For anyone who likes to cook, becoming a chef can be their dream job. To be able to create delicious meals with artistic expression, using only the finest ingredients, is the ultimate aspiration for aspiring chefs. Plus, financially speaking, a good chef can make a decent living. Executive chefs at four-star restaurants not only gain notoriety but can also earn six-figure salaries.
Becoming a chef is not something that you can do overnight. To become a certified chef takes anywhere from several months to several years of formal training. Plus you need lots of experience working in a restaurant. The hours can be long and there are not many opportunities to sit down. In fact, you’ll likely be on your feet the whole time. And perhaps the most important thing you need is a good sense of taste and the ability to know what ingredients work well together. So if all this sounds good to you and you are still wondering how to become a chef, here’s a list of things you need to do.
Learn Everything You Can About Food
In order to become a chef, you need to know as much as you can about the different types of food. You need to learn what foods are in season and when. You need to learn the best ways to prepare (and not prepare) certain foods. You need to know are what organic, free-range, kobe, and kosher foods. Learn all of your cooking terms such as soufflés, poached, and flambé. To get better acquainted with different foods, try them out. Prepare different recipes at home, things you have not tried before, and get a taste of different ingredients. The more you learn about food, the better prepared you will be for a career in a restaurant.
Get Some Experience
Go To Culinary School
This is almost (but not quite) a requirement. It will certainly benefit you in your career and look good on a resume. If you just want to be a cook in a kitchen, it is not necessary. But if you want to open doors for advancement and want to pursue fine dining, you need to go to culinary school. The American Culinary Federation website has a list of accredited culinary schools that you can attend. Some community colleges have culinary programs, too. Most offer different classes that teach different cuisines and techniques. Plus, a culinary school will help you to network and give you some contacts that could prove useful once you get out of school. Next to years of hand-on training, there is nothing better that can prepare you for a career as a chef than the proper education.
If culinary schools are not an option, there are other avenues to explore. You can check out local cooking classes, how-to videos, online resources, books, and television. The popularity of television chefs on channels such as Food Network has definitely risen over the years and is a good place to pick up some pointers.
While being a certified chef is not a requirement for all jobs, it certainly will be a bright spot on your resume. It also will help pave the way for you to become classified as a Master Chef. Remember, with a bigger title comes a bigger paycheck. Being certified can definitely help to increase the amount of money you can make. If you have a certification as a chef, it communicates to potential employers that you have properly learned your craft and are aware of nutritional values and health issues in the kitchen.
Decide If You Want To Specialize
Once you have worked for awhile in the industry as a chef, you can decide if you want to specialize. In other words, you can specialize in Asian or French cuisines, pastries, deserts, ethnic, or any number of other specific areas. By specializing, you can hone your skills even further in those particular areas that are associated with your specialty. By doing so gives you a better knowledge of specific ingredients, methods of preparation, and makes you more of an expert as opposed to a general chef. It also makes you more marketable when you are out looking for a job.
Work Your Way Up
There is no quick way up the chef’s corporate ladder. The industry is very competitive with other chefs jostling for the same positions that you are after. When starting out as a chef, you will likely be apprenticed to a master chef. This means you start from the bottom and work your way up. In a proper kitchen, the order goes something like this: line chef, sous chef, chef de cuisine (or executive chef), and master chef. Starting out you will be the one doing all the grunt work, prepping all the food, and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. It takes several years just to make it to sous chef. But working your way up will give you are better understanding of all the jobs there are in the kitchen and how to ultimately oversee all of them. By learning all the angles of the business, you will prepare yourself for one day owning your own restaurant.