She'll cook for you

The Baltimore Sun

Heather Johnson

Personal chef

In Good Taste Personal Chef Service, Catonsville

Age: --26

Salary: --About $70,000 a year

Time on the job: --Two years

How she got started: --Johnson was always interested in cooking and began taking culinary classes at the technical high school she attended. She then entered the culinary arts and apprenticeship program at Anne Arundel Community College. After taking a three-year break from cooking, Johnson decided she missed it too much and worked as a pastry chef in a wine bar and restaurant in Columbia for a year. She then joined an online chef network, where she got the idea to start her own business. "I could work for myself and still do what I love."

Typical week: --At the beginning of the week, she discusses with clients the menu for what is usually a five-entree menu. She does all the shopping for the meals and cooks them either in the clients' homes or from a commercial kitchen space she rents. Clients typically freeze or refrigerate the meals to eat later in the week. Her fee varies by client and depends largely on grocery costs. A typical meal package for the week costs about $250, not including groceries.

Specialty cooking: --Johnson has cooked everything from Southern to Moroccan cuisine. Other menus she has prepared include Indian, Asian, Italian, Greek, low-carb and vegan. "It all depends on your lifestyle. I always try to put a healthy spin on it."

Requirements: --Personal chefs in Baltimore County don't need a license unless they plan to cook in their own kitchens and transport food to clients, so Johnson rents out commercial kitchen space or cooks from clients' homes. Johnson said she also purchases business liability insurance in case of fires or other accidents. Although optional, Johnson said she has a food handling certification from the county.

The good: --"It's hard work but it's satisfying. At the end of the day, I'm still working for myself."

The bad: --"It kind of takes the charm away when I go out to eat myself."

Philosophy on the job: --"People deserve to eat well. I think variety is necessary, and you shouldn't have to be rich to enjoy it."

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