‘People don’t know what happens in the back of house’: Meet the Kardashians’ private chef

Chef K, aka Khristianne Uy, who has also worked for Charlize Theron and Charlie Sheen, is stepping into the limelight herself on Tik Tok

Khristianne Uy, a private chef known as Chef K, has spent the last several years working on the margins of the Kardashians. Photograph: Carlos Jaramillo/The New York Times

On the penultimate episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian walks into a rental mansion on Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border. “Did I not say no to these cookies?” she snaps, gesturing towards an artfully arranged display of home-made animal cookies. “Like, they have to be taken away. I gained 15 pounds! Like, this is a joke,” she says, picking up the tiered serving tray. “I’m going to throw them in the toilet.”

Kardashian’s younger sister Kendall Jenner moves to stop her. “Okay, well then, control yourself, Kim, because I like them!” she yells.

The provenance of these all-too-tempting cookies was not discussed on the show. Their creator, Khristianne Uy, was hiding off-camera in the kitchen. The private chef, who prefers the moniker Chef K, spent years working on the margins of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, as well as the family’s latest reality programme, The Kardashians. But now she is stepping into the frame – on TikTok.

In a little more than two months the 40-year-old has racked up more than 100,000 followers on the platform, sharing the meals – and cookies – she makes for her famous clients, which she says have included 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 says on a Zoom call from her own spare, white kitchen in Los Angeles. “I know this is going to sound horrible, but I was, like, ‘What’s TikTok?’”

'People don’t know what happens in the back of house,' says Chef K. Photograph: Carlos Jaramillo/The New York Times

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. One of her first posts, a behind-the-scenes video of her making Chinese chicken salads, taco bowls and chocolate-chip cookies for Kylie Jenner at her Kylie Cosmetics office, has more than eight 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 apologised for that, by the way. “She was so kind. I wish they would have aired it,” Chef K says. At the end of the trip, she recalls, Kardashian walked up to her and said, “Chef, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say that about your cookies – they’re great. They’re really good. I just have no self-control.” All was forgiven.

As she manages her own rising profile, Chef K is still dealing with the daily demands of her high-profile clientele. When we speak she has just worked a 19-hour day catering a 1950s-diner-themed 21st-birthday party for Dr Dre’s daughter Truly Young, as well as another private event. And she is getting ready to embark on a multiday trip to Miami to cater to Philip Sarofim, a venture capitalist who used to date Avril Lavigne and is a son of the late 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 with the command of a high-ranking military officer.

“Scott: no dairy,” she begins, 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, no sweet potatoes, no gluten. Khloe: chicken, only white meat. The kids: I memorise their dietary restrictions, too. Kendall: nothing spicy. Kim: no cilantro. Kylie: soup all the time.”

These kinds of disclosures have drawn fans more deeply into her world, making “private chef” a paradoxically public role. The Kardashians have helped bolster her profile, too: Kourtney and her new husband, Travis Barker, have posted about her menus for their family dinners and children’s birthday parties on Instagram.

There’s a lot of grit, there’s a lot of sacrifice, there’s a lot that goes on for just that 10 minutes of their lunch

Sheen sings her praises. “Early on in our time together, I dared her to perfectly duplicate what I considered to be the greatest cheeseburger on planet Earth, the 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.”

Kourtney, Chef K says, is an especially big fan of matcha, so she has created matcha cookies, matcha protein balls and matcha ice cream to suit her tastes. Kourtney put the recipe for the protein balls on Poosh, her lifestyle website.

Why do fans care about the minute details of the Kardashians’ diets? Chef K compares the interest in private chefs to the comparatively long-standing fascination with celebrity hair and make-up artists. Today, a private chef is just one more element of the celebrity ecosystem about which people are eager to learn more.

And “with food, it’s still untapped,” she says. More people can relate to the act of cooking than spending three hours in a chair getting glam, she adds. Cooking is “the essence of the home. That’s where the heart is”.

Chef K is still figuring out what she wants to share with her new fans. But she has lots of stories saved up from working for celebrities over the years.

She started cooking early. After immigrating to California from the Philippines when she was 11 years old, she began culinary school at 15 and made a career working as a pastry chef at restaurants in Los Angeles.

It was during a stint working at BOA Steakhouse in the mid-aughts (which incidentally is now very popular with TikTokers) that she met her first client. From there, she started working for the film director James Cameron and the American Idol creator Simon Fuller.

She speaks lovingly – almost reverentially – about all of her clients. Nick Jonas is “one of the sweetest gentlemen”, Charlize Theron: “Love her”. Ryan Seacrest was her “favourite client” and the “nicest man”. He was also the one to connect her with Kris Jenner, which started her journey working for the Kardashians.

Kourtney Kardashian and her husband, Travis Barker, have posted about Chef K’s menus for their family dinners and children’s birthday parties on Instagram. Photograph: Carlos Jaramillo/The New York Times

Chef K also fondly recalls working for Sheen, even though she started at a tumultuous time in his personal life. It was 2011, she says, “when all that tiger-blood thing happened; he had just done the interview.”

But he turned out to be the nicest guy who always asked for liverwurst sandwiches and chicken and dumplings, she says. Fans assume that her moniker, Chef K, is related to her work with the Kardashians, but she says Sheen was the one to start calling her that, after he couldn’t figure out how to spell her name on one of her cheques.

She said she loved working for Sheen because it also gave her the opportunity to cook for his ex-wife, Denise Richards, and their children. “They lived down the street and would come over more,” she says. “It was like the children eating and smiling with their father and their mother, and I thought, Wow, this is happening through food.”

It was during this time that Chef K got her first taste of fame: she says Richards connected her with Patti Stanger, who at the time was hosting the reality show Millionaire Matchmaker. Chef K ended up appearing on the show as its “first lesbian millionaire”. She also appeared on the first season of The Taste, a cooking-competition show, which she won.

After those appearances, however, she got busier with her private clients and retreated 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 collaboration in the works. Mostly, though, she wants to show fans at home what it’s really like to work in a celebrity’s kitchen.

“People don’t know what happens in the back of house,” she says. “There’s a lot of grit, there’s a lot of sacrifice, there’s a lot that goes on for just that 10 minutes of their lunch.” – This article originally appeared in The New York Times