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Recipe For A New career

By Karen Tina Harrison | Special to amNewYork
January 7, 2008

Who Pulled It Off: Juan Pablo Chavez, 37

What He Does: Chavez is a chef for hire who runs Healthy Meals JPC. (

What He Used To Do: Chavez holds a master's from the London School of Economics and was an economist in investment banks.

Juan Pablo Chavez always has something cooking. (Rob Rich Photography)

Why He Switched: "I specialized in Latin American markets and was sort of a financial diplomat. But I wanted to be my own boss, and cooking has been my passion since I was a little boy playing in my grandmother's kitchen in Mexico City."

How He Did It: "I sensed a lot of demand here for personal chefs, so I enrolled in cooking school part-time. I quit my job and worked at Per Se and Le Bernardin, and I developed recipes for Whole Foods. I started Healthy Meals JPC in '05."

What A Personal Chef Does: "I handle my finances, marketing and website. I meet each client to discuss their needs, preferences and budget. I test dishes at home and cook in clients' kitchens, usually a family supper or a dinner party. Sometimes I shop and serve. I charge by the hour, and clients foot the supplies. I also teach cooking classes."

Who Does This Job Best? "In any customer-service business, you have to be pleasant, patient, flexible and reliable. As a chef, you must be as creative as the client wants. You have to keep the meals fun, because you depend on repeat business."

How's The Dough? "Nothing except entertainment compares to Wall St. salaries. But New Yorkers want personal chefs, and you can earn enough to live in Manhattan."

What About Perks? "I meet interesting New Yorkers who share my love of food. Sometimes I travel with them to places like the Hamptons or Provence. And it's great to be my own boss."

What Else You Should Know: "When you're Mexican, hospitality and cuisine are part of your heritage. I'm doing what I was born to do.",0,3696283.story

2007 Chef Juan Pablo (Healthy Meals JPC)                                                                       Web/Graphic Design: Richard Monge