What should you expect from a career as a chef

So you want to be a chef? Cool! This is an enviable position in the hospitality industry that is growing at 17% between now and 2014, contributing to more new jobs to the global workforce and 2.2 million for the USA. The leisure market has seen an upsurge with more people now informed about wine and travel destinations than was the case twenty years ago. This is why your choice to be a chef may be the right one, unlike some who may want to shy away from hospitality jobs citing long work hours but not acknowledging potential benefits like opportunities for personal growth and six-figure incomes. Accordingly, the culinary field seems to have become the desire for many in the last few years for eating is mandatory in daily life and many understand the role and need for professional chefs the world over. So what to do to become a chef?

First, start by assessing both your professional as well as personal potential. This is important so as to be sure you want to become a chef and not anything else, not to mention that a decision out of self-assessment leaves you motivated hence boosting your productivity and reduces stress. Measure your skills, values, interests and abilities objectively. This helps you know if you require further training in cookery and what that training is.

It is of utmost importance that you be an organized team player who can effectively manage stressful situations. Ask yourself if you’re dynamic and adaptable enough to be able to think on your feet – like deciding what should be done by others or you when a diner’s crucial tiger prawns that happen to be your signature dish, aren’t served on time! Dietary schedules must always be followed and in the right way. If you suit this description, then you may start expecting a great working life in the ‘back-house’ and getting along with others relatively well.

Another crucial factor is passion. Just how enthusiastic are you about food? Are you crazy about well-cooked food? Let your interest in food be known…talk about those recipes you practiced at your house, that romantic, delicious meal you enjoyed over your holiday in the Caribbean or just the latest cookery books you’ve gone through. Do you tune your TV to a program on food – preparation, service, advice – etc? How many magazines on food have you read in the past 1 month?

Find a Good School

Get a good school that will not only issue you with a good certification, but also ensure you attain desired culinary skills. In a school, you’ve the benefit of climbing the tree from down up, learning from basic to advanced techniques. Make your choice of school correspond to your needs, for instance if you want to get a chef’s job preparing foods from a certain regional or in a certain style, your schooling should give you those specific skills. But even with good school training and the best culinary certifications money can afford, you may still end up peeling a lot of garlic before you earn your title – and some rest! The bottom line as a new cook seems to be: years of sweating and sacrificing might get you a seat in the chef’s office. I mean creativity, energy and ambition will get you to the top. Reason is, practice and more practice is the surefire way of refining your skills. And this comes in handy when you graduate and working as a chef, you’re always expected to whip up dishes within a short time and without mistakes, as well. Practice also gives you the “experimenting” bonus where you can try out flavors and ingredients to know tastes that go together and those that don’t. Remember that learning about a dish and producing one or two times in training is nothing compared to the apprentice chef who’s done it 400 times over.

Basic Know-How

If you’re really mad about food and cooking, and this is where you see your career being, it’s imperative that you have an idea on the fundamental structure of a kitchen. A majority of professional kitchens have a hierarchy of authority, mostly depending on size of the restaurant and its clientele base. A few common terms in the kitchen and that you should know include:


Mainly trainee-chefs and normally where you land if you’re new to any professional kitchen.

Commis Chef

Newly trained chefs graduate to this level, usually answerable to a Chef de Partie, while learning basics like preparation of vegetables.

Chef de Partie

Working as a chef also brings along responsibilities, sometimes. A chef de partie is in-charge of some sections of the kitchen, making sure food goes out at service times while they also cook. They’re normally assisted by commis chefs during service.

Sous Chefs

They are directly below the Head Chef/chef de cuisine and come in handy when the head chef is absent.

Head Chef/Chef de Cuisine

This is the kitchen boss who also plans menus, can sign up or fire staff and deals with budgetary, supplies and costs managements for the restaurant.

Executive Chef

They are normally to be found in bigger establishments like hotels where they may be in charge of menus as well as setting style of the cuisine served.

Working as a Chef

Being a chef is a dream career for many, conjuring images of leading crack platoons of sous chefs in TV-like, stainless steel kitchen full of glamour and producing fabulous meals to dozens of people. Isn’t it just great? Definitely it is but unfortunately a kitchen is not always like that for being a chef is to accept hard, grueling work, normally involving long hours and paying close attention to details emphasized. Here, the profession seems to only reward the talented and daring who grab opportunities they come across. Due to their working schedules, chefs operating in one urban center or community form an association through which to interact and get ideas as well as share experiences with other chefs. Mostly, the genuine friendships around the workplace colleagues and the creativity at work when working with food not mentioning the beauty of a perfect presentation, keep the chefs moving in their careers. In the kitchen you will also learn the language of the chefs – kitchen slang so you know for example, that to Baton is not to whip someone with a baton… but to cut vegetables into thin sticks normally no longer than a matchsticks or that a Blast Chiller is just a cold cupboard that rapidly chills hot foods. You become a ‘chump’ – a hybrid between a fool and an idiot – if your meal is wanting! And wait, did you pour any liquids on the floor? It’s not wet or soggy…it’s just ‘manky’.