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What is required to be come a chef?

I am a sophomore in high school that is looking into possible future careers that fit me. Cooking food has always been an option so I now need to look more into it and get some personal feedback from some chefs. #chef #cooking #culinary-arts


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Chef’s Answer

Great question, find a great culinary school to attend, for example I went to Auguste Escoffier online. But also find a Restaurant or food establishments that you love, respect and see if the will offer Externship that can turn to a possible job. Research as many types of food, preparations and history. I know during this current situation it seems the food industry has been hit hard, let this time ignite your passion and build on your skills as a future Chef, cook, volunteer to help at pantries and shelters

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Paul’s Answer

Brayden, I think that you are on the right track by asking advise. I would start by telling you if you haven't gotten any experience in a kitchen, get a job in one. Look for a place that will work for you as well as for them. You're still in school, so that is important to still focus on that. Its a balancing act that you're going to experience, how much can a I work where it won't affect my education. This is important because if you want to go to a culinary school, you're grades can influence your acceptance. See what they have available and remember, we all do the jobs in the kitchen. I work at a large baseball stadium but I still jump in and do dishes, mop floors, etc when needed and you are starting out so don't think that you shouldn't do it. Learn all you can from where you're at and what they are doing because you can learn from those experiences to shape you for later. This is also a time to see if this is what you want to really do. I've met people who have one idea of the business and when they actually work in it, their perception changes.

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Riley’s Answer

The levels of education required will vary depending on how high-end of a restaurant you want to work on. First, I would suggest applying to be a line cook in a restaurant as a part-time job. Most cooks start as a dishwasher and work their way up, so any job in the kitchen will soon earn you valuable experience. Once you graduate from high school, you should go to a culinary school. You will have the option of earning an associate degree 2 years), but going the full 4 years for a bachelor's degree will make your resume much more distinguished. It is rare to be hired straight out of school, so you will probably first need to find an internship where you are able to shadow a chef and learn what the job requires day-to-day.

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BARBARA’s Answer

Hello Brayden! I'm Barbara and have been in the culinary industry for 9 years and have had my share of time in both the hotel and independent restaurant environments. From experience I can say that what is expected to become a chef in the industry varies according to your environment and circumstances.

The basics to get into any food operation is the following:
- Be dependable: Meaning you come to work when you are scheduled and come in on time.
- Be a fast and efficient: Learn things quickly and adapt to business levels (when busy or slow).
- Know how to manage time properly: You are expected to complete tasks within a certain time frame and you need to know how to be organized so you can accomplish the business's goals.
- Have a Good Attitude: In this industry you will run into unexpected hurdles where you have a business opportunity that pops-up last minute and for many businesses, money is never turned away, therefore you will be put in situations where more work will be added to you plate and when it is coming to be to much, at that point I suggest that you know how to ask for help to complete a task because it is far much worse to not give the client the food that they were expecting when they were expecting it. It will be in these times where you will be stretched the most and from these experiences is where I have learned the most.
- Be a Team-Player: I can't stress this one enough because in the food business world you must depend on multiple people in order for a restaurant to be successful. Unless you are working in your food truck, in this case you basically don't have a personal life and hardly sleep because you are doing EVERYTHING. Knowing how to work with other people with different beliefs, habits, cultures, sexual orientation, etc, is essential in this industry and this will be a key factor to you being able to move faster up the ranks. If you start a grudge with just one person on the team, your time in at your job will be long and much harder than it needs to be.

If you would like more insight into the different types of food operations I give you some more advice in the following:

Below I give a few points to think when it comes to the Hotel and Independent Restaurant Industries:

Expectations of a Chef in the Hotel Industry:
- The "Chef" title is earned with at least 3 years of experience in a business-style kitchen environment, this is if you spend 60 plus weekly hours in this time frame. If you decide you would like a personal life to balance you out, it can take you about 5 years to have "Chef" in your title.
- Your career to a Chef starts by having a "Cook" title. Depending on the size of the hotel you can either start off in the banquet kitchen or in a restaurant that the hotel might have. Hotels that have less than 500 rooms can have both kitchens integrated but if you choose to go for a 500+ room hotel you might see the magic that happens when you have a convention of 1,000ppl asking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the banquet kitchen that can do this capacity you will be working with 10+ other cooks to bring the events together because these are major amounts of food and this kitchen focuses on mass production. Here you can learn to make recipes in large batches, you practice your knife skills a lot more than in restaurants so you get better at precise cuts faster, Here you will learn different cuisines and continuously utilize different cooking methods because the menu for each event changes, and another pro to this kitchen is that for the most part you receive your event orders at least 1 week ahead and you are able to prepare ahead of time. A con to work in this kitchen is that it has its ups and downs moments such as in my experience, from January - July is when the most of the business is coming in, then from August - November (before Thanksgiving) it is usually the slowest times and you can experience not having the same amount of hours that you are used to, and during December you see hardly any business and hotels can close the banquet kitchen to save on labor and utilize the kitchens in the restaurants to handle any small parties that might come up. In other words, you would be working hard for most of the year but when it comes to holidays and such, it is the norm to have some time-off to enjoy personal life, reason is because big companies are the ones that book conferences, therefore, most people that attend conferences come during business time and holiday time is to be with families. You can turn this into a pro for you if you learn how to manage your money properly and save up for those times that the business won't be there.
- If you are in a 500+ room hotel and start off in the restaurant side you will be working at a much smaller volume in a team from 2-5 sometime more but rare. Hotels that have multiple restaurant in them usually give the guest a variety with a casual, fine-dining, buffet style, and or specialty cuisine restaurant. It is common that is you do not have experience in culinary that you will start in the casual dining restaurant where not much skill is required to start off with. In specialty cuisines restaurants and fine dining you will see much more attention to detail to each plate and a care that is distinct from any other operation. Usually, you have to have honed a skill in culinary before entering here or if you know someone that is already in the restaurant that can put in a good word for you, this is also a common practice. Some pros of working in restaurants is that usually restaurant stay open all year round with the exception of the specialty restaurants where hotels will close the restaurants when there is not many guests in the hotel, the management does this to same on operational costs. A con of this can be that you will be cooking the same menu for a long while until the Chef decides to change it. This can limit your cuisine expertise if you are not educating yourself on new trends on your own.

*** A pro for working in a big hotel is that they have a human resources department where you have better chances to be protected from discrimination, harassment, and such. Also, you will be assured that you get a steady paycheck every week where independent business owners can stiff you on your paycheck if they choose too. Benefits like health insurance and retirement savings plan is often offered in big businesses such as this one.

Independent Restaurants:

- Look for a restaurant that is successful and has a menu that you are interested in learning how to cook.
- Sometimes to get into the good restaurant you will have to work for free to prove your worth before getting on the payroll. Another way in would be to ask to be a dishwasher first, that way you can get in and work your way in.
- When you go to a successful restaurant that has great food, there is usually a great Chef in the back who you can learn from and get you basic culinary knowledge form that person. ***You don't need a culinary degree to be a Chef, you just need the experience.*** I say this because I did go to a very good and reputable culinary school, graduated with honors, and I did not learn as much as I did as I learned from on-the-job experience. So in a sense I feel like I spent money on something that I really could have been paid for to learn it. This is just my opinion on this particular college degree.

I hope this helps! Thanks for taking the time to read!

Thank you so much, this really helped me understand what I need to do to become a chef. Brayden U.

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