If you are wondering how to become chef, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the catering, hospitality and travel industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Chefs are responsible for preparing food using a variety of cooking techniques. In large kitchens they will normally work as part of a team responsible for one particular area, such as bread and pastries, or vegetables. The head chef, who may also be known as the executive chef or the ‘maitre de cuisine’, is responsible for running the entire kitchen.

    Typical responsibilities:

    planning menus
    dealing with suppliers
    managing the budget
    organising staff
    monitoring and maintaining the quality of the food the kitchen produces
    making sure the kitchen works within relevant hygiene, health and safety guidelines.
    You would usually start as a trainee chef (or ‘commis’ chef), spending time in each area of the kitchen, gaining a range of culinary skills and techniques, and learning how to look after kitchen equipment and utensils.

    With experience, you could progress to section chef (or ‘chef de partie’) and be in charge of running an area of the kitchen. The next step would be sous chef (or under-chef), which would involve using the experience you had gained in every section of the kitchen, and running the entire kitchen on behalf of the head chef when necessary.

    In smaller kitchens, you could also be responsible for cleaning the kitchen and serving customers.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good chefs include:

    a keen interest in food and cooking
    the ability to work under pressure
    high standards of cleanliness and hygiene
    the ability to manage multiple tasks
    the ability to work as part of a team
    creativity and imagination for food presentation
    good organisational skills
    strong communication and leadership skills
    the ability to manage a budget.

    How to become a chef
    You may not need any formal academic qualifications to start work as a trainee (commis) chef. However, some employers will prefer you to have a good general standard of education, possibly including some GCSEs (A-E) in English and maths.

    There are courses you can do that will help prepare you for work as a chef, including:

    GCSEs in Catering, or Hospitality and Catering
    Level 2 Diploma in Professional Cookery (awarded by ASET and City and Guilds)
    BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Hospitality, or Hospitality Supervision
    BTEC HND in Professional Cookery
    foundation degree in Culinary Arts Management.
    Please check with colleges or universities for course entry requirements.

    Some courses include a high proportion of practical kitchen experience, which may allow you to start your career in the kitchen at a higher level (instead of working your way up from junior or commis chef).

    You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

    Training and Development
    As a trainee chef you can work towards NVQ qualifications, in subjects such as:

    Hospitality, Level 1
    Food Processing and Cooking, Level 2
    Professional Cookery, levels 2 and 3
    Hospitality Supervision, Level 3.
    You can develop more advanced skills and help your career by studying part-time towards qualifications such as a foundation degree, BTEC HNC or degree in professional cookery, culinary arts management, or hospitality management.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    A trainee (commis) chef can earn between £11,500 and £15,000 a year.
    Section chefs (chefs de partie) can earn up to around £17,000.
    A second chef (sous chef may earn up to £25,000.
    Head chefs (chefs de cuisine) can earn around £30,000.
    An executive head chef in a top hotel can earn between £40,000 and £50,000.

    Job Prospects
    There are around 250,000 chefs and cooks in the UK. People 1st (the Sector Skills Council for hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism) report there is a massive shortage of qualified chefs.

    You would find job opportunities throughout the UK in every area of the industry, including hotels, restaurants, wine bars and cafes, as well as in education, the Health Service and the Armed Forces. Many restaurants in the UK are owner-managed or run in partnership, and many are owned and run by chefs.

    With qualifications and on-the-job experience, you may progress to head chef. Opportunities for promotion will be greatest in larger kitchens. You could move into management or go on to train and teach catering or professional cookery. You could also choose to set up your own contract catering business.

    With further study, it may be possible to move into a related area such as nutrition, consumer science (also known as home economics) or food technology.

    Useful hospitality, catering and travel industry resources:
    People 1st
    2nd Floor
    Armstrong House
    38 Market Square
    UB8 1LH
    Tel: 0870 060 2550

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