Dinner and a show
"I occasionally cook for this young bombshell celebrity in her house in the Dunes area of the Hamptons (sorry I can't say who). Well, while my staff and I were in the kitchen preparing dinner, she and her partner proceeded to have sex on the patio, right in front of the whole staff. I mean full-on nudity while we were cooking in the kitchen. And let me just say, she was LOUD. Eventually it was over and we just kept on cooking." -- Silvia, private chef, 10 years
"This woman hired me for a party. She said, 'I hope you like dogs, because I rescue them.’ When I arrived at her property, I discovered she hadn't just rescued a few dogs, she'd rescued 200. The dogs were everywhere. When I kindly asked her to keep them in one place so we could safely and hygienically prepare the meal, she started yelling at me and my team, accusing us of being horrible people who didn't like animals. I love dogs, but 200 of them roaming around like wild creatures was too much. That was my first and last time working for her." -- Silvia, private chef, 10 years
"I contract out chefs for my business and help serve at the parties. I was working a party when my client's 10-year-old son came up to me. He told me that Tommy, the chef, was "his favorite Tommy" that works for him, over his driver Tommy and pilot Tommy. I tried to explain to him that Tommy works for his parents and not for him. But it didn't matter. That kid is ruined." -- Lisa, private chef and server, 22 years
"I had met with a family that was interested in my becoming their family chef. We'd had a great meeting and I thought it was going really well! Then, they had me go back to the kitchen, where I saw a loft bed and a toilet with a screen curtain to cover one of the spaces in the corner. They told me: 'Oh yes, just so you know, one of our kids decided that our old pantry was going to be his new room now. So you'll probably see him in here a lot while you're working.' I didn't know what was more appalling, that they were OK with their kid living in the pantry space, or that there was a toilet in the corner. I don't even know whatever they'd said after that, because I was too busy hearing the alarms screeching in my head. Needless to say, I left in a flash!" -- Caroline, private chef, one year
"I was working a wedding with my staff in a makeshift kitchen. The venue didn't really have a kitchen so we had to rent a lot of equipment and the space was really tight. As service began, it became pretty hectic right away. One of the servers, running with some dishes, wasn't paying attention to his surroundings. He tripped and landed head-first into an oven. He had to go to the emergency room, but it was a wedding, so the rest of us had to finish the meal. I think he learned his lesson: Always look behind you!" -- Silvia, private chef, 10 years
More money, more problems
"I used to regularly cook for this very wealthy family in New York City. They had the most gorgeous apartment and terrace with a Jacuzzi and outdoor grill. My client, the matriarch, insisted the kids only eat filet mignon and lobster tails, but would then proceed to gawk at the receipt when she saw the price of organic blueberries at $4.99 a pint. I switched to conventional berries afterwards. Enjoy that lobster with a dessert of pesticides!" -- Mary-Anne, private chef, three years
"Four years ago, after graduating culinary school, I was given what I thought would be an amazing opportunity to work with a chef who'd been running a three-Michelin-star restaurant in New York for over 10 years. He had recently left the restaurant to cook for New York's elite. My father knew him from the restaurant and connected us when he needed help with a dinner party. It was my first gig out of school. I was going to get $25/hour. Awesome!
"When I arrived at the client's house, the chef was totally unprepared and ended up making a half-assed effort with the meal: a poorly executed ceviche, plain chicken with glazed carrots, and a chocolate soufflé. I couldn't believe when he told me he was getting paid $10,000 to cook this mediocrity and for only eight people! I can't even tell you if it was good or not, because he didn't even bother to feed me. You always feed the staff!
"After the dinner was over, the chef told me he'd forgotten to go to the ATM and would pay me the next day. He lived in my neighborhood, so I took his word because, you know, his client just paid him $10k and he was kind of a friend of my dad's friend. But to this day, almost four years later, I still haven't got paid for the job, even after following up twice. Never again!" -- Liz, private chef, four years
Hosts who ghost
"I was hired by a couple to cook dinner for them and 25 of their guests. They told me I could let myself in to set up for the 6:30pm party. When I arrived in the afternoon no one was there. OK, I thought. Hours passed by and it was almost 6. My clients still weren't home. Guests started arriving. I served them cocktails and dinner. Finally, by dessert, my clients, the hosts, showed up. They had completely forgotten about the dinner party!" -- Silvia, private chef, 10 years