David Lee’s phone has barely stopped ringing since Sydney came out of the lockdown, and more people than ever have booked a chef to cook in their home.
“Last year, the business grew by 500 per cent compared to 2019 and now I think we are going to double that again,” says the founder of Sydney Private Chef. “Requests are out of the judge.”
With popular restaurants booked out for Christmas and a time limit on seating times due to COVID restrictions at many venues, private chefs across Sydney are reporting a boom in business.
Private tax, however, was rising before the pandemic, and it is no longer just for the super-rich.
“When I started the business 10 years ago, it was usually sophisticated, wealthy families who booked private chefs, but now that’s all,” Lee says. “Last week I was cooking for a wedding party in St Leonards and it was just two guys without guests.
“Last Friday, I made dinner for seven people, all of whom were vegans except for one person who wanted to eat fish, and there was baby food on top of that. But it’s the adaptation of each menu that sets a private chef apart from a restaurateur. “
30-year-old Iantha Yu hosted her first private chef dinner at her Annandale home this week.
“There are definitely more at my age who host dinners with a private chef,” she says. “I’ve been to quite a few private chef’s dinners over the last two years. It’s often easier than going out and there’s no smart service trying to get you out the door after two hours. You can also make straight as much noise as you like and drink your own wine. “
Yu booked his dinner through the online platform Gathar, which employs 60 private chefs across NSW.
Customers visit the Gathar website, choose a menu – four dishes Italian for $ 82 per person. head, e.g. or a Greek feast of $ 135 per person – and the chef takes care of the rest and usually brings food to the table at night as well.
“A service waiter may be required for groups larger than 12 people, or if it’s a complicated tasting menu, but the chefs will still come out and talk about each dish when it lands,” says Gathar co-founder Jodie Mlikota.
Specially designed menus make up about 35 percent of Gathar’s business, Mlikota says.
“Sometimes it will be a super specific request, such as a couple wanting to recreate a meal they had on their honeymoon in France.
“Other times it’s going to be wider – ‘German cuisine’ for beer matching maybe, or a host who just wants to add a lobster to one of our set menus.”
Lobster has been a particularly popular request for private chefs in October, as Sydneysiders appear to be celebrating the end of the lockdown with luxury ingredients.
“My first private reservation this month was for the lockdown to end Monday night,” says former Matteo Double Bay chef Orazio D’Elia.
“It was a big family in Parramatta and they wanted everything – live lobster, wagyu, sashimi, pasta, salt schnapps … they still thank me.”
D’Elia’s private Italian dining experiences start at $ 300 per person and can be booked via his Instagram account while the chef develops a website.
“We jumped right into lots of dinner reservations as soon as the lockdown ended, so I’m still trying to find time to start the business properly,” he says.
“For me, it’s a beautiful way to cook being invited home to someone. I meet amazing people and have fun explaining dishes and telling stories all night. I really enjoy it.”
As the journey is set to resume between regional NSW and Sydney from Monday, private chefs expect even more business as people leave the city to visit popular resorts.
“Airbnb has really changed the private tax,” says Lee, who operates satellite companies in Bowral, Terrigal and Hunter Valley. “Our biggest areas of demand for lockdown have been the central coast and the southern highlands.”
Gathar also has chefs based in regional areas to service holiday homes and rentals at no extra travel fees.
“If staff have to travel more than 50 miles, there may be a small fee, but we now have chefs at holiday destinations from Port Douglas down to the Mornington Peninsula,” says Mlikota. “That part of the business is picking up speed.”