So You Want to Be a Chef

It’s a profession that has been glamorized by reality cooking shows on television that pit aspiring chefs against each other to determine the best of them; however, if you want to become a chef, you’re going to have to do it the hard way. The first and foremost requirement to be a chef and a successful one at that is to display a passion for the art. Yes, being a chef is a creative art and not just a job, so if you’re not in agreement, now is the time to look for another career. But if you’re determined to break into the culinary profession, then here’s what you need to know:

  • Being a chef (at any level) is a highly stressful, high pressure job. The glamour quotient, if it exists at all, is very low and restricted to the topmost tiers of the profession.
  • You must be prepared to spend long hours on your feet.
  • You must be prepared to keep erratic work hours.
  • You must be strong enough to lift heavy pots and pans and crates of food when the need arises.
  • If you want to move up in this profession, you must possess/learn both managerial and culinary skills.
  • You must be adept at juggling many tasks, including menu planning, planning and preparing meals, arranging and garnishing food, supervising kitchen staff, determining portion size, effecting cost control, determining food purchase in the right quantities, selection and storage of food, monitoring supplies, and utilizing leftovers to minimize waste.
  • You will also be responsible for restaurant sanitation issues and the observance of health rules for handling food.
  • You must have the required attitude and temperament for the job – the ability to be patient and composed even in high pressure situations and during times of disaster and chaos is an essential quality if you want to be a successful chef.
  • You must also be willing and able to be part of a team – a kitchen comprises many people working together and unless you’re willing to follow instructions and work in tandem with them, you cannot succeed in this profession.
  • Kitchens are hot and noisy and always filled with activity. So if you’re looking for peace and quiet on the job, you can forget becoming a chef.
  • You’re likely to get burned, cut, scraped and bruised, but these are a normal part of a chef’s day.

So now you’ve seen how hard it is to be a chef; and if you’re still committed to becoming one, read on to see what you need to do and what job descriptions and designations you’re likely to hold.

  • You need to start with taking culinary courses at schools that are accredited and which offer reputable courses. Begin your search at the website of the American Culinary Federation where you will find links to schools and courses, job postings, apprenticeship offers, and much more about the profession.
  • Once you complete your course, it’s best to find a position as an apprentice so you can gain more experience and decide what kind of chef you want to be. Many restaurants and hotel chains are looking for skilled chefs, so ask around for positions that suit you.
  • You’re most likely to start at the bottom of the chain and have to work your way up to the top.
  • The topmost position is the chef de cuisine or executive chef, something you can aspire to become and strive hard to achieve.
  • Most people become sous chefs in a few years if they’re skilled and hard-working – they are direct assistants to the executive chef.
  • If you’re interested in a particular aspect of cooking, you could choose to become a chef de partie or station chef or line cook (in charge of a particular area of production), sauce chef or saucier (prepares sauces, stews and hors d’oeuvres and sautés foods), fish cook or poissonier (prepares fish dishes), vegetable cook or entremetier (prepares vegetables, soups, starches and eggs), roast cook or rotisseur (prepares roasted and braised meats and broils meat and other items), or pastry chef or patissier (prepares pastries and desserts).

If you love the entire cooking experience, if you thrive on the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen, and if food is your passion, then becoming a chef is an extremely lucrative profession, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of satisfaction.

Posted on 24 March '11 by , under Featured.