Chef

How to Become a Chef in the UK and Worldwide

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If you are a foodie and possess a passion for cooking, you might consider being a chef. To be a chef can be an exciting career for someone who has the endeavour and dedication in the food venture.

As a chef, you would be dealing with recipes, flavours, textures, along with the cooking techniques. You need to be innovative to bring out the fresh dishes right from your kitchen to the table of the food lovers. That is why this job requires years of hard work and willingness to learn and prosper in this field.

To help you in this journey of becoming a chef, we have come up with all the relevant information you need to know to follow your passion. Read the blog thoroughly to learn about how to become a chef.

Who is a Chef?

A chef is someone who not only cooks but is also responsible for creating recipes, ordering ingredients, planning and pricing the menu, managing costs, overseeing food preparation and receiving customers’ feedback. So besides cooking, a chef has to carry out responsibilities within and outside the kitchen.


What is the Difference between a Cook and a Chef?

Both the chef and the cook are responsible for preparing food in the kitchen. However, there remain some differences between them. Have a look at the table below-

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What are the Different Ranks of Chefs?

In every kitchen, there are different ranks of chefs who remain responsible for running the kitchen smoothly in order to deliver food orders within time. Every chef performs their job roles according to their hierarchical position. The following gives an insight into the various ranks of chefs and the duties they have.

Executive Chef

Large chains or restaurants usually appoint an executive chef. An executive chef does very little cooking. Their primary role is to manage the kitchen and its staff. This includes observing and training personnel, planning menus, managing the culinary budget and sometimes purchasing. To be an executive chef, you need prior experience in cooking as well as good management skills to ensure that the kitchen is running efficiently.

Head Chef (Chef de Cuisine)

The head chef remains at the top of the hierarchy in restaurant kitchens and is responsible for controlling all the aspects of the kitchen. They create menus, control kitchen costs, and manage the kitchen staff. Some head chefs leave the cooking to the deputy chef and the rest of the team, while others prefer to be involved in the day-to-day cooking activities.

Deputy Chef (Sous Chef)

The deputy chef, also known as the sous chef, remains second-in-command in the kitchen. There can be more than one deputy chef, depending on the restaurant and its management. The deputy chef’s role may overlap with the head chef. However, the deputy chef is in charge of the kitchen and oversees the day-to-day activities.

Station Chef (Chef de Partie)

The station chefs play critical roles in the kitchen. These chefs cook the food that is being served to customers. Each station chef is responsible for a different food category. For example, there is a chef in charge of cooking the fish and there is also a chef who cooks the meat.

Commis Chef

A commis chef is a junior chef who learns from a more experienced chef, such as a chef de partie. A commis chef is the ideal starting point if you want a senior role in a restaurant kitchen. A commis chef measures ingredients, prepares meat and vegetables, assists other chefs, cleans the station and helps with deliveries.


What are the Duties of a Chef?

Working as a chef can be a varied and dynamic role with various responsibilities. Some of them are-

  • MPreparing enus- The chef is responsible for naming the items listed in the menu, analysing the performance of each of the items or dishes, and reviewing the dishes as a part of the whole menu.
  • Inventory Management- A chef is the key person to decide which ingredients are to be ordered from the suppliers. In this way, he also participates in budgeting and keeping records to present before the restaurant administration.
  • Monitoring Safety Standards- Chefs need to strictly follow the kitchen safety standards and monitor that their subordinates are maintaining them too. He also looks after the functionality of the kitchen equipment to avoid any unwanted incidents.
  • Quality Control- A chef inspects the freshness of the ingredients and ensures that the food they are providing is of the best quality. He also monitors the cleanliness of the kitchen.
  • Recruiting Chefs- One of the responsibilities of the senior chefs is to take part in the recruitment process to select the eligible candidate to include in their team.
  • Train the Kitchen Staff- The senior chefs are also responsible for training the other kitchen staff and ensuring that their duties are carried out to their fullest potential.
  • Developing New Recipes- Experimenting and developing new ideas to introduce new dishes is the most important duty of any chef.
  • Receiving Feedback from the Guests- A chef is also known to interact with the guests to receive their feedback on food quality, service and presentation. He modifies and develops those areas that require more attention along with his team members.

The Necessary Skills Required to be a Chef

Being a chef is not only about your cooking skills; it demands a combination of your culinary skills and soft skills. Have a look at some of the essential skills that a chef should have.

Skills Required

How to Gain Essential Work Experience as a Chef?

If you aspire to be a chef, you need to get some experience to increase your chances of getting your first job. However, gaining work experience as a chef can be difficult if you do not know anyone in the industry. Here are some suggestions of places where you can contact for the voluntary experience.

Restaurants

The most obvious place to gain experience as a chef is the restaurants. You can contact a restaurant kitchen and ask if you can volunteer. Restaurant kitchens appreciate additional help preparing ingredients and assisting other team members.

Try sending volunteer enquiries to restaurants that you admire and have visited before. It will make them feel that you are genuinely interested in working in their restaurant.

Hotels

Working in a hotel kitchen might give you the chance to work with experienced chefs. Some hotels only serve breakfast, while others have restaurants that cater for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can look for such hotels and get the practical experience of working in a professional kitchen.

Bakeries

Though most bakeries only hire pastry chefs, they can offer excellent work experience for aspiring chefs. Working in a bakery, you can observe how pastries, desserts, cakes and many other baked goods are made.

Just like a restaurant chef, chefs in a bakery have to follow strict recipes and they need to have exceptional presentation skills. Volunteering at a bakery will let you learn how to follow the recipes and the importance of food presentation.

If you decide to be a specialised chef and want to become a pastry chef, working in a bakery will give you an excellent kickstart on your career path.


Working as a Kitchen Porter

This entry-level job will expose you to the reality of kitchen life. A kitchen porter is the pot washer and many great chefs had started out from here. If you work as a kitchen porter, you will experience the pressure of a busy shift, the fast pace of the kitchen, and the thrill of working with a team.

Kitchen porters are in direct contact with the chefs themselves, so you can take this opportunity to observe and ask questions. Try picking up lots of tips, observe basic food prep, show your interest to help them and you can develop the foundations of the trade.

Since you wouldn’t need any experience to apply, you can start working as a kitchen porter at a young age, even as a teenager.


Working as a Waitperson

If you are struggling to get work experience as a chef, you can start working as a waiter since finding a chef job isn’t always easy. Waiters work between the kitchen and the restaurant. In some restaurants, the waiters are also responsible for preparing desserts and assisting with other dishes.

As a waiter, you can observe how the chefs work and get insight into how the kitchen works and runs. If you develop a good relationship at work, you can apply when a new kitchen vacancy becomes available.

Apprenticeships

Many chefs prefer to start as apprentices rather than going straight to culinary school. Doing an apprenticeship offers practical experience, networking opportunities and a chance to see what it is like working as a chef.

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Who are the Employers?

You can find job opportunities as a chef in places like-

  • Chain restaurants
  • Hotel Restaurants
  • Bar Restaurants
  • Pubs
  • Cruise ships
  • Armed forces

What are the Typical Working Hours of a Chef?

The working hours of chefs are determined by their role and the setting they are working in. But, to remember, as a chef, you would be required to work in the evenings, weekends or even during public holidays, depending on the nature of the business.

While chefs can work a standard working week of 40 hours, some kitchens may require longer working hours, so a chef might have to work 50-70 hours a week.

The busiest periods for a chef are the lunch and dinner hours on weekends. Chefs get even busier during holidays and festivals when there is a massive rush of customers.


How to Become a Chef?

Before you dig deeper into how to become a chef, make sure you understand what this career entails, as it is not only about preparing food. Many chefs are involved in managing and training staff, planning recipes and menus, ordering ingredients and kitchen supplies, and other restaurant management tasks besides cooking.

If you are confident and passionate enough to carry out the above mentioned responsibilities, consider following the steps below to fulfil your dream career of becoming a chef.

Become a Chef

Obtain a relevant school qualification

Some restaurants require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED equivalent to work as a chef. It is possible to find employment without a culinary school education; however, finding a job in higher positions may be more challenging.

Join a Culinary School

Enrolling in a culinary school will be incredibly valuable in learning how to become a chef. Culinary programs can provide you with a chance to study recipes, ingredients, and cooking techniques and terminology from around the world. Through hands-on learning and faculty guidance, the culinary school helps to build your confidence working with knives and other high-tech equipment and methods.

An associate’s degree typically takes around 2 years among the culinary programs, and a bachelor’s degree takes 4 years to complete. A bachelor’s degree offers the most in-depth culinary studies of these options and may also introduce you to the business and management skills involved in running a kitchen.

Diplomas and certificates tend to be the shortest culinary programs. According to Restaurants Brighton Jobs, “Many budding chefs study for a professional NVQ (National Vocational Qualifications) diploma. There are three levels to get you started, and each one lasts one school year if you study full-time.”

Level 1 Certificate in Food Preparation and Cooking

Level 2 Certificate in Food Preparation and Cooking

Level 3 Professional Cookery Diploma

Culinary schools can also be invaluable in providing contacts and a network of support.

Gain experience working in a professional kitchen

It is always recommended to gain some work experience right after your graduation or during your study. The exposure you will get is valuable and can help to build the foundation of your career. You can also learn a lot working with and watching the professionals in a top restaurant.

At the entry level, you might start as a prep cook, where you will chop, weigh, and prepare ingredients for the line cooks to turn into finished dishes.

You should not wait till your graduation from culinary school to start working in a restaurant. Ideally, your culinary school will have its own restaurant where you can gain experience, but you could also work a few hours on the side if you have time. The more you interact with the people in the industry, the more connections you will have to help you start or advance your career.

Pursue certification

Culinary certification may offer you a competitive advantage in the job market. Certification assures that you meet a particular standard of quality within the industry. Having multiple certifications can make you an attractive candidate in the culinary field.

There are some specific certifications you will need to achieve if you are living in the UK. For example, you will need training in food hygiene as you are expected to know about food safety and comply with all laws and requirements.

Apply for Commis Chef Jobs

As a fresh qualified or trainee chef, you can apply for positions like Commis Chef (junior chef). Local job fairs will provide you with the opportunity to start meeting potential employers and making contacts.

As the most junior member of the professional chef team, you will work under Chef de Partie. You will be able to learn the ins and outs of the kitchen, develop a practical understanding of basic cooking skills, portion sizes, food serving and kitchen etiquette.

Being a Commis Chef, you can learn all the fundamental skills like using knives and practising basic cuts ranging from chopping and dicing to julienne and chiffonade.


How Long Does it Take to Become a Chef?

While there is no specific answer to how long it can take to become a chef, it is estimated that the typical career path for a chef can take anywhere from a few years to over a decade. However, the duration would depend on your education, training, goals, where you want to work, and in what area you want to specialise.


How Much do Chefs Earn?

The salary of chefs varies according to location, their working position and for whom they work. According to Jobted, “The average salary for a Chef is £25,300 gross per year (£1,730 net per month). A Chef can expect an average starting salary of £17,800. The highest salaries can exceed £150,000.”

Jobted also suggests the salary differences of chefs in the UK according to their position and where they work, which are as follows-

As per Totaljobs, the pay of chefs according to different locations of UK are-


Career Prospects

Chefs get to learn about different cuisines and kitchen techniques by working in various kitchens throughout their careers. As a chef, you can enjoy a wide range of possibilities to shift to a better role.

Having an undergraduate or a Masters degree, you can become a nutritionist or dietitian. Another option is to be a cookery teacher or assessor for a college or training provider.

With the significant knowledge of food and experience, along with leadership and budgeting skills, you can become a head chef or even a private chef working at weddings, functions or events.

Other long-term career prospects might include:

  • Chef manager
  • General manager or restaurant manager
  • Catering manager
  • Food and beverage director
  • Restaurant owner

Conclusion

The popularity of restaurants is at its peak in modern days resulting in the high demand for chefs. That is why more and more food enthusiasts are now considering becoming chefs to turn their passion into a profession. With the proper training and culinary skill, you can also build up your career as an aspiring chef.


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