Chefs from some of New York City’s top restaurants are leaving the business to work for billionaires after losing their jobs to the coronavirus, the New York Post has learned.
Out-of-work chefs from restaurants including Jean-Georges, Daniel, Eleven Madison Park, Per Se and Gramercy Tavern are being poached by talent agents and even real estate brokers to work for wealthy families since the coronavirus shutdowns have eviscerated the restaurant industry, sources said. The supply of quality chefs is so abundant that some wealthy people say they’re getting cold-called about the latest candidate.
“I received a call out of the blue asking if we wanted to hire a top chef who had worked for Jean-Georges,” one billionaire real estate developer told the NYPost's Side Dish.
For unemployed chefs, it’s often the only way for them to make money doing what they love at a time when sit-down dining is prohibited by the state lockdown.
“I was laid off six weeks ago. It just wasn’t possible to stay, no matter how much the chef wanted to keep us. I can’t stand not working. I miss being in the kitchen,” said Ian Tenzer, a 29-year-old former sous chef at three-star Michelin restaurant Eleven Madison Park, named the world’s best restaurant in 2017.
“Working as a private chef has always been a part of the industry I had thought about working in and, at this point in my career, it’s a good choice economically and professionally,” he added.
Indeed, chefs who choose to work in private homes stand to get a 20 percent to 30 percent pay raise, as well as other perks including better hours, sources said. Sous chefs at top restaurants can earn between $120,000 and $200,000 a year working full-time for a family, compared to closer to $100,000 working at a restaurant.
Personal chefs also commonly earn discretionary bonuses, especially if they are being asked to shelter in place with their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, says David Youdovin, chief executive of Hire Society, which helps individuals recruit private staff.
“The vast majority of restaurant chefs are grossly underpaid, and seldom receive benefits,” and now clients are being “very generous and accommodating,” Youdovin said.
One drawback is that you never know what kind of family you’ll get, chefs said. Some families are “lovely, adventurous and curious,” but others can be quite the opposite. They can be rude and “even physically and verbally abusive. I have heard horror stories,” said one chef who asked to remain unnamed. “Money can be a very corrupting influence.”