4 Independent Business Ideas for Chefs

by Sean Ross

4 min read

The life of a chef can be simultaneously rewarding and grueling. Working evenings and weekends can detract from your social life, but at the same time, you just love cooking. If you’re looking for a temporary break or permanent change from the typical restaurant grind, there are other culinary careers out there that provide more freedom and creativity. Here are four of the best independent careers for chefs that allow you to keep cooking food professionally on your own terms.

Make Cooking Videos

It’s entirely possible to enjoy a profitable career making home videos. Of course, it’s not usually as easy as having a friend film you with a cellphone and then wait for views to pour in. If you want to gain YouTube followers and eventually monetize your channel, you need to put out engaging, high-quality content on a regular basis. The best way to keep startup and long-term costs to a minimum is to do everything yourself. Invest in a high-quality HD camera and a tripod, and start by filming yourself cooking your favorite recipe. Try to be as charismatic and informative as possible. Watch other successful cooking shows for inspiration, but try to make your channel uniquely your own. Once the video is complete, you will probably need to edit it. There are plenty of free video editing programs and tutorials online, or you could pay someone to do it for you. Becoming the host of a successful culinary YouTube channel will probably take some time, and there’s no guarantee of success, but the good news is your videos also double as powerful marketing tools for other culinary endeavors you take on in the meantime. Your goal is to turn your name into a brand that people recognize. Once you establish yourself as an authority in the culinary industry, everything gets significantly easier.

Start a Food Truck

Food trucks have become extremely popular, and 2017 is a great time to take advantage of the booming market. Owning a food truck allows you to make your own hours, travel where you want to go, and interact with people who love your cooking. Food trucks tend to be very focused on local communities, so try putting your own fresh spin on a classic staple in your area. For example, in Québec, a truck with new twists on poutine could be a hit, or you could find a niche that doesn’t exist in your area. As long as you’re doing something different, people will notice. The startup cost for opening a food truck is relatively low, especially compared to opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant. For $200,000 or less, you should be able to purchase a new or used food truck and the equipment and supplies you’ll need to hit the streets. Operating permits shouldn’t cost more than $2,000 annually. A food truck also goes hand-in-hand with the YouTube channel, as you can use your videos to promote your truck, and you can use your truck to promote your videos.

Cater Events

Starting a catering company is a great way to stay within your area of expertise while still branching out. You can cook food in your own kitchen on your own time, and you usually have more creative freedom over the menu. The biggest challenge associated with starting a catering company is finding the first few clients. Once you have a few solid reviews, finding clients and gaining referrals gets easier. As far as startups go, the initial investment cost for a very basic catering business is fairly reasonable. You’ll need table settings, serving equipment, and transportation at first. As you grow, you may want to expand to provide buffet equipment, beverage stations, and a bar. Start by booking smaller gigs, and then scale up.

Teach Classes

People from all walks of life love learning to cook new types of cuisine, so finding clients to populate private cooking classes shouldn’t be a huge hurdle. You could use your home kitchen, but you’re going to have better results if you rent a large commercial kitchen for your class. Search for kitchens for rent online, and you should be able to find something suitable in your area. Many culinary education facilities provide rooms for rent. Cooking School is one example of a facility that has multiple rentals available throughout Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and numerous other provinces. The great thing about hosting your own cooking class is you can make a substantial income in only a few hours. Let’s say you charge $50 per person for a class. If you have 10 people sign up, that’s $500 for just one class. If you can grow your classes and host multiple classes per day, you’re going to see some serious profit. There are plenty of independent opportunities out there for talented chefs who are ready for a change of scenery. Other ideas include menu consulting, becoming a private chef, and selling prepackaged food directly to cafes, bars, convenience stores, and other local eateries. Once you establish yourself as a reputable chef, the doors will start to open. If you stay connected to your community and cook with passion, opportunities to escape the kitchen’s heat without leaving it entirely will emerge. Make good food, and hungry people will come.

References & Resources

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