Executive Chefs at Home Matches Hamptons Elite with Private Chefs
The hottest new trend in Hamptons fine dining is … staying home?
Since the pandemic, there’s been a surge in demand for home-based private chefs. That goes double and triple for wealthy enclaves like The Hamptons, where the fortunate rode out quarantine in style but were forced to get creative about alternatives to dining out.
And while post-pandemic issues, like reported increases in New York City crime, growing concentrated wealth, and the ubiquitous health and wellness craze have cemented a place for elevated at-home dining experiences, a private chef is now a summer must-have for affluent Hamptonites.
Meet Executive Chefs at Home CEO Brian Arruda
“I think it’s bigger than it’s ever been by far and [the private chef market] is only growing,” said Brian Arruda, CEO of Executive Chefs at Home, a company he founded during the dog days of COVID-19 that sources culinary talent for “discerning clients” like business titans, celebrities, politicians, and professional athletes. It’s the kind of elite, private crowd for whom non-disclosure agreements are commonplace.
“When we started I didn’t know if the company would live post-pandemic. But, you know, a lot of people got a taste of what it’s like to have a private chef and they’ve become business expenses … everybody’s gotta have a private chef now, and if you’re at that caliber and you don’t have one, you’re typically trying to find one.”
In many ways, Arruda is a match-maker who sets up an experienced private chef with a family or event based on need, personality, and cuisine, among other criteria. What started as a way to help laid-off colleagues during the pandemic is now an international recruiting network that finds, vets, and places high-level chefs in everything from corporate events to luxurious private estates.
“Most of our clients are not the average person, so we really wanted to focus on quality. I need [a chef] that can walk into the President’s house and cook a dinner and keep their cool and throw down an exceptional experience,” said Arruda. “We want those chefs who’ve spent a lot of time in the industry that are ready to jump out and do their own thing.”
Arruda says lately career restaurant chefs are clamoring for a chance to cook in Hamptons’ private homes, eager to take advantage of bountiful local produce and seafood, and enjoy the perks that come without commercial pressure. “As a private chef, you still want to be having fun … there’s a little more freedom, there’s a lot more creativity, the work-life balance is night and day from being in the restaurant industry, and the compensation is significantly higher … and you really have to get creative, which is fun. If you have the same 15 vegetables for four months and you’re out there cooking five days a week, it’s a good challenge. As a chef it’s so much fun to cook in the Hamptons because you don’t get to do this in the city, you don’t get to go to the farm, hand-select things, talk to the farmer, ask questions.”
A former executive chef at Boulud Sud, Arruda was one of many in the hospitality industry furloughed during the pandemic. He was biding his time as a Hamptons private chef when he began thinking big-picture about his friends and colleagues who, like him, were all trying to find ways to stay afloat while the hospitality industry sorted its way out of COVID-19.
With the Hamptons crowd living in such a small circle, the concept took off, mostly because of high-value word-of-mouth referrals. “When a client calls, it’s something like, ‘Hey, is this Brian? So and so gave me your number and said you can find the best chefs.’”
Typical costs associated with hiring a private chef from Arruda’s company include a $100-$150 per diner chef’s fee for a short-term engagement, plus reimbursement for food and ingredient expenses, which can get pricey in a hurry.
Arruda said that a key element to hiring out a full-time private chef in the Hamptons comes down to housing. “Without a cottage or a guest-house or a group share,” said Arruda, “you pretty much don’t get a chef.”
He says that in the future, Executive Chefs at Home will soon be looking to pick up larger private events with full-service catering. There may even be a share house down the line to tackle the thorny housing issue.
“I think the best way to do [this business] is to understand the client and have them trust you and say to them, ‘I’m going to the market in the morning, I know what you guys like, I’m gonna get what’s good, I’m going down to Gosman’s or Amagansett Seafood to see what’s fresh, and then we’re going to curate a menu that way.”
To learn more about Executive Chefs at Home, visit executivechefsathome.com.