Being a private chef in Greenwich means catering $100,000 cannabis parties
One morning, Alexander Marlon, a private chef in Greenwich, Connecticut, was given less than two hours to source the ingredients for, prepare and plate an elaborate barbecue for his client’s visiting executive board. He quickly called his friend at the famed Brooklyn steakhouse Peter Luger for the freshest sausage, then worked with the housekeeper to artfully lay out heaps of other high-end meats and fish.
After the lunch, as the group headed off to spend the afternoon on a yacht, in lieu of a thank-you, his client’s wife merely told him, “I did not think you could pull it off.”
According to Business Research Co.’s Catering Services and Food Contractors Global Market Report 2023, the catering and food contractor industries will grow to $331 billion by 2027 from $269 billion in 2022. A tiny but increasingly visible portion of that market is the in-home-chef business, which has recently jumped to the forefront on social media.
In the past year, TikTok has created much buzz around private chefs in the Hamptons. The hashtag #hamptonsprivatechef has more than 8.8 million views, and #privatechefhamptons has 2.5 million. In the videos, chefs demonstrate how they work 17-hour days sweating over the stove to prepare farm-to-table meals.
Rob Li (@broccoliraab) has over 14.7 million views on his routine as a private chef, and Kara Fauerbach (@karafauerbach) has more than 5 million on a video demonstrating her lifestyle. Meredith Hayden, aka @WishboneKitchen, has more than 1.8 million followers. One of her videos, posted June 12, has topped 17.3 million views, showing her daily routine as a private chef in the Hamptons. In the video, Hayden, who works for fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra, demonstrates how meticulously she prepares each meal, snipping herbs from the garden outside Altuzarra’s house, kneading dough and showcasing the final tablescape.
Part of the appeal of these videos is the location: The Hamptons are a glamorous destination just outside New York City, where the rich and famous cavort for a few months each summer.
Which got us wondering: What’s it like to be a private chef in hedge fund capital Greenwich, where the party runs year-round?
The coastal Connecticut enclave, where the average house costs $3.5 million and there are currently “farms” on the market for $58 million (for 1.6 acres) and $35 million (for 16 acres), attracts a distinct crowd. There, “people are more subdued,” says Christian Paier, CEO of Private Chefs Inc. “It’s a lot more of a professional atmosphere.”
PCI matches clients to chefs. Each of the latter has to have worked at least eight years professionally; the Beverly Hills-based company, which has more than 2,000 chefs worldwide, has worked with celebrities such as Billy Joel, Beyoncé, Bill Gates and David Beckham.
Since chefs are not just working for a season, Paier says, they’re able to create more reliable schedules and even become a part of the family. Contracts commonly stretch for four years. In Greenwich, rather than going out to meet friends, people more often tend to host in their estates — and serve $4,000 worth of liquor while they do it, Marlon says. This puts chefs to the test to match the excitement of dining out.
In Greenwich, dinner parties in “these households serve $1,000 to $2,000 bottles of wine,” says Paier. In one case, he says, “clients opened a bottle of Screaming Eagle cabernet sauvignon 1992 during a small gathering at his estate. It’s the most expensive wine in the world.” (A bottle can go for $35,500.)
Marlon has been a private chef for the band Kiss, Christina Aguilera and Rod Stewart. He also worked for billionaire investor Ray Dalio and his family in Greenwich for four years and says Dalio was one of his favorite clients.
With another client, with whom he signed a nondisclosure agreement, Marlon once prepared a cannabis-themed dinner. The meal included fried oysters served in the shells and tuna tartare with black pepper caviar on top. The sauce throughout the meal was a triple mayo, citrus, ponzu and cannabis concoction. Dessert was a chocolate mousse cake made with cannabis butter.
The euphoric dinner served 100 people, with a total cost of about $100,000. This is typical for chefs in Greenwich. As Marlon says, “It went off without a hitch.”
The Fourth of July in Greenwich rivals the holiday weekend in the Hamptons; Marlon once spent about $25,000 for one client — which included putting on a private fireworks show, plus serving pulled-pork sliders, fresh fish and tons of bourbon. “Disposable income comes with parties,” he says.
An intimate Saturday night with roughly 30 close friends will end up costing around $10,000, Marlon says. Only the best lobster tails are served, to be washed down with either Woodford Reserve or Jefferson’s bourbon. He spent $4,000 on liquor alone on one such night, which is the norm for Saturdays. A truffle and caviar meal he’ll make for his clients and guests, typically once a month, can cost as much as $12,000 per person. (A few ounces of good truffle can cost around $1,200, and an ounce of caviar will run about $300.) One of his clients had a 6-year-old girl who loved caviar, and Chef Marlon incorporated the delicacy into her morning omelets.
Businesses for personal chefs are also ramping up. Whereas private chefs are hired to work with one family so they can devote more time to the client, personal chefs work with many clients at a time. They’ll often cook for multiple families in one day, meaning one or two meals, rather than masterminding their clients’ entire diet.
Greenwich-based personal chef Crystal Reinwald says she’s been busier than ever this summer, with her longest waitlist. “I’m turning people away all the time and sending them to other chefs,” she says.
More chefs from New York City are getting pulled out to Greenwich to take on clients for the weekends as the demand only increases. Chef Jesse Henderson started doing so this summer. “Everyone’s coming into the city in the morning,” he says. “I have the opposite trip.”
Being a private chef in such a high-profile place means adapting quickly to other people’s lifestyles and palates — and knowing the right vendors in a pinch. “You have to be prepared and have a list of those you can call on,” Marlon says. “Hopefully, they owe you a favor or two, because you are going to need it.”