In the last episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” Kim Kardashian moved into a rented mansion in Lake Tahoe.
“Did I say no to these cookies?” she snapped, gesturing toward an artfully arranged display of homemade animal cookies. “Like, have to take them. I gained 15 pounds!
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“Like, it’s a joke,” she said, picking up the tiered serving tray. “I flush them down the toilet.”
Kardashian’s younger sister Kendall Jenner moved to stop her. “Well, then control yourself, Kim, because I love them!” she screamed.
The origin of these all-too-tempting cookies was not discussed on the show. Their creator, Christian Ui, was hiding a camera in the kitchen. The private chef, who prefers the moniker Chef K, spent years working on the sidelines of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” as well as the family’s latest reality show on Hulu, “The Kardashians.” But now, she’s entering the frame – on Tiktok.
In a little more than two months, Chef Kay, 40, has racked up more than 100,000 followers on the platform, sharing the meals — and cookies — she makes for her celebrity clients, which she says include Charlize Theron, James Cameron, Ryan Seacrest, Sean Combs and Charlie Sheen.
In June, Chef K was catering a birthday trip for a client when he pulled her into one of his social media videos. “At the end of the last dinner he goes, ‘Chef, do a TikTok with me!’ ” she said on a Zoom call from her spare white kitchen in Los Angeles. “I know it sounds scary, but I thought, ‘What is TikTok?’ “
Since then, Chef K, who has short, dark hair and a constellation of tattoos on her neck and arms, has been uploading her own “day in the life” style videos. Her first post, a behind-the-scenes video of her making Chinese chicken salad, taco bowls and chocolate chip cookies for Kylie Jenner at her Kylie Cosmetics office, has more than 8 million views.
She also shared a clip of Kardashian’s on-camera animal-cookie freakout with the caption “When you accidentally make Kim K gain 15 pounds.”
Kardashian apologized for that. “She was so kind, I wish they would have aired it,” Chef K said. At the end of the trip, she recalls that Kardashian walked up to her and said, “Chef, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say about your cookies—they’re great. They’re really good, I have no self-control.” All is forgiven.
‘No Eggs, No Sweet Potatoes, No Gluten’
While she manages her own growing profile, Chef Kay still deals with the daily demands of her high-profile clients. When we talked, he said. Dre worked 19-hour days for a 1950s-diner-themed 21st birthday party for daughter Truly Young, as well as another private event. And she’s set to embark on a multiday trip to Miami with Philip Sarofim, a venture capitalist who used to date Avril Lavigne and is the son of Texas billionaire Fayez Sarofim.
On top of her many private engagements, Chef K still regularly cooks for all the Kardashians and can recite their dietary restrictions and preferences at the behest of a high-ranking military officer.
“Scott: No dairy,” he began, referring to Kourtney Kardashian’s former partner, who is still a major presence on the show. “Kourtney: Depends on what the doctor says – no eggs, vegan now, sweet potatoes, no gluten. Khloe: Chicken, only white meat. Kids: I remember their dietary restrictions too. Kendall: Nothing spicy. Kim: No cilantro. Kylie: Soup all the time.”
These kinds of revelations have drawn fans deeper into his world, making “private chef” a paradoxically public role. The Kardashians have also helped boost her profile: Kourtney and her new husband, Travis Barker, have posted her menus for their family dinners and children’s birthday parties on Instagram.
Sheen sings her praises. “Early in our time together, I dared her to perfectly replicate what I thought was the greatest cheeseburger on earth, Five Guys – Double Bacon,” Sheen said. “Less than 24 hours later she served me one. I took one bite and never went to Five Guys again.”
Courtney, the chef says, is a big fan of matcha in particular, so she created matcha cookies, matcha protein balls and matcha ice cream to suit her taste. Courtney shares the recipe for the protein balls on her lifestyle website, Poos.
Why do fans care about the minute details of the Kardashians’ diet? Chef Kay compared the interest in private chefs to a relatively longstanding fascination with celebrity hair and makeup artists. Today, a private chef is one more element of the celebrity ecosystem that people are eager to know more about.
And “with food, it’s still unused,” she said. More people can relate to the act of cooking than sitting in a chair for three hours to get glam, she said. Cooking is “the essence of home,” she said. “There’s a heart.”
Chef K isn’t the only private chef to find online fame lately. Meredith Hayden, a private chef in the Hamptons, has gone viral on TikTok more than once this year, sharing videos of “days in the life” from her job catering to a wealthy family at their summer home. Using the handle @wishbonekitchen, she has amassed more than 900,000 followers, so much so that two of her clients, fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra and her husband, Seth Weissman, decided to open their own accounts. Hayden, 26, helped launch Altuzarra by doing a “customer reveal” video in July.
Hayden said Altuzarra and Weissman are supportive of her social media work and give her plenty of time to take photos of her food before serving. “I remember last summer Joseph said, ‘I got a bell lamp, do you want to use it?’ “
She attributes the success of her videos and Private Chef content to the idea that videos in general are ambitious on different levels. “I would get comments like, ‘I don’t know if I want to hire you or I want to be you,'” she said. “Some people want to be able to hire a private chef, and others are like, ‘I’m so jealous of you living as a private chef and having that job.’ “
Chef K is still figuring out what she wants to share with her new fans. But she has many stories that have survived working for celebrities over the years.
Soon she started cooking. After moving to California from the Philippines when she was 11, she started culinary school at 15 and pursued a career working as a pastry chef in restaurants in Los Angeles.
It was in the middle of a stint working at BOA Steakhouse (which incidentally is now very popular with TikTokers) that she met her first client. From there, he began working for director James Cameron and “American Idol” producer Simon Fuller.
She speaks lovingly – almost reverently – about all her clients. Nick Jonas is “one of the sweetest gentlemen.” Charlize Theron: “Love him.” Ryan Seacrest was her “favorite customer” and “best man”. He was also the one who connected her with Kris Jenner, which started her journey of working for the Kardashians.
Chef K also recalls working for Sheen despite a turbulent start in her personal life. It was 2011, she said, “when the tiger blood incident happened, he had just done an interview.”
But he became the best boy who always asked for liverwurst sandwiches and chicken and dumplings, she said. Fans assume her moniker, Chef K, is related to her work with the Kardashians, but she said Sheen started calling her after he couldn’t figure out how to spell her name on one of her checks.
She said she loved working for Sheen because it also gave her the opportunity to cook for her ex-wife, Denise Richards, and their children. “They lived on the streets and more will come,” she said. “It was like kids eating with their dad and mom and smiling, and I thought, wow, this is happening through food.”
It was during this time that Chef K got her first taste of fame: She said Richards hooked her up with Patti Stanger, who was hosting the reality show “Millionaire Matchmaker” on Bravo. Chef K appeared on the show as his “first lesbian millionaire”. She also appeared on Season 1 of the ABC cooking competition show “The Taste”, which she won.
After those appearances, however, she became preoccupied with her private clients and withdrew somewhat from the public eye. Now, with her new social media profile, she is eager to create a lasting brand. She is considering writing a cookbook and has a beverage support in the works. Mostly, though, she wants to show fans at home what it’s like to work in a celebrity kitchen.
“People don’t know what goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “There’s a lot of patience, there’s a lot of sacrifice, there’s a lot that goes into their 10 minutes of lunch.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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