In Miami, the Hamptons and Los Angeles, It’s Private Chef Season

Over the summer, chefs migrate to clients’ vacation homes, cooking up mouthwatering meals and social-media content: ‘Hamptons summer is like our Olympics’

By Ashley Wong


Bright summer vegetables bursting from a baked tart. Lemons squeezed over a pile of shrimp and mussels on the grill. A thick steak slathered in chimichurri. These mouthwatering meals, prepared in kitchens suited for Nancy Meyers movies, can only mean one thing: Private Chef Season is back.

On TikTok and Instagram, private chefs are giving viewers a taste of what their well-to-do clients eat and how it all comes together. (Think 17 hours of standing at a kitchen island and the freshest produce farmers markets can provide.) Their day-in-the-life accounts and step-by-step recipe videos are earning them bookings, sponsorship deals and millions of online fans. Many chefs say social-media interest peaks in the summer, when they migrate to the vacation homes of their clients—most of whom are never named—and start clipping fresh parsley from sun-drenched backyard gardens.

“Hamptons summer is like our Olympics,” said DyAnne Iandoli, a private chef and content creator with many Hamptons summer clients.

Iandoli, also a recipe developer for private-chef agency the Culinistas, said she estimated about 60% of the private chefs in New York City move to the Hamptons for summer work, whether it’s for weekend jobs or full-time, live-in gigs in a family’s home. Views of posts with the hashtag #privatechef have more than quadrupled since last June to reach more than one billion views, according to TikTok.

DyAnne Iandoli, a private chef in the Hamptons, with a handful of rhubarb. PHOTO: DYANNE IANDOLI

In the Hamptons, chefs said they can easily spot each other by how quickly they move through a Citarella grocery store or the black work shoes they’re wearing. Mike Shand, private chef to celebrities like Beyoncé and Adele and co-founder of the agency Elite Private Chefs, said he estimated there are hundreds and perhaps even thousands of chefs who head out east in the summer for work.

“If you can secure housing in the offseason for summer, you can get yourself up there without even a scent of a job, and you will be working all summer,” Shand said.

Reilly Meehan, a 32-year-old chef who works for a family living in Phoenix, said engagement with his TikToks nearly doubled in June, when he started posting from his clients’ summer home in the Hamptons. Aside from several political fundraising events where he was asked not to film, Meehan said his clients allow him to decide when, where and who to post on social media. He said he always asks for permission before featuring anyone on his social feed.

Meehan thinks private-chef TikToks resonate because they showcase aspirational lifestyles, but told from a more down-to-earth perspective: “Somebody working with food all the time is way more relatable to me than someone flying around on a private jet.”

Rob Li has garnered millions of views on his TikTok videos since he began posting in April. PHOTO: ROB LI

Though the backdrops are glamorous, these chefs make clear that preparing a day’s worth of gourmet meals several times a week can be a grueling task. In one video, private chef Meredith Hayden, known on TikTok as Wishbone Kitchen, spends 17 hours in the kitchen preparing food for a client’s party before chugging a massive jug of water and collapsing into bed. She declined to comment for this article.

Hayden is the reigning queen of Hamptons-chef TikTok, with nearly two million followers on the platform. Though summer is one of her busiest seasons for work, it’s also when she creates some of her most popular “day in my life” videos, featuring multicourse meals and brief backyard breaks.

Videos made by Rob Li, a 26-year-old private chef, have garnered millions of views since he began posting videos in April. He often invites viewers to imagine themselves in his position—as a private chef for a billionaire in the Hamptons—with laid-back, minimally narrated videos of sunny beach walks and bowls of miso mushroom carbonara.

Li, who has been working for the same client since November, said he’s mystified by the success of his videos.

“It’s so random and bizarre, like why is this essentially a trendy thing that people gravitate towards?” Li said. He guessed the appeal lay in the perception of the Hamptons as an exclusive, romantic destination, as well as its proximity to New York City.

He added that he decided to include the “billionaire” element in his videos because of “that inaccessibility factor that I feel like most people don’t see a lot of behind the scenes.”

For DaJanea Holmes, a 23-year-old tech worker from Dallas, the appeal of Hamptons-chef content is in its escapism.

“It’s like a stark contrast of what my actual day-to-day job is,” Holmes said of the videos. “It seems like a form of me living vicariously through them.”

“People in general are fascinated by the world of celebrities,” said Brooke Baevsky, a private chef based in Los Angeles who has cooked for high-profile figures like Chrissy Teigen and Imagine Dragons. “And what they eat is a very interesting part of it.”

Brooke Baevsky has cooked for celebrities like Chrissy Teigen. PHOTO: JONAS GAIDA

Some of the dishes also seem accessible, fans said. Even if you can’t afford a yacht or a Hamptons property, you can probably make a fancy chicken salad sandwich.

Several private chefs saw a boost in engagement on their pages after Pamela Vetrini, a 39-year-old social-media consultant, created a viral TikTok ranking private chefs in the Hamptons in the style of reality cooking show “Top Chef.” Vetrini said she had been following Hayden for about two years, but noticed more chef creators taking up her style in May. The videos act like “wealth porn,” Vetrini said.

“When you’re cooking in a kitchen in New York, it’s not as exciting,” Vetrini said, referring to the city. “The lighting is bad. There’s no pool in the backyard.”

Jay Lyon, a private chef based in Miami, takes a slightly different tack. Last year he went viral with TikTok clips in which he sensually hand-fed women grapes dipped in syrup. After his first viral grape-feeding video, he booked six months’ worth of private-chef work, he said.

“Those are the ones that land me my clients,” Lyon said. “Even if they have seen the videos and they don’t want the grape feeding, it brings them to the other videos.” He estimates that half his clients find him through TikTok.

Jay Lyon, a private chef based in Miami. PHOTO: JAY LYON

Though TikTok can help promote a freelance chef’s business, Shand of Elite Private Chefs said he would be hesitant to place some of those chefs with his own clients, who prize discretion.

“Keeping a certain level of confidentiality in your own life shows these people that you’ll respect their privacy as well,” Shand said.

Private-chef gigs can mean higher earnings and more creative control. Lyon said he got his start as a line cook earning about $6 an hour. Now, his average fee for a meal for two begins at $1,000, and can go as high as $25,000 for larger events. But it also comes with the burden of having to do everything else alone.

“You’re cooking for some of the wealthiest, most notable people on the planet,” Baevsky said of chefs with high-profile clients.

“These are not the clients you say ‘no’ to,” she added. “So you always have to figure out a way.”

Via The Wall Street Journal

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