How to Become a Chef
The UK’s dining scene ranges from huge outdoor arenas to intimate supper clubs and private chefs. Do you know your way around flavours? Fancy yourself a bit creative? Then a career as a chef might be for you. Read on to find out how to become a chef and jump into the culinary world.
What Does A Chef Do?
At the most basic level, a chef prepares and cooks food for others to eat. However, many consider their job an art form, and experienced chefs often pride themselves in creating new and surprising food combinations.
There are several different types of chef, including pâtissiers (pastry chefs) and chocolatiers. Good news if you have a sweet tooth!
Usually, though, chefs start out with general training, going on to specialise later on.
An entry-level position for a trainee chef is usually a commis chef (commis means “assistant/clerk” in French). While duties will change depending on the kitchen you’re working in, you can expect to be in charge of tasks like measuring ingredients and basic cooking.
More experienced chefs have a wider range of responsibilities. For example, determining the menu, choosing produce to feature, and managing the kitchen team are all additional responsibilities of the head chef.
How Much Does A Chef Earn?
How much a chef can expect to learn depends on their training, qualifications and where they’re working.
What Qualifications Are Needed To Become a Chef?
There are several culinary schools, but because it’s a career that allows for on-the-job training, some chefs simply apply for a job in a kitchen without qualifications and work their way up. However, it can be beneficial to have some relevant qualifications before applying to give you the best chance of securing the role.
One such is a food safety qualification. Working as a chef is all about ensuring the quality of the food, so showing employers you know how to handle and serve produce properly is a good way of standing out.
Many chefs also start their careers through apprenticeships, which are a great way of learning whilst gaining real-world experience.
What Skills Are Needed To Become A Chef?
Chefs need a wide range of skills outside of the ability to cook. Here are a few key areas that chefs will need to be confident in in order to succeed.
In a busy kitchen, you’ll need to be able to switch quickly between letting a saucepan bubble for the correct time period and fetching ingredients for other chefs
Kitchens can be loud and intense working environments, so making sure that you’re able to communicate quickly and effectively is important
Head chefs rely on everybody pulling their weight and communicating effectively so that each component of the food arrives on the plate at the same time, ready to be delivered hot to the waiting guest
Your role can get very busy very fast. So if you can maintain your composure whilst ensuring that you’re meeting all the time crunches, a kitchen might be for you
Does Becoming A Chef Need Any Work Experience?
While technically you don’t need any work experience to begin your career as a chef, it can be helpful to have some knowledge of a working kitchen before you start applying to all the chef jobs in the UK.
Time spent as a dishwasher or as waiting staff can give you an idea of how kitchens function, including how tickets work and who is in charge of which component. Plus, you’ll get an idea of how much pressure you’d be under at busy times.
Equally, an apprenticeship will give you the chance to actually work as a chef whilst taking some qualifications that will make you an attractive hire later in your career.
Career Prospects For A Chef
Becoming a chef nowadays doesn’t mean you’re confined to one area.
You could specialise in pastry or go freelance and end up a private chef for wealthy clients. You could open your own restaurant. You could specialise in corporate events or wedding catering.
And if you reach the end of your time in the kitchen and fancy something a little different, some chefs end up as restaurant critics or recipe developers at a supermarket.