Despite what people believe, it's not all extremely wealthy people who have personal chefs.
—Rob Thomas, chef
Having a personal chef has always seemed like a luxury reserved for the rich.
But this perk is gaining ground with so-called regular folk, say those in Winnipeg's catering and personal chef industry.
Chef Rob Thomas adds some final touches. (courtesy Rob Thomas)
"Despite what people believe, it's not all extremely wealthy people who have personal chefs," says Rob Thomas, a personal chef, caterer and restaurant consultant in Winnipeg.
Today's private cooks cater to overworked parents, fitness enthusiasts, single people and seniors. They also pull off dinner and cocktail parties where hosts want to forgo the preparation, cooking and serving.
Thomas is one of Winnipeg's most visible personal chefs. The 35-year-old appears about three times a month on Breakfast Television as a cooking contributor. He teaches classes at the Manitoba Liquor Commission's Grant Park location.
He has a successful personal chef and private catering company, and served as a menu consultant for Modern Taco Company. (Thomas is still an investor in the Academy Row eatery.)
Thomas loves cooking for small, private dinner parties but also makes meals for his roster of weekly clients. Large catering jobs and the grind of a restaurant kitchen hold no allure for Thomas.
"It's about quality, not quantity," he says.
In Winnipeg's personal chef industry, Cindy Armstrong, who's been in the business since 1999, is also a success story.
Cindy Armstrong in action (courtesy Cindy Armstrong)
"It was a really hard sell, at first. I've seen companies come and go," she says. She works full time as the chef for Reh-Fit Centre, a cardiac wellness centre and 20 hours a week on Peppercorn & Co., her personal chef and catering company.
"A lot of people either don't think we even exist or we're so decadent," Armstrong says.
She charges $165 plus cost of groceries for 10, individual-sized meals with food left over.
For that price, Armstrong custom designs meal plans or clients can order from an online menu. She also buys groceries, cooks, packages and delivers freezer ready meals to clients' homes.
Like Thomas, Armstrong isn't interested in big batch cooking and massive catering jobs for hundreds of guests.
"I don't like the idea of cooking for buckets," she says.