A lot of people like to cook, but making it your actual profession means taking a very difficult path. Long hours, heavy competition and hard physical labor are all integral parts of being a chef. On the other hand, the profession in itself is quite rewarding – you get to come up with creative dishes, run a kitchen, be respected and perhaps even manage your own place.
Welcome to the rocky road of becoming a chef.
Get a job
Sitting back home and cooking various dishes for your friends and family or for yourself is nice, but it is in no way an accurate depiction of what working in the kitchen looks like. No one has ever become a chef based on their education, the kitchen works by building your experience and reputation.
The first order of business is, therefore, getting a job at a restaurant. Working in this environment will show you what it all looks and feels like, plus you’ll get to learn from the chefs there – no one will approach you and tell you kitchen tips and tricks; you need to soak in all the information yourself. As you are clawing your way to higher ranks and more prestige, you’ll build your rep and experience. Who knows, maybe you’ll become the boss of that kitchen at some point.
Practice at home whenever possible
Sitting back home and cooking various dishes for your friends and family or for yourself, although not nearly an accurate presentation of what a professional kitchen looks and feels like, can be useful. In fact, think of it as working out before a big game – the home cooking sessions are your gym, and your job in the kitchen is the big game.
First of all, you need to become confident with a knife and other kitchen tools – when someone knows how to handle their kitchen equipment, it simply shows. Work on your technique – there is a whole lot of useful material out there on YouTube and Google in general, meaning that you can develop your skills along the way, while keeping practice.
Learn to feel the food; learn to love it – for you, as a cooking professional, food should not be just what you eat, but something you love. Think about what cuisine type suits you best; think about your preferences: do you like working on main courses, or enjoy preparing desserts? Of course, you won’t be able to choose what you do as a newbie in someone’s kitchen, but getting to know yourself as a cook is more than useful.
Get educated in culinary arts
You do not need a cooking school diploma in order to become a chef, but it can certainly give you a huge boost; in terms of knowledge and when it comes to experience. Although most chefs and managers are looking for experience on CVs and results during the probationary period, having culinary arts education certainly helps, especially when it comes to getting hired at good restaurants.
Culinary arts education programs are also important because they offer a broader education on subjects like sanitary food preparation techniques, butchery, pastry making, as well as nutrition in general.
Get educated in management
You don’t need any amount of knowledge in management, human resources or business in order to be a cook, but becoming a chef is a different story. For now, you might be an aspiring cook, but at some point, down the line, you might want to open up your own shop, or you might get promoted to chef.. In either case, you’re going to need a background and training in marketing, sales, business management and finances, in addition to regular culinary arts education. This is not important just so that you can put it in your CV, but also because the skills offered by mastering the mentioned areas will actually help you run a kitchen – in fact, this is basic knowledge for avoiding instantaneous failure.
For instance, as a cook, you might know that you need, say, a quality industrial agitator for your kitchen. A true businessperson, however, will know that it needs to be made out of stainless steel in order to provide corrosion resistance for a wide variety of uses. How does a businessperson know this? Because this is the way business schools teach you to think – research everything.
This is all distant future at this point, but it is also a chance to get prepared for everything – you won’t regret spending time to get a degree or a diploma in business or management.
Be prepared to be an intern
Yep, you might have to work for little or no compensation in the beginning. Sorry, but this is just how the culinary business is. If the opportunity for an internship arises, take it without hesitation! The experience that you can obtain is invaluable. If your particular program doesn’t offer internships, go get yourself one – chefs love enthusiastic and passionate young people and will gladly offer them a temporary spot in their kitchen, if asked.
Becoming an actual chef is a road full of turbulence, working for little or no compensation, practicing at home and at work and spending time studying about matters related and unrelated to cooking. If you are passionate, however, taking on this rocky road will be no trouble – keep your eyes on the prize!
Diana Smith is a full-time mom of two beautiful girls interested in latest business and marketing news. In her free time, she enjoys reading about business technology and advertising.