Are you curious in learning what requirements are needed to become a chef? Thousands of mouth watering recipes with millions of views on YouTube can make anyone fall in love with this rewarding profession.
The requirements for becoming a chef depends on the type of chef you wish to be. Requirements vary as the responsibilities of a pastry chef, sous chef, commis chef, executive chef, personal chef and home chef are not the same.
Requirements for becoming a chef
It’s not mere making a mixture of vegetables, spices and mutton and heat them in a pan. Art is a divine gift and cooking is an art. To get the mastery over this art, you’ll need academic degrees, marketing skills, working experience and above all an absolute passion for cooking where the first one isn’t the must one.
Yea, academic degree is not a must have requirement to become a chef. Alice Waters, best known as the ‘mother of American food’ did her graduate study in French culture but become one of the most influential cooks in the United States. You’ll get the same tone from the world renowned master chef Gordon Ramsay who said-
“If you want to become a great chef, you have to work with great chefs.”
From his quote, it’s clear that academic degrees can’t make you a great chef. You’ll need sheer hard work, practice, innovation, finesse and a vulture eye for detail while cooking. The first true celebrity of the cooking world Julia Child also said-
“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all, have fun!”
Moreover, if you read the biography of the world famous chefs, you’ll see that a citable number of them run their own restaurants. So, a college degree is not a must if you want to run your own restaurant rather physical fitness is a must have qualification to become a chef as they have to spend most of their time on their feet. So let’s break this down further.
Education & License
You don’t need a license neither to cook in your home nor to work as a chef in a restaurant. But, organizations like the American Culinary Federation, the United States Personal Chef Association, the Culinary Institute of America and the Research Chefs Association offer some voluntary certifications to prove that you have met certain standards to take care of an entire kitchen.
The responsibility of a chef is to manage everyday workings of a pro kitchen. It may include but not limited to checking food ingredients with freshness, quality and quantity, maintaining cleanliness of the kitchen utensils and cooking area, use of various kitchen knife & tools, innovate new recipes, determine the size of the dish, sense of taste and smell, presentation of food, train new cooks and other kitchen staff.
To prepare the delicious dishes for the customers, a chef may also need to have leadership, time management and team management skills. The above mentioned organizations provide the most comprehensive cooking education to make your dream come true.
As you know, these voluntary certifications are not the only options. To hone your kitchen skills and to show off your cooking talent, you may attend to technical schools, culinary arts schools, community colleges and enroll for 2 to 4 years degree programs. Some colleges also offer online courses.
If you have any of these academic certification, you’ll be considered as a potential candidate for the most prestigious post of an executive chef. It’ll create an opportunity for you to work not only in restaurants, but in luxurious hotels, on cruise ships and in elite private resorts too.
Training & Experience
Another part of this academic education is training. Academic education focus on in-class instructions and on the job training or apprenticeship training focus on developing your cooking skills. This hands on training programme includes safety, sanitation, chopping, baking, cutting, knife handling, cooking, food preparation, plating, sizing, nutrition and all other thing that you need to be a chef.
Chef is such a position in the kitchen that nobody can start their career as a chef. You have to start your career as a dishwasher or at best as a line cook. Then your experience and craftsmanship will lead you to advanced positions and eventually someday you’ll become a chef.
It takes eight to fifteen years of experience to win the title of an executive chef. You’ll be happy to know that most of the world famous chefs started their career as an ordinary kitchen staff.
Anyway, you can enroll in any of the apprenticeship programs offered by the U.S. Department of Labor authorized professional culinary institutes. These programs usually provide 1000 hours of practical training by professional chefs which cover all the necessary cooking skills that you may need to complete your journey.
Another surprising way to gain experience is to work as protege for a well-known chef. You can even learn cooking from your family members. You’ll get examples of so many world famous chefs who have started their learning at home. So, you can start your journey towards becoming a chef right now.
At first you might think that preparing recipes, creating new dishes, establishing the menu, determining specials, operating kitchen appliance, cutting techniques, inventory, purchasing, knife chopping pair works, menu planning and portion sizing are all you need to become a chef.
But honestly speaking, a chef has to take on more of a managerial role. A chef has to supervise other staff in the kitchen. You have to balance your cooking and leadership to ensure that all the other employees are productive. You also have to manage food costs by minimizing food waste and anticipating the amount of perishable food if you like to take the responsibility of a chef.
Preparation & Time
It’ll take nearly 9 years to prepare yourself as a potential candidate to win the title of a Chef. 4 years for a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and 5 years of training. Anyone with a high school diploma can enroll for a bachelor’s degree.
With a bachelor’s degree, you can manage an entry level job to enrich your experience where working under the supervision of a professional chef, you’ll learn the ropes.
From basic cooking techniques to advanced kitchen supervision, from designing plates to leading a restaurant team – you have to learn everything if you want to become a famous chef.
But, nothing to worry about, culinary arts school will teach you all of these things including international cuisine, fish fabrication, meat slicing, pastry arts, bread baking for tasty pizza or burger and so many other aspects of cooking.
A bachelor’s program in culinary arts helps to enrich the knowledge base and sharpen several skills. Finally it prepares a student to overcome professional challenges. But, there is even more to learn.
You can keep expanding your hands on several types of cuisine and dessert drawing if you like to see yourself as a food artist. A cook can just be a head cook, but a food artist can do something that can lead them to be one of the most celebrated chefs.
Fitness and Stamina
Job of a chef is physically demanding. They have to spend a long period of time on their feet working with heat, vulnerable kitchen utensils and sharp knives. They have to work in a high-pressure environment to ensure providing food on time for the waiting customers.
We usually take a leave on the weekends. But, chefs have no leave on these days. You’ll get them cooking some delicious dishes to make your holidays more enjoyable. You also will get them super busy in your off peak hours.
So, you must have stamina and you have to be in a great physical shape to give your best to your elite guests everyday.
Moreover, you have to keep your eyes on several tasks at the same time. From supervising multiple items together to remembering which customer ordered which menu, you have to take care of all these things perfectly. And you have to be strong enough to handle the large volume of food prep equipment and ingredients.
The first characteristic of a chef is the craftsmanship to cook multiple palatable and tasteful recipes simultaneously. Sharp mind, smart working, fast paced, multitasking, cleanliness, tirelessness, leadership, team working and inborn passion for cooking are a few of the other sparkling characteristics of a chef.
Cooking well is not enough to make a customer come again and again to the same restaurant. If you serve the world’s best food on a dirty plate, your guests will never show their face again.
But, if you just serve your best recipes with a touch of eye catching culinary art, your guests will keep knocking on your door. So, the sense of art and design is another inevitable characteristic a chef must possess.
Passion For Cooking
The most important requirement to become a chef is the passion for food and cooking. If you really enjoy cooking and love the idea of making money from kitchen, a chef career can be your best choice.
My mom loves cooking, but she doesn’t like to repeat her recipes. I mean, she never cook the same recipe twice a month. Here lies the difference. Sometimes, you have to cook the same dish multiple times a day, sometimes you have to cook dozens of different recipes in a single day.
If you’re not passionate about cooking, it’ll become very difficult to cook your third dish. If you are not passionate about food, your tongue will not give you any result only after a couple of tries. So, you have to have an innate passion for cooking if you want to become a chef.
A chef has to test the taste of dozens of dishes, has to smell hundreds of foods, has to cook several food items on a daily basis. You may manage a job in the kitchen without having any passion for cooking, but your position will not see any advancement without your passion and craziness about food and cooking.
Culinary School Vs. Experience to fulfill the requirements for becoming a chef
As you already know, there are two ways to win the title of chef. These are academic education and real life cooking experience. We’ve also mentioned a few of the celebrity chefs who have become a chef without having a culinary degree. But, a further discussion will help you to choose the right track.
Though it’s not accessible for everyone, enrolling in an academic culinary program is an excellent option. From job searching to fine dining, a student can learn every aspect of cooking in a single institute. These are the major benefits of culinary school programs-
- The academic culinary program teaches you the right techniques, so there’s no chance to develop any wrong techniques or bad habits.
- Professors of those culinary schools are the successful chefs in their practical life, so they can guide their students right to success.
- A culinary arts program helps to learn the flavors, ingredients, styles and other ins and outs of cooking to the best.
- Some schools help their students to manage apprenticeship in famous restaurants which is not possible without having a professional culinary degree.
- It helps to learn different types of cuisine.
- Above all, it helps to find a prestigious cooking job.
But, you’ll notice some cons too. These programs are usually very expensive and you’ll need a long period of time to complete your course. So, let’s have a look at the alternative option to become a chef.
This is the real life working experience which can also make your dream come true. Even, according to the master chef Gordon Ramsay, it’s the better option to develop your career as a chef. Here’s the benefits of this method-
- You can make money while learning
- You can gain first-hand cooking experience without paying any fee
- You can practice a lot to hone your cooking skills
- You can get the opportunity to work with great chefs
- You can also get the chance to show off your skills which helps to build networks
This method also contains some cons. Your job opportunities will be minimized as most of the elite restaurants require a culinary academic background. And no chef will supervise you at the beginning. So, who knows you won’t develop any negative cooking habits.
Honestly speaking, exception can never be an example. Among the thousands, only a few have become famous in the culinary world without having any culinary degree. Yes, it’s possible that you can become a great cook without any degree, you can also become the all in one or only one in a five star restaurant if it’s owned by you.
But it’s not possible to compete against the position of an executive chef without those professional degrees. So, it’s better to enroll in a culinary arts program if you want to get your dream job.
Topcellent idea of becoming a chef without any degree
It’s also true that training and experience are two of the most precious gifts. Proper utilization of these gifts can earn the title of chef for you. But, you have to do something out of the box. Here’s the details of this idea-
Find out the types of chef
At first you have to identify your training and experience. There are commis chef, executive chef, sous chef, personal chef, pastry chef and a lot more to name. If your trainer is a pastry chef, it will be easy for you to become another pastry chef.
Evaluate your skill
Now it’s time to judge your skills. If your skills are sharp enough to distinguish you from others in making desserts, then you should consider becoming a pastry chef.
Build your network
Now you have to make friendship with the dessert lovers and build communications with other pastry chefs. Your trainer can help you to build your networks. But, it’s you who have to turn the stones.
Don’t worry, it’s very easy to build your networks. List down the most famous dessert recipes, find out those chefs who serve these magical plate, follow them on social media and trace out their customers.
Cook a Dessert/Dish With a Famous Chef
It’s a bit difficult to manage a chef to visit your kitchen. But, haply you can visit them. At least you can visit them pretending as a customer. Leave a fantastic review on their dish and ask for an appointment.
Most of them will not pay any heed to you, but not all of them. So, fortunately, someday you’ll get the opportunity to cook with them. This is the perfect time to utilize your training and experience as well as to enrich your craftsmanship.
Don’t forget to capture the video of this cooking session and publish it on your social media. Of course you have to ask for permission before you share it publicly. After publishing this video, you’ll get some audience.
Keep practicing this method to grow your audience and entertain your audience with your training and skill. Visit thousands of chefs, cook with hundred of them, share all the videos on your social profile and invite your audience to visit your eatery.
The reality is that the crazy food freaks will start visiting your eatery at least to compare your dishes with the one they have already tested. Here comes the real importance of real life training and cooking experience.
Now the success of your dream depends on your customers. If you come them visit your eatery repeatedly, if you make them leave your eatery with a smile every time they come, if your cooking can make them surprised, then eventually you’ll become a chef.
Education, training, experience, skills, time, dedication, stamina, passion and a dream, these are the requirements for becoming a chef. Maybe you can become a chef with academic education, but there is no alternative to training, experience and passion for cooking.