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How to become a Chef

chef careers

What does a Chef do?

Chefs are responsible for the preparation and cooking of food, using a variety of cookery techniques. In large kitchens they are part of a cookery team responsible for one particular cookery section such as bread and pastries, or vegetables.

A chef in training is usually known as a commis chef. Time is spent in each department, learning different cookery techniques. It is also part of the role of a commis chef to look after the kitchen equipment and utensils.

The person in charge of a section of the kitchen is known as a chef de partie, or section chef, and is responsible to the sous chef, or under-chef. The sous chef has experience in every department, and can run the kitchen on behalf of the head chef if necessary.

The head chef, who may also be known as the executive chef or maitre de cuisine, is responsible for running the entire kitchen. Tasks include menu planning, dealing with suppliers, managing the budget and organising staff. The head chef will also be responsible for monitoring and maintaining the quality of food the kitchen produces. A chef or cook in a smaller kitchen may also be responsible for cleaning and tidying up, and serving customers.

What's the working environment like working as a Chef?

Most chefs work 40 hours a week and often work overtime. It is usual to work evenings, weekends and public holidays. Chefs working for a contract caterer may work more regular hours. There are usually opportunities to work part-time, or to do casual or seasonal work.

Kitchens have to abide by health and safety and hygiene regulations. Chefs must constantly be aware of the relevant regulations. Protective clothing and a head covering are worn.

What does it take to become a Chef?

To be a chef, you should:

  • have a keen interest in food and cooking
  • be able to work under pressure
  • be able to manage multiple tasks
  • be able to work as part of a team
  • have creativity and imagination for food presentation
  • have good organisational skills
  • have good communication and leadership skills
  • be good with figures if responsible for a budget.

Chef Career Opportunities

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Chef that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

2nd Floor
Armstrong House
38 Market Square
Tel: 0870 060 2550

Tourism Training Trust Northern Ireland
Suite 6
Caernarvan House
19 Donegall Pass
Tel: 028 9032 0625

Springboard UK
3 Denmark Street
Tel: 020 7497 8654

Facts and Stats:

  • The biggest curry was made in Essex in 1998 and weighed 2.65 tonnes
  • Restaurant grader, Fred Magel of Illinois USA, ate out a record 46,000 times in 50 years.
  • The most expensive meal recorded cost £13,091.20 for three in 1997, at Le Gavroche in London.
  • Denmark is the country with the highest calorie consumption per capita, closely followed by Portugal and then the USA. The UK does not rank in the top 10.