Life as a 22 Year Old Personal Chef

It has been just under 12 months since I took the leap and competed in Luxembourg for the Culinary U-25 team Canada. Remember in my last blog post I said, “stay tuned for what’s next”?

Here’s what’s next.

Prior to leaving last November for Europe, I had a vison in my head I was going to start a personal chef business in Ottawa. I had been following multiple chef’s from around Canada through social media for years. I quickly became fascinated with many aspects of owning a personal chef business including: working on your own schedule, designing your own menu’s, employing your own staff, and most importantly, being your own boss. I knew this was something that I wanted and just went for it.

Most Chef’s in the industry work up the ranks through the traditional route. Starting by going to school, working as a dish washer, and then eventually working through every station for years before they get their shot at becoming a sous chef, and eventually an executive chef. I on the other hand did not. Sure, I went to school to become a chef and spent my first three years working in various restaurants as a cook but eventually I wanted a change. I am not counting out ever working in a restaurant again by no means however, I thoroughly enjoy the independence of working on my own schedule.

That time I brought Carson to a dinner to show him the final product

When I arrived back in Ottawa last December I got right down to business. I reached out to my good friend, Carson Rorai. Carson has a wealth of knowledge in business from being one of the co-founders of the company Cleen Detailing in Ottawa, ON as a teenager to recently graduating from Ivey business school in London, ON in 2019. He broke down the process of this start up for me.

Post discussion, one of the first things I did was reach out to others who have been successful in this business. I sat down with Mark Singson from Vancouver (runner-up on Top Chef Canada), spoke with Alex Edmonson in Calgary, and Evan Elman in Vancouver. These conversations provided me with a lot of insight. To this day, I still converse with these Chef’s to reach out for guidance and ideas. I spent the first three months doing practice dinners for family and friends. I bought my own plates, bought all new equipment, designed a website, got custom professional photos (shout out to Maxim Vidricaire and my sister Kathleen Hauschild), and the list goes on. Many hours of work went into this. I made some mistakes but learned a lot. At this point I felt ready.

After months of not working and strictly focusing on development; February 27th, 2019, I launched “inhauscooking.com”.

Initially my business started off with one dinner per week which resulted in me having to work in a restaurant part time for a few months to keep busy. Eventually I ended up getting up to two dinners per week while still working in the restaurant.

While in the process of expanding my business, I donated multiple dinners to charities at their galas. These include: Daffodil gala for the Canadian cancer society, Denim Tuesday gala for breast cancer, and the Proud to be Me gala for anti-bullying as giving back has always been very important to me.

After receiving many reviews from happy clients, I ended up becoming the highest rated personal chef in Ottawa through Google and Yelp.

I then received a phone call from a Toronto number that changed everything.

I was out golfing on a day off when a man called me saying he would love it if I could join him and his partner in the thousand islands working as their private chef on the weekends. I had no idea what to expect but figured why not? I arrived on the island two weeks later and my jaw hit the floor. The kitchen was spectacular, the garden was incredible, and the view was a like no other. To this day, I genuinely think this is one of the nicest places I have ever been to and to top it all off, there was no budget on food! The first weekend I was there I cooked the famous “Jean-George Egg”. For those of you that are unaware what that is; it’s creamy scrambled eggs placed back into a sterilized shell with a dollop of vodka crème fraiche and a heaping spoon full of sturgeon caviar. While I was there I also cooked with truffles, the most amazing home grown vegetables, and so much more. It was a dream.

I ended up leaving my job in the restaurant as I received the opportunity to work more days with them. Every weekend new guests would arrive that I would cook for. This meant that every weekend there would be new dietary restrictions, allergies, and food preferences. I would design a brand-new menu every week, do all the shopping, and then cook and serve on the island. Sometimes it would just be for two people; but other times it went as high as 12–14 people. Staying organized, making sure your mise en place was tight, and time management were so important because this was an opportunity that I did not want to mess up. To that wonderful couple who hosted me at their cottage all summer — thank you. The opportunity that they gave me, the people they introduced me to, and the food and wine knowledge that they taught me are things I will take with me for the rest of my career. I had no idea when I received that call months ago that it would lead me to where I am now.

This past summer I was at the Morning Owl Kanata doing some menu development. I had seen Chef’s around the country doing pop-up restaurants at coffeehouses and said to myself “why can’t I do that?”. I went to high school with the manager at the Morning Owl so I reached out to her and asked if we could chat. When we finished the chat, we had a plan set in stone. On October 25th, 2019 a pop-up restaurant would commence with myself as the head chef. I reached out to my Cousin Eric Chagnon-Zimmerly; the Sous-Chef at North & Navy (one of Ottawa’s top restaurants) and he immediately referred me to one of his good friends Malcolm Gillies from the Whalesbone in Ottawa. I got connected with a friend that I met at a Chef’s conference last year in PEI, Yoni Mehari and he committed to flying out to Ottawa to rock the pans with the team. I also got connected with a local student from Kanata; Dylan Webb. Dylan came in to help us at dish washing and menu preparation. Hours were spent planning this event which in the end was a huge success. It felt good to collaborate as a team to make guests happy. 22 years old and I opened my first restaurant for one night. That felt damn good.

The kitchen team at the Morning Owl pop-up
The kitchen team at the Morning Owl pop-up

At the beginning of September, I received a call from an unknown number. This was one of the guests that was up to the cottage in the summer. She asked me if I could come to Toronto and be her family’s private chef on a “whenever I am available basis”. I have been doing that ever since. Between being their private chef for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Toronto to driving back to Ottawa to do my own private dinners I have kept myself quite busy.

With this new busy schedule, I am currently working on growing my team by adding Chef’s and servers who can eventually work in my place at private dinners while offering the same service that I would. Side note:if you are interested in joining my team please send me a personal message.

Two years ago, I contemplated leaving the industry as I was not sure how far it would take me. Some things that I learned this past year was that running your own business wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be. I missed nearly every fun event with friends this summer, social gatherings with family, and time to just enjoy the hot summer weather with a beer in my hand. However, I would not change what I did for anything. Leaving the restaurant scene and becoming independent was one of the best things I have ever done.

I am not sure what the future has in store yet; but as long as I am continuing to learn, cooking good food, and making people happy then that’s all that matters.

Thank you for reading.