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How to set a chef appearance fee

chefs in the kitchen
Photo: Shutterstock

Question:

A local university asked me to do a guest chef event where campus dining prepares a featured entree from my restaurant, and I hang out and talk to students and do a Q&A. No actual cooking. They asked what my “appearance fee” is. Any idea how I should set that?

– Chef-owner

Answer:

Add setting an appearance fee to the long list of things chefs don’t learn in culinary school. Needing one is a good problem to have.

While I won’t advise on the exact dollar amount, here are a few strategies to keep in mind:

  • Consider the big picture. While being paid to schmooze is appealing, the real money is marketing to a campus community to build connections with potential customers, especially as we come up on holiday party season. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish in the negotiation.
  • Offer to work within their budgets. It’s reasonable to say that while this is the number you hope for, you are willing to work within their budgets to make it happen, provided you are being paid equitably with other chefs who have made similar appearances.
  • Back channel. Look up what other chefs have done these appearances. If you know any of them, reach out and ask what they charged for similar events.

The best advice I’ve gotten on setting fees is to find a number that is high enough where if you get the gig, you are excited to do it and low enough that if it doesn’t work out, it’s no big deal.

More on setting consulting rates here.

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