do you eat what they eat or just a sandwich in the kitchen?

Mange-Tout36 karma

I eat exactly what they have. If they eat lobster, I eat lobster.

Buckyster69 karma

Do you make sushi?

What is the oddest thing you've been asked to make?

What is the biggest group you've cooked for?

This seems like it'll be an interesting AMA, thanks for doing it!

Mange-Tout98 karma

I can make sushi but I'm not particularly good at it.

The oddest thing I've been asked to make was turtle soup, but I couldn't find the meat.

The largest group was about 50 people. It was a buffet, though, and any idiot can make a buffet.

distantkorean39 karma

What is the favorite thing you like to make for yourself? For a SO/close friend/family members?

Mange-Tout90 karma

For myself it's Peanut Butter Crunch, because I'm a lazy bastard. For family members, usually some sort of pasta.

Sleep4523 karma

Do you cut your sandwiches diagonally?

Mange-Tout20 karma