How Does Rihanna's Private Chef Handle Pregnancy Cravings?

a list private chefs
Inside the Secret World of A-List Private ChefsPhoto Illustration Michael Stillwell; Getty Images(5)
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Paparazzi seem to be constantly catching your favorite celebrities coming and going from restaurants like Nobu in Malibu, the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, or Le Rock in New York City, but have you ever wondered who’s keeping them well-fed at home?

Here we get to know six of the most sought-after private chefs in the business who count award-winning actors, musicians, athletes, tech founders, and billionaires among their elite clientele, and learn their individual recipes for success with the A-list.

Michael Dane

celebrity private chef
Michael Dane works with clients including Nick Jonas, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Christina Aguilera.Courtesy Michael Dane

“I started cooking when I was about four years old,” says Orange County native Michael Dane. “My grandmother was my babysitter, and I was a hyperactive kid, so being a former restaurant owner, she channeled my energy and taught me to cook.” But his hospitality career didn’t start in the kitchen, instead it began in various public relations roles for hotels and restaurants including West Hollywood’s Sunset Marquis. “I was just terrible at sitting behind a desk,” he admits. “I’d position myself in the office where nobody could see my computer screen because I was planning out menus for dinner parties and making grocery lists.” Eventually he followed his passion and went to culinary school, studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles.

Then, after spending a few years in event catering—which he describes as “moving your entire apartment every day”—Dane scored his first client, former chairman of 20th Century Fox Television, Gary Newman. “He and his wife were big foodies with a farm and ranch in the Santa Inez Valley and loved bringing all the amazing produce and wine back to their home in Santa Monica,” says Dane. “It was great because I got full creative license as a young chef to make whatever I wanted, knowing this was exactly what I was meant to do.” Once he started building his network in the entertainment industry, the private clients began pouring in—Ozzy Osbourne (who loved Dane’s take on Thai curry), Steve Harvey, Ashley Simpson, and Sofía Vergara among others. Splitting time between Southern and Northern California with his husband, Nick Dane, a philanthropy-tech advisor, even made it possible to add a few Silicon Valley power players to his roster.

Since a chance meeting over the 4th of July holiday last year, he’s been the go-to chef for Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. “I had such a wonderful experience working with them that first time,” adds Dane. “And, with Nick having type 1 diabetes—like my husband Nick—it was an instant fit for my style of cooking and knowledge of diabetic cooking.” Now Dane travels to L.A. regularly to cook for them, and one of the couple’s favorite dishes happens to be one from the chef’s own childhood. “Priyanka loves my braised pork adobo. It’s a traditional Filipino dish that I’ve put my own spin on—she requested it three times in a week!”

Nikki Martin
Nikki Martin has cooked for the likes of Madonna, Barbara Streisand, and Sean Combs. Kim Fox Photo

Raised in California, Nikki Martin has always held a fascination for food. “I grew up with a mom who didn’t cook but worked in the industry at US Foods,” she says. “I’d go to conferences with her and be so into all the food and flavors—it really ignited my spirit.” Despite the initial spark, she decided to go to medical school—which included getting a degree from Harvard—before realizing being a physician wasn’t for her. “I had developed this desire to take care of people and decided to do it through food—it was my calling.”

After a series of jobs in restaurant kitchens and honing her skills as a mixologist behind the bar, Martin made a few appearances on Food Network programs before becoming the bar chef for Michael Voltaggio. “He let me shadow him in the kitchen where I learned a lot.” What followed was a role on season 8 of Food Network Star with Bobby Flay as her mentor. “It was like trial by fire culinary school,” she laughs. “But when I got off the show, I ended up working as a private chef thanks to some house managers [of celebrities] in L.A.” Word spread about Martin’s kitchen skill and clients like Sean Combs and Jared Leto began calling.

Most recently she’s unpacked her knives—and arsenal of fresh ingredients—for the likes of Madonna and Josh Brolin, whose surprise 55th birthday party she created a taco bar for over Super Bowl weekend. (It was a hit with his stepmother, Barbra Streisand.) But nobody can hold a candle to another equally impressive client. “Robert Downey, Jr. —hands down—was the best. He was such an enigmatic burst of light, and his wife Susan is just so lovely. And no matter how busy they were, they’d come together at 7 o’clock every night for family dinner.”

Debbie Solomon
Debbie Solomon cooks for Rihanna, including the singerCourtesy Debbie Solomon

“When it came time to pick a career it was either [go to] the French Culinary Institute or the Fashion Institute of Technology,” recalls Debbie Solomon, whose love of food is only rivaled by her passion for fashion. “But my mom was a chef and I loved it, so it was the best course for me.” After culinary school, she moved to Los Angeles and started working at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood. “I was there for five years and started picking up private clients on the side to hone my craft and get more practical cooking skills,” she adds. That’s when one out-of-the-blue referral changed her life, and she began a 10-year tenure as Rihanna’s private chef. “I had cooked for her for just three days when she hired me for her Super Bowl party, and then flew me to Hawaii to do her 25th birthday party—and I’ve been with her ever since.”

From party dishes for a Super Bowl viewing party to preparing meals for Rihanna and her family in Arizona where the superstar performed for this year’s halftime show (revealing her baby bump to the world), things seem to have come full circle and it couldn’t be a better fit. “I’m Caribbean too, so we have similar tastes and I cook a lot of the foods we both grew up eating,” she says. “But she eats the food she loves, and right now she loves anything with bok choy. I’ll just sauté it with chicken or beef and aromatics like bell pepper, onions, and thyme—it’s so good.”

CoreyBelle Earling
CoreyBelle Earling has cooked for sports stars including Serena Williams and Tiger Woods.Courtesy CoreyBelle Earling

“I’m from Philadelphia and right out of high school at 18 years old, I went to culinary school downtown,” explains CoreyBelle Earling. “From there I worked in the city’s top restaurants, and with chefs like Alfred Portale, before moving to New York where I was a chef and food stylist.” After a short time in the Big Apple, Earling made her way to Thailand—and eventually Vietnam—where, at 25 years old, she became head chef at a restaurant in Hoi An. “It was in this beautiful French colonial town, and the experience really boosted my confidence [as a chef].” After a year she returned to New York and landed a spot on the fourth season of Gordon Ramsey’s reality series Hell’s Kitchen. “It was total debauchery—I made it to third place out of 16 contestants, but it wasn’t a serious show about cooking like Top Chef.” It was during filming that Earling began dabbling in work as a private chef. “I remember telling Gordon about it and he said, ‘oh, that’s for people who can’t work in teams.’ Honestly, it was his comment that pushed me forward—as a private chef you absolutely have to be a team player to succeed.”

She started getting clients by word of mouth, the first of which was political insider and philanthropist Devon Cross. “I worked at her houses in Manhattan and Shelter Island before deciding to move down to South Florida in 2019,” she says. “At the time it was really busy there for private chefs, particularly when the pandemic hit—there were all these famous athletes and high net worth individuals who needed someone.” That included her most notable client, Tiger Woods, for whom she worked for a year and a half. “It was a 6-day a week job, but the opportunity to work with Tiger gave me a real fearlessness about cooking and the ability to read a client and know what’ll make them happy.”

While Earling’s current clients include the owner and publisher of Wine Spectator, Marvin Shanken, and golf great Greg Norman, one of her favorite career highlights came courtesy of another sports legend: Serena Williams. Once Earling served her signature chicken wings at a cocktail party, leaving the tennis star to proclaim, “That’s the best chicken wing I’ve ever had!”

Johnene Breaux
Johnene Breaux has cooked for clients including Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner. Courtesy Johnene Breaux

“When I was a little girl my mom and I would cook breakfast and pretend we had a restaurant called J&J’s Fine Eatery,” says Johnene Breaux, a Louisiana native. “I was probably about six years old and that started my love for cooking—that and I am from New Orleans after all, the home of great food and flavors.” From her imaginary restaurant to tuning-in to Emeril Lagasse during high school, Breaux had her career trajectory mapped out, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from Nicholls State University’s Chef John Folse Culinary Institute.“

After graduating in 2016, I had kept in touch with one of my colleagues who was [by now] working for Lil Wayne, and there was a moment he needed an extra hand,” she recalls. “That was the start of my journey as a private chef.” Breaux was flown to L.A. full of nervous excitement, but certain the experience would help jumpstart her career—and it did. “My friend was his [full-time] chef, but when he needed a break, I’d fill in. While still living in New Orleans, she traveled frequently to Miami and L.A. for Wayne, all the while networking with other private chefs, one of whom worked for Kobe Bryant. “One thing just led to another, and they recommended me for a job in L.A. [for the summer].” And it was that three-month gig that soon landed her in rapper and songwriter Travis Scott’s kitchen. “The first day I met him, he said, ‘the food out here doesn’t have any seasoning,’ and I told him I’d be the one to rescue him from that.”

So, what’s generally on the menu for the “Sicko Mode” singer—and quite often his partner Kylie Jenner and their two kids: good old fashioned Southern fare. “He loves my gumbo and catfish—he’s from Houston, so we have that Southern thing in common and he knows flavors.” Other staples include jambalaya, red beans and rice, and a morning must-have—bespoke breakfast burritos with bacon, eggs, and cheese.

Mike Shand
Mike Shand has clients including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Adele.Courtesy

Originally from New Zealand, Mike Shand’s love for food started on his family’s farm in Christchurch with its abundance of fresh produce, and his mother’s ability to transform it into something spectacular at dinnertime. By 1999, he was working in fine dining restaurants while earning an early degree in the culinary arts—and more recently, in 2018, a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Purdue University Global.

Though he’d been on tour with other performers, in 2007 he took the opportunity to work as Prince’s private chef for the full run of “The Earth Tour: 21 Nights in London”, and from there he embarked on a culinary relationship that’s lasted 13 years. In 2010 Shand joined Beyoncé’s “I Am” world tour and was offered the role of private chef to the musical icon. While he continues to cook for both Beyoncé and Jay-Z—and occasionally for other artists like Adele—the chef’s life has come to a rolling boil. “I’m 42 now and have a new baby boy, businesses in two countries, and I’m trying to work on a more sustainable lifestyle,” he says. “My biggest conundrum right now is how to keep cooking without cooking full time—it’s a labor of love, but such a commitment.”

One of those businesses was an idea born on tour with Beyoncé that became a reality—the highly popular eatery Love Baked Wings on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles (with a second location coming soon to Pasadena). “It’s something I’m really focused on,” explains Shand. “One of the things I noticed when I moved to America was the broken food system. The most successful food is fast food, and the most detrimental [to your overall health] is fast food, and what I’m offering is a cleaned-up, healthier model.” Another of his ventures, along with business partner Craig Pincus, is Elite Private Chefs, a chef placement agency that pairs private and personal chefs with a discerning clientele. “My place in the food community was really shaped by the private chef community,” he adds. “It gave me a respect for food I never would have never had just working in restaurants.” As it turns out, his secret sauce is easy to replicate. “I’m pretty good at noticing what people like, listening when they tell me what they’re in the mood for, and cooking with whatever the heck is around me—that’s the part I love most.”

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