Shows like Chopped and Top Chef, along with celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray and Paula Deen have made the profession look glamorous. The reality is anything but glamorous though.
Long hours (especially on the weekend!), tight and hot kitchens, and low wages are pretty common among professional chefs. If you think this is right for you and you love cooking, keep reading to learn what it takes to become a professional chef!
5 Steps to Become a Professional Chef
1. Choose A Culinary School
To be successful as a professional chef, you should apply to attend the best culinary school that you can afford.
Culinary schools are usually two years and tuition could be $50,000 to $60,000. You’ll want to be sure about whether this is what you want to do before you make the financial commitment.
2. Start From the Bottom
Before going to culinary school or even while you are in school, take a job in a kitchen. Start from the bottom and learn all the different jobs in the kitchen. This experience will be important later when you take on more managerial roles or become a head or executive chef in a restaurant or even open your own.
The first job you take shouldn’t be the one you retire from. To grow as a chef, you should move on to other jobs to gain more experience.
Move from a small kitchen to a large one or from a French kitchen to an American one. Don’t move to a new job in the same type of restaurant. Move somewhere that will allow you to broaden your skill set.
3. Take a Job as a Sous Chef
Once you work your way through the different roles in the kitchen, take a job as a sous chef. This is the second-in-command after a head or executive chef. A few years as a sous chef will be the experience you need to move up into a head chef role. Be sure you pick a restaurant that has room for you to grow.
4. Take On Management Roles
Taking on management roles in addition to your cooking responsibilities will allow you to learn the other components of managing a kitchen and a restaurant. You might be in charge of purchasing, paying invoices, hiring, and managing a staff.
A head chef role will likely include all these roles, so any experience you can get doing them will set you up for that position.
5. Land Your Dream Job
After a few years of working as a sous chef, it’s time for you to move up into a head or executive chef role. Whether that is at your restaurant or a new one, your sous chef experiences will position you for this role.
The Bottom Line
Being a professional chef is not a normal, Monday through Friday, 9-5 job. You’ll work odd hours and weekends (and sometimes holidays), so be sure it’s what you want and love!
Take these suggestions as you embark on this journey to becoming a professional chef. Travel the world, experience different foods and cultures, and learn cooking techniques to bring back to your home country.
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