If you’re one of the many people who have improved their cooking skills in the last couple of years, you may have wondered how to become a chef. You might even think that your pasta carbonara already deserves a Michelin-star or two. However, the reality is that any cook has to go through a lot to be considered a professional chef.
Keep reading if you want to learn how to become a chef in 2021+. Compared to many careers, becoming a chef doesn’t require extensive schooling or certification, although they do help.
However, no two chefs have the same journey to success, so keep the following in mind when starting your journey to culinary mastery.
What Does a Chef Do?
A chef wears many hats in a professional kitchen, in addition to their chef hats. Of course, at their core, a chef cooks food. But more than that, a chef is able to craft a menu and combine flavors beyond simply following a recipe.
Contrary to popular belief, there are typically many chefs in a professional kitchen. First, the head chef, the Gordon Ramsey of the bunch, calls the shots and plays a significant role in determining how the restaurant operates. They often also handle investors, develop business plans, and hire and fire restaurant staff, among other administrative tasks.
Then there are sous chefs, the second in command and right hand of the head chef. Following are chefs de partie, who supervise specific kitchen areas, like the desert station or pasta preparation. Then the chef de cuisine, usually the person who physically cooks the meals restaurant patrons order.
Finally, there is the commis chef, the cook with the least experience, typically freshly graduated from culinary school. They handle a lot of the prep work and absorb everything they can from their more experienced counterparts.
Not every kitchen features the same hierarchy of chefs. There may only be a single chef in the kitchen, and the rest of the workers include line cooks and other people who don’t intend to become fine-dining chefs.
It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected the restaurant industry. While some places have survived by reimagining their business plan, others weren’t so lucky. However, lifting restrictions in cities and towns throughout the country has given many chefs back the jobs they lost in 2020.
As a result, there is an explosion of work available for trained chefs. People value their privilege to go out and eat, so it’s unlikely that the demand for chefs will drop anytime soon.
Although the starting rungs of the chef career ladder don’t pay too well, you can eventually make a lot of money as you progress from one position to the next. Trained and experienced chefs are highly valued, especially in big cities like New York City or Los Angeles.
Requirements To Become a Chef
One of the most appealing things about becoming a chef is that you don’t need a college degree to advance in your career. You might not even need a high school diploma or GED. Although a culinary degree may help, it’s not entirely necessary for you to lead a kitchen.
You need to think about what type of chef you want to be before committing to a specific educational path. Do you want to own a restaurant? Then you may need a bachelor’s degree to figure out how to run a business. Do you want to focus on cooking and leave the business side to other people? Then you may only need an associate’s degree from a culinary school.
However, you may not need either. Many people start their careers as chefs in the kitchen, not the classroom. Working their way up from the bottom, they absorb the experience and skills required to progress in their career.
How Much Do Chefs Make?
A chef, based on the national median, makes $25.66 per hour across the country. However, an executive chef at a high-quality restaurant can easily make double this rate if not more.
Not all chefs make the same salary, and it really depends on other factors. Large metropolitan areas typically pay chefs the most. You may make much more in New York than you might in Buffalo because there is a higher cost of living, and food is typically much more expensive. Also, the state you live in has a significant impact on how much you can earn. For example, chefs in Texas usually make a lot less than a chef might in New Jersey.
Skill Sets Required to Become a Chef
There are several skills that every cook needs to become a professional chef:
- Classic and new cooking methods
- Excellent knife skills
- Customer service
- Culinary creativity
- Ability to multitask
- Leadership qualities
- Time Management
What is the Career Progression for a Chef?
A chef’s career progression really depends on what their educational background might be. If you only have a high school diploma or GED (or even if you don’t), you may have to start by working as a dishwasher or prep cook. Then, you can work your way up to being a commis chef or chef de cuisine.
If you have a culinary degree, kitchens will usually start you off as a commis chef. From there, you can progress into being a chef de cuisine, chef de partie, and eventually, sous chef and head chef. This article does a great job of explaining all the roles within a kitchen hierarchy .
Ready To Get Into The Kitchen?
No matter where you start, becoming a chef is a rewarding career path to travel. It’s also a fantastic way to make a decent amount of money without needing stacks of degrees or certifications. Just remember to stay passionate about your craft and always strive to learn more.
The better the food, the better your career prospects! Check out the open chef roles at job.com.
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