How to Become a Successful Chef
Becoming a successful chef takes more than just knowing how to cook. You have to be a master in the culinary arts to compete in the food service industry.
What does becoming a chef entail? You need to understand basic culinary techniques, have a solid network, and be a good manager, among other things.
This guide will highlight how to be a chef and shed light on the roles of a chef.
What Does a Chef Do?
In simple terms, chefs cook for a living. Whether you are a sous chef or head chef, it all boils down to planning, cooking, and serving food. All kitchen chefs are responsible for ensuring the restaurant or establishment turns a profit. They also ensure that patrons get value for their money.
In the kitchen, there is a hierarchy. Some chefs direct other chefs to maintain the quality of the meals. The line cook is responsible for cooking and plating the meals, while the commis chef supports the chef de partie with cooking and cleaning. The commis chef is also known as a junior chef.
However, successful chefs must build cooking skills, attend culinary school, and get relevant experience to thrive in the hospitality industry. Below are some steps to become a chef.
Know the Basic Culinary Techniques
Basic cooking skills and techniques are essential for aspiring chefs. Some chefs learn these techniques in culinary school, while others are self-taught. Attending a culinary arts school gives you a wider insight into cooking.
You can learn to cut, measure, prepare sauces and ingredients, and cook meat based on the types. Also, the culinary school teaches aspiring chefs about the various kinds of knives and how to use them.
Chefs who want to take up senior roles in the kitchen, such as head chef and sous chef, need culinary training to be able to delegate jobs in the kitchen.
These chefs are often responsible for developing the menu; culinary school training can help them hone their creativity.
Many people argue that culinary school is a waste of money since the resources are readily available. Others agree because you don’t need certification from culinary institutes to become a chef.
Another argument for culinary programs is that the best and most popular chefs didn’t attend any culinary art schools. Some examples include Gordon Ramsey, Rachel Ray, and Ina Garten.
Like any other school, culinary arts schools have their pros and cons. Chefs have the option to cultivate their culinary skills on their own or attend culinary schools. This formal education is entirely at their discretion.
Build a Network
Like every other field, building a network in the culinary world is critical. The best chefs understand how important building and maintaining a network is. This knowledge makes it easier to attract and retain top chefs.
Why is it essential to have top chefs in professional kitchens? The answer is simple. When all chefs in the kitchen are skilled, meal preparation is faster, and there will be fewer mistakes.
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Commitment to Work
Being committed to your work is important if you want to become a successful chef. The professional chef has a tough job. Whether they work as an executive chef or sous chef, they need to stand for long hours and even work on weekends to satisfy customers.
The job also means preparing food despite the hazards and coming up with different dishes and new ideas to increase profitability.
Even chefs who are restaurant owners are not spared. They need to stay on top of food trends to thrive in a highly competitive restaurant industry.
Being a successful chef also means being aware of the role every member of the professional kitchen plays. The sous chef, head chef, executive chef, and commis chefs must all play their parts to ensure that food is prepared on time and with good quality.
Regardless of the rush, the prep cook and other chefs must follow food safety guidelines.
Become a Good Manager
Most chefs start their professional cooking career as junior chefs. Others may even work as a kitchen assistant but take on supervisory roles as their skills grow. Roles like head chef and executive chef are great examples of managerial roles for chefs.
Working in this role often requires managerial skills. The executive chef comes up with great food ideas, handles cost management, hires employees, controls inventory, and orders repairs when necessary.
Inside the kitchen, the head chef manages the food preparation and other processes. They direct the chef de partie, line cook, and commis chef as well.
Problem-Solving Skills and Quick Decision Making
Being a successful chef also means thinking quickly and making decisions. For instance, if the sous chef is unavailable, who can handle daily operations?
Or there’s a power outage, and the backup generators aren’t functioning. How do you handle the fresh supplies in the fridge to prevent them from rotting?
Is there a procedure to handle the food, or will you throw it away? Will the restaurant shut down temporarily until power comes back on? These are some questions a chef has to answer, especially those in managerial positions like head chef and executive chef.
Be Resilient and Passionate About What You Do
Like commitment, passion is also needed for any role in the food service industry. To become a good chef, you must love what you do.
There’s a chance you’ll miss out on parties, birthdays, and other celebrations of friends and family while climbing your career ladder.
Still, you can make it positive by seeing things in a new light. You’ll meet new and talented chefs and create a lifelong bond with them. Also, you will have an opportunity to constantly learn in the foodservice industry.
Without passion and resilience, seeing things from a more positive perspective would be impossible. Regardless of the type of kitchen, whether it is a full service restaurant or your own restaurant, the job is challenging.
Knowing and embracing these challenges helps you develop your skills in the culinary arts and become a chef with great skills.
What is The Progression From Chef to Head Chef?
The hierarchy of the professional kitchen starts with the trainee chefs and moves to the section chefs. The sous chef is often next in line as second in command to the head chef.
So, it takes around nine years to progress from apprentice to head in a professional kitchen. The head chefs are also known as executive chefs. Depending on the restaurant, the roles of the executive chefs differ.
Becoming a great chef and owning a restaurant someday is attainable for dedicated chefs. You can choose to get a formal education or learn from experience. The factors that get you to where you want to be are your passion, skills, commitment, and decision-making skills.