By The Chef Alliance Team
WHY IS LIABILITY INSURANCE IMPORTANT?
Personal Chefs are human too - mistakes can happen to anyone, and liability insurance is there to protect you and the Chef when things go wrong.
Below, are some scenarios that could happen, where liability insurance can be important:
- a saucepan is dropped, cracking a tile on your kitchen floor
- a hot pan is placed on your counter top, leaving a scorch mark that cannot be removed
- a guest is afflicted by food poisoning, as a direct result of the Chef's food preparation
The Personal Chef industry is currently unregulated in Canada, hence there are no requirements for a Chef, Personal Chef, Private Chef or Catering company to have liability insurance. This could put you and your home at risk should something go wrong.
Many of the Chefs listed on this website do have liability insurance, and they will be more than happy to show you their Certificate of Insurance.
However, many Chefs and Caterers in Canada have not taken the step to invest in their business or to protect your health and safety, and do not have liability insurance. If you would like to safeguard your health and property, it is your right to select another Chef to provide your service, or to ask that the Chef you are hiring gets insurance. Please feel free to direct them towww.chefinsurance.com for details.
SHOULD THERE BE A CONTRACT?
A contract ensures that both you and the Chef are 'on the same page.' It should clearly set out the terms of the service (e.g. the hourly rate, rate per person etc.), the terms of payment, cancellation procedures and any penalties that may be levied and so on. Read the contract carefully before signing it or giving the Chef a deposit for their services. If you have any questions, do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for clarification.
HAS THE CHEF HAD ANY PROFESSIONAL TRAINING?
Although it is good to know that your Chef has had formal culinary training (ask to see their certificates), many well-renowned Chefs have never stepped foot in a Chef School. These Chefs may have joined the Culinary Industry after leaving school or as a career change, and have trained under Professional Chefs, learning hands-on everything that Chef School would have taught them, and more!
HAS THE CHEF HAD ANY FOOD SAFETY TRAINING OR CERTIFICATION?
This training should be a pre-requisite for working in the Culinary Industry. Unfortunately, in many areas it is not a requirement for cooks and chefs to have any training on the proper food handling techniques and procedures to ensure that the food that reaches you is not contaminated. It is your right to ask for proof that your Chef has valid certification to protect your health and safety, as many areas require that Chefs get re-certified every few years.
DOES THE CHEF BELONG TO ANY CHEF ORGANISATIONS?
There are many Chef organisations around the world. Find out which ones your Chef belongs to and do some research to see what entrance criteria they have. Do they accept anyone or do they have strict requirements? Do they offer Professional Development courses to keep their members abreast of new trends and techniques?
DID THE CHEF BELONG TO OTHER ORGANISATIONS, AND WHY IS HE/SHE NO LONGER A MEMBER?
In the majority of cases, Chefs may decide not to renew membership for reasons, such as relocation, the benefits of membership no longer met their needs, financial resources etc. In rare occasions, however, a Chef may have their renewal application denied for reasons such as non-payment of fees or unprofessional behaviour. It's always good to check up on this - it's like any other job interview, except that hirining the wrong Chef could affect your health.
Chefs are expected to abide by Codes of Ethics and rules and regulations of membership. They are expected to conduct themselves professionally at all times, to treat the client with the utmost respect, and to provide their services to the best of their ability. Find out if complaints were lodged against the Chef - most membership organisations take complaints seriously, and will investigate them thoroughly. In the event that they find that the Chef has conducted themselves inappropriately, action will be taken.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH LAST MINUTE CANCELLATIONS?
Chefs are human too, and sickness or accidents can occur unexpectedly to anyone. Ask the Chef if they have other, trusted Chefs that they can call on at the last minute to provide the service on their behalf, if required. If not, what type of compensation will they provide to you for cancelling? Check the contract for details on how this will be handled, and if it's not mentioned, make sure that you discuss this and have it summarised in writing or an email by the Chef.
WHAT IF I HAVE A FOOD ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE?
Many Chefs have had direct training in cooking for special diets, from nut allergies to diabetes, celiacs disease to lactose intolerance, low fat or low sodium cooking to vegan meals and Kosher cooking. Even Chefs without formal training in this area can accommodate special dietary needs and allergies.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PROVIDE AND WHAT WILL YOU BRING WITH YOU?
This will depend on the type of service being provided by the Chef. In many cases, the Chef will provide their own utensils to cook with - knives, pots, pans etc. In other cases, such as a Private Chef position, where the Chef is cooking for one client each day, the equipment is usually provided by the client. Caterers who prepare the food off-site and deliver it to your venue may bring warmers or platters to present the food to diners.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PURCHASING OR PAYING FOR INGREDIENTS?
Again, this depends on the service being provided. Many Chefs use a 'service plus ingredient' method of billing; others include the cost of ingredients. It is best to be clear about this during your interview of the Chef. Caterers will, of course, price their service based on the final product being delivered to you.
CAN I SPEAK TO PAST EMPLOYERS OR CLIENTS?
Every Chef should be happy to put you in touch with past clients or employers.
HOW DO I PAY FOR SERVICES?
It can be tempting to pay a lower price for giving the Chef cash in order to avoid taxes, but if a Chef is willing to cheat the government on paying taxes, can you really trust them with giving you the top quality of food and service that you deserve? What does this say about the Chef's professionalism?
A professional Chef will provide you with their business number, sales tax number etc and issue you with a proper invoice for their services.
If the Chef accepts PayPal, credit card payments or other similar payment types, they should charge the same rate as if you paid by cheque/check. Do not accept the rationale that they have to pay fees to accept these other forms of payment - that is their cost of business and you should not be penalised for this.
WHERE WILL THE FOOD BE PREPARED?
If the food is not being prepared in your home or business, then it should be prepared in an inspected, commercial kitchen. This is to protect your health, as commercial facilities are generally inspected on a regular basis by the local Health Department.
Some Chefs have been known to prepare food in their own home and then bring it to the client's home. Be wary of a Chef doing this - their kitchen has not been inspected for health and safety violations and so no one can vouch for the cleanliness of the facility.
DO I NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT HOW MY FOOD IS TRANSPORTED?
This is another area of concern if a Chef or Caterer is transporting prepared/cooked food to you. To protect your health, food should be transported in refrigerated boxes or trucks to ensure that the food is not contaminated and that it isn't a breeding ground for bacteria which could lead to food poisoning.