A cuisine chef is an important and demanding role within the kitchen. Nonetheless, the role is very rewarding and can open up many career opportunities for chefs with the right qualities, experience and training. Below we provide you with in depth tips on how to become a chef in the UK and worldwide.
What's it Like to Work as a Chef
Working as a chef – what you’d do
Becoming a chef involves a lot of commitment and passion. Typically an entry level chef (Commis Chef) is usually in charge of cleaning, chopping and preparing ingredients. There are different types of chefs within the kitchen, for example some chefs are primarily responsible for a specific section (Chef de Partie), whereas others such as the Sous-Chef de Cuisine are involved with running the kitchen and is responsible for taking on tasks in place of the head chef. Chef de Cuisine is usually accountable for creating new menus or supervising staff and representing the brand of the kitchen to the media. In larger organisations, the Chef Executif is in charge of directing the business in terms of management and finances.
The working conditions can vary from kitchen to kitchen. This depends on the type of food being prepared, the food legislations and where the kitchen is situated such as in a school cafeteria, restaurant, hotel or street vendor. Chefs may work in air conditioned spaces with an abundance of cooking utensils and others may work in shared quarters where food hygiene becomes increasingly important. However, chefs tend to work near grills, ovens and freezers and are able to adapt to different working conditions, which means they have to be mentally strong and physically robust.
Qualities and Skills Needed to Become a Chef
Creative, motivated, dynamic, ambitious, punctual, flexible, rigorous, team spirit, open minded, driven by initiative, methodical, courteous, polite, generous… the list of qualities and skills to become a chef is extensive, here is our shortlist.
A Passion for Food and the Culinary Arts
In order to become a chef, one must be passionate about food, ingredients and the season. Chefs are innately creative and enthusiastic about the culinary arts as well as the type of dishes they are making. Successful chefs are also able to develop new ideas and innovative ways of improving their cooking to meet the demands of customers. Furthermore, they should be adept in preparing dishes that are both delicious and visually presentable.
Organisational and Time Management Skills
Cuisine chefs are also really organised individuals and are capable of juggling all the needs of the kitchen, such as keeping up with busy schedules, ingredient supplies and meeting the needs of stakeholders.
Head Cuisine Chef Eric Bédiat advises that "possessing organisational and time management skills is key to success as you will need to be able to multitask and prioritise the workload. I advise aspiring chefs to write notes and keep a diary or log of the activities they do so they have a good indication on the amount of time they spend doing certain things and will enable them to cut back and relocate time to more important things."
Possessing organisational and time management skills is key to success.
Excellent Communication and Numerical Skills
A good team leader knows how to delegate effectively by means of great communication and listening skills and this is no different for cuisine chefs. They often advise the team on the best practices for the kitchen. In addition, they lead the team in achieving the best possible results at all times and are open to receiving and discussing feedback from their colleagues. Possessing good mathematical skills is also crucial in order to measure ingredients, adapt recipes and change proportions of food to smaller or bigger volumes.
Ability to Stay Calm under Pressure
It is essential that chefs work well under pressure and meet deadlines as their work can be very demanding. Chef Eric Bédiat recommends that in order to stay calm under pressure you must “learn to be aware of your emotions and how it can affect your fellow colleagues and customers. It’s good to exercise or to spend your spare time on doing things that bring you happiness as this will make you react in a decent manner when facing demands in the kitchen.” However, this is not a problem for chefs as they are dedicated to their profession and adds to their experience in shaping for a successful career.
Qualifications and Training Needed to be a Chef
While formal education isn’t required to become a chef, the specialised knowledge and skills learned during professional cookery courses can serve aspiring chefs. Getting a qualification at college or an apprenticeship is an important piece of traineeship that gives chefs an outline of cookery.
It’s vital to have combined professional experience and relevant qualifications. You can train to be a chef at Le Cordon Bleu London with our Grand Diplôme® or our Diplôme de Cuisine programmes which are globally recognised qualifications to be a chef. The Diplôme de Cuisine is a standard 9 month course or can be taken intensively as a 6 month course, and the Grand Diplôme® has a duration of 9 months. These courses to be a chef are taught by world class Le Cordon Bleu Master Chefs. This allows aspiring cuisine chefs to learn logical skills for the workplace so that they are equipped to adapt to the ever-changing and demanding industry. You will also learn essential and intricate techniques and practices such as classical and contemporary cooking techniques, food safety and hygiene in the kitchen, personal kitchen organisation and management skills as well as food and wine pairing.
Get Practical Work Experience
Gaining hands on experience in a kitchen or work shadowing a chef is the most useful way to propel your career. Some even take up internships for example at Le Cordon Bleu novices can take up an Internship Programme as part of their Grand Diplôme® where they can get work placements abroad or in the UK in a range of hotels, food companies and restaurants. The programme also provides in depth interview and CV writing guidance preparing learners for a career as a cuisine chef. Aside from internships, aspiring student chefs are welcomed to participate in assisting the Master Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu during recipe demonstrations or at short courses which further builds up their work experience.