Does a Personal Chef Need a Business License?
Hcareers / DECEMBER 18 2009




A personalized chef is the answer to many American families when it comes to deciding what’s for dinner. A personal chef works with her clients to provide dinner so that the client does not have to. Some personal chefs only prepare the food so that the client can conveniently cook it, while others prepare and cook the food from start to finish. To become a personal chef you will need take care of many business matters. In many states, that includes getting a business license. However, in some states only a DBA (“Doing Business As”) is necessary to run a personal chef service.

Catering vs. Personal Chef Service

Personal chefs often fall under the category of catering. Catering is defined as providing food and services, both of which a personal chef provides. Since caterers work with substances that will eventually be ingested by other individuals, strict laws and codes are put in place to protect those that a personal chef serves. These laws and codes must be followed to obtain and keep a business license. One key difference between personal chefs and caterers is that a personal chef cannot deliver cooked food to his client. He must prepare and cook the food in the client’s kitchen. If the food is delivered to the client, the personal chef must also obtain a caterer’s license, as well as have his kitchen inspected and approved by the health department.

Food and Safety Certificate

To get a personal chef business license or DBA, you will need to hold a current food and safety certificate. In most states this can be obtained by attending a short seminar at your local public health department. After the presentation you will be given a test that you must pass to obtain your food and safety certificate. The test will cover information such as food-borne illnesses, proper food temperatures and safety while working in a kitchen.


Some states may require only a DBA (Doing Business As) for a personal chef service. DBAs are a quick way to legally start a business. They allow you to open bank accounts and allow the IRS to keep track of any taxes owed. However, unlike other forms of businesses such an LLC or corporation, you are personally liable both financially and civilly. As such, it is recommended that if you choose a DBA, you also buy liability insurance or become bonded.

Business License

Many states require not only that you get a DBA but that you also obtain a business license. Any state in which you are planning on cooking food from a kitchen other than your client’s, and then delivering the food to your client, will require a business license as well as a catering license. Each state has different requirements for obtaining a business license. Licensing requirements can be found by visiting the state auditor’s office or through the state licensing office. Catering licenses can be obtained through calling your local courthouse and asking who regulates the license in your state. In some states, catering licenses are regulated through the Department of Health, while in others they may be regulated by offices such as the Department of Alcoholic Beverages.


Business licenses need to be regularly renewed to keep your business legally operating. Many state offices will send out reminders when it’s time to renew your license. To renew your license, visit your local departments of licensing and pay the renewal fee. Many licensing departments now also offer renewals online with a valid credit or debit card.


U.S. Personal Chef Association


American Personal Chef Association