Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How does your personal chef dinner service work?

A. If you choose the custom menu service we will start with a free consultation either over the phone or in person in your home. During this time we will discuss what you are looking for, your likes and dislikes, how the day of cooking goes, and you will familiarize me with your kitchen.  At least 5 days before your scheduled cook day I will send you a menu to approve. Then on the day, I am scheduled to cook I will go grocery shopping, come to your house to prepare your meals, package them up, clean up the kitchen and leave reheating instructions. 


If you choose the express service we will simply schedule a cook date, you will send me your menu options from the current menu and I will come to cook. Then on the day, I am scheduled to cook I will go grocery shopping, come to your house to prepare your meals, package them up, and clean up the kitchen. Order you food online to make it even easier. 


If you would rather have your food cooked outside of your home and delivered, I'm happy to cook your food on Monday in a commercial kitchen and deliver it to your home on Tuesday morning. Delivery is available for both the custom menu service and the express service. 


Q. How many meals do you prepare?

A. This is completely up to you. I can make anywhere from 2 to 5 meals, depending on which service you choose. I am here when you need me to help make your life easier and healthier.


Q. I have to follow specific dietary guidelines, will you be able to follow those?

A. I am happy to follow any dietary guidelines or restrictions that you may have. I have a great deal of experience with gluten-free having 2 family members with Celiacs, but can cook to any allergy or diet. A one time fee may apply if I have to alter my recipes more than usual.


Q. We only like to eat organic, is that possible?

A. Yes, since the cost of groceries is not included in the cost of the service I am happy to buy the groceries that you want. If you, yourself would buy all organic products at the store I will do the same. If you don't like any generic brands then I will only purchase brand names. You decide and I do the shopping. I will leave the bill on your counter when I leave and require payment within 15 days.


Q. How do you determine the menu for the custom service?

A. After our complimentary consultation, I will know your likes and dislikes and if there are any special dietary restrictions that I need to follow. At this time you can also provide me with any family recipes that you want me to cook. Then at least 5 days before your scheduled service, I will send you a menu to approve. It will be based on recipes I have cooked a million times as well as new ones if I need to create something to suit your needs. If you continue to use my service you can let me know which meals you like best and I will repeat those for you throughout my service with you.


Q. Do I have to use your service every week?

A. I am here whenever you need me. If you want me to come in only on a week when you are particularly busy that is fine or if you want me to come in every week I am happy to do that as well. Maybe you just need me for a dinner party one night or you are looking for someone to come in once a month. I work with your schedule and your needs.


Q. What does the price include for in-home service?

A. The price includes menu planning, grocery shopping, meal preparation and packaging in your kitchen, cleanup and reheating instructions. Your groceries are not included in the prices and neither is the cost of your containers. If you want me to use disposable containers there will be a fee each time I come, if you prefer reusable containers there is a one time fee to cover the cost of them. Mileage will be added to any bill that is over 25 miles from me. It will be charged as $.55 per mile over 25 miles from Arnold, MD.


Q. Will you buy other items I need at the grocery store that aren't part of your recipe?

A. If you only need a handful of items from the grocery store I am happy to buy them as part of my shopping trip. However, if you provide me with a list of things you need there will be a small charge for the extra shopping time. This can be discussed if you are interested in having me do more grocery shopping for you.


Q. When is payment due and what types of payment do you accept?

A. Full payment for the service is due before the service along with 50% of your estimated grocery cost.  The remainder of your grocery cost is due within 15 days after service. If you fall more than 30 days behind on paying your grocery balance I will suspend service until payment has been made. I accept cash, Zelle, checks and credit cards through Square. (2.25% fee for Credit Cards)


Q. Do you buy spices and condiments every time you need them?

A. No I do not. For spices, condiments and common items like onions and garlic, I will bring my own supply and only charge for what I use. I will not continue to buy items that you do not need or overcharge for common pantry items.


Q. What area do you serve?

A. I am located in the Arnold, MD area and will be happy to serve any client within a 25 mile radius of my house. I am more than happy to work with those outside of that area, however, you will be charged $.55 per mile for every mile over 25 miles. Common service areas include Annapolis, Prince Georges county, Anne Arundel county, and Baltimore.


Q. Do I need to be home when you come to cook?

A. No, most people are not home on the day I am scheduled to cook. During our consultation, you will show me how you would like me to enter your kitchen. I will come to your house in the morning, cook and package your food, clean up and leave the house smelling of home cooked meals. If you are home during my scheduled cooking time I do request that you not make plans to be in the kitchen. This can hinder meal preparation and well as present safety issues. I want to make the best meals possible and it is harder to do this when distracted.


Q. What type of containers do you use?

A. You have a couple of options when it comes to containers. If you already have ones at home you want me to use that is fine. If you want disposable containers every time I cook I will just add a charge to your grocery bill. If you want me to provide reusable containers I will charge you a one time fee for the containers and reuse them every time. This option requires that you leave the clean containers empty on the counter the day I am scheduled to come. If I do not see the containers I will use the disposable ones that I have on me. You will also have the option of packaging food into individual servings or family style.


Q. Do I need to have specific pots, pans, and cooking utensils?

A. You do not need to have anything on hand. I will bring all of my knives, cooking utensils, pot, and pans with me the day of your cook.


Q. Who typically uses your service?

A. Anyone and everyone. My services are great for busy professional couples, seniors that no longer wish to cook, families that are always on the move, new moms, singles that travel for work, and those with a CSA that don't know what to do with the vegetables.


Q. The cost seems to be about what I would pay for an entree in a restaurant - why is that?

A. My fees represent all of the components that make up a professional personal chef service, beginning with the assessment process that we complete to determine what you like to eat, how you like to eat (casual or formal), and any specific food restrictions you or your family may have (allergies, sensitivities, or medically-specific requirements).  Your distinctive profile drives the preparation of the entrees you have selected, and this feature is one that you're not likely to receive in most restaurant environments.  Additional personalized features include submitting meal selections for your approval and customizing my recipes to reflect your desires and requests; same day grocery shopping to assure only the freshest of ingredients; coming to your home to prepare your entrees in the safety of your own kitchen; plus packaging, labeling and storing your entrees.

If you were to compare a personal chef service to restaurant service you could think of it this way: For a restaurant, you must drive to get there, possibly wait for a table, and if you have allergies or special requests you don’t always have the guarantee that they will be honored, since most entrees are “assembly line” ready in the kitchen.  After eating your meal you must pay for it, tip the server, and get back in your vehicle to drive home.

If you have a Personal Chef Service, you can heat a beautiful entree that has been prepared specifically for your palate and requirements, and eat it in the comfort of your own home.  You can even enjoy it curled up on the couch in your “jammies” if you want.


Q. I have a set grocery shopping budget, can you follow it?

A. Yes, I will grocery shop as if I were you. If you like to save money by buying store brand items and shopping sales I am happy to do the same. You will just let me know during our consultation. I can choose meals with more affordable items and base them off of what is on sale at your local supermarket.


Q.  How long will the food last us?

A. Depending on how many entrees you order, and how many evenings you eat at home we can determine approximately how long your meals will last.  If you travel for business, entertain in restaurants during the week, or just enjoy eating out on occasion the meals will take you further than if you eat in each night.  Any food that isn't eaten within 5 days of being cooked should be frozen.


Arnold, MD

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Serving Washington, DC, Baltimore, Annapolis, Alexandria County, Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County, Prince Georges County, Howard County, Charles County and the surrounding areas.

©2016 Leave Dinner to Lettie.

Fully insured and ServSafe certified with a food safety management certificate from the National Restaurant Association.