Chef

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Job Description

Chefs oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants or other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • You can become your own boss and open up your own restaurant one day!
  • Getting to design creative dishes!
  • Respect
  • Getting to make yummy dishes!
$43,180
The Inside Scoop
Different places of employment

Restaurants/Hotel restaurants 

  • Work Life: Hard work, work nights and weekends, extremely cutthroat, “glamorous”, have opportunity to move up and one day have the opportunity to create dishes on the menu and your own menu.

Corporate/Franchises

  • Work at the headquarters at companies such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Dominoes, etc.
  • Product Development: Here you are able to help develop recipes, help record what ingredients were used.
  • Work Life: regular hours, no weekends, stable income from the get go, not as glamorous and safe.
  • Requirements: (Depending on which company you apply) Some companies require ~10 years of experience of being a chef because you need to have experience on how much food cost, how to reduce ingredients to pull more profits, etc.

Airlines

  • Work in food development for their customers. You would need to help cook larger orders of food and meet the required time for it to get on the plane.

Catering company

  • Work for a company that prepares food for events (such as wedding).

Private households

  • Work for one client, such as a corporate executive, university president, or diplomat, who regularly entertains as part of his or her official duties. 

Personal chefs

  • Plan and prepare meals in private homes. They also may order groceries and supplies, serve meals, and wash dishes and utensils. Personal chefs are often self-employed or employed by a private cooking company, preparing food for a variety of customers.  
Different check level in a restaurant kitchen
  • Executive chefs are primarily responsible for overseeing the operation of the whole kitchen. They coordinate the work of sous chefs and other cooks, who prepare most of the meals. Executive chefs also have many duties beyond the kitchen. They design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train employees. Some executive chefs are primarily occupied by administrative tasks and spend little time in the kitchen.
  • Chefs de cuisines are a kitchen’s second-in-command. They supervise the restaurant’s cooks, do some meal preparation tasks, and report results to the head chefs. In the absence of the head chef, the chefs de cuisines run the kitchen.
  • Sous chefs (pronounced "soo-shef" -- French for "under chef") are the direct assistant of the chefs de cuisine.  Larger kitchens often have more than one sous chef, with each covering a certain shift or having his or her own area of responsibility, such as the banquet sous chef, in charge of all banquets, or the executive sous chef, in charge of all other sous chefs.
  • Chef de parties (also known as a "station chef" or "line cook") are in charge of a particular area of production. In large kitchens, each station chef might have several cooks and/or assistants. In most kitchens however, the station chef is the only worker in that department. Line cooks are often divided into a hierarchy of their own, starting with "First Cook", then "Second Cook", and so on as needed. 

Chef de parties stations include:

  • Sauce chef or saucier - prepares sauces, stews, and hot hors d'oeuvres, and sautes foods to order. This is usually the highest position of all the stations.
  • Fish cook or poissonier - Prepares fish dishes (this station may be handled by the saucier in some kitchens).
  • Vegetable cook or entremetier - Prepares vegetables, soups, starches, and eggs. Large kitchens may divide these duties among the vegetable cook, the fry cook, and the soup cook.
  • Roast cook or rotisseur - Prepares roasted and braised meats and their gravies, and broils meats and other items to order. A large kitchen may have a separate broiler cook or grillardin (gree-ar-dan) to handle the broiled items. The broiler cook may also prepare deep-fried meats and fish.
  • Pantry chef or garde manger - is responsible for cold foods, including salads and dressings, pâtés, cold hors d'oeuvres, and buffet items.
  • Pastry chef or pâtissier - Prepares pastries and desserts.
  • The relief cook, swing cook, or tournant - Replaces other station heads.
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Ability to work under pressure.
  • Culinary skills (knife skills, boiling, sautéing, poaching, braising, and grilling)
  • Effective communication
  • Time management
  • Safety and sanitation
  • Ability to lift heavy objects.
  • Leadership and management (in order to move up the ladder)
  • Artistry (presentation of the food)
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Highly competitive industry
  • For restaurants: Not a 9-5 job. This is a lifestyle! Work long hours, nights and weekends.
  • Tiring and stressful environment: you will be always on your feet and be ON while you are working.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Loved to cook!
  • Loved going to restaurants and interested in food and drinks.
2016 Employment
146,500
2026 Projected Employment
160,600
Education Needed
  • HS Diploma highly recommended.
  • Culinary school recommended; however, “Experience is the ultimate teacher.”
What you will learn in culinary school
  • Health and safety courses
  • History of cooking
  • After about 3 months in the classroom, that’s when the fun begins!
    • Basic cutting and chopping techniques, basic sauces,
    • Learn about presentation, taste, and temperature.  
    • Will practice on various dishes to help the student learn about cost effective product usage, presentation ideas and time management. This is how you will be graded.
Things to do in high school
  • Work at a restaurant as a hostess, a waiter, or a bartender. Familiarize yourself with the restaurant environment and see if this is an environment you would enjoy working at.  
  • Talk to chefs and ask them about their career and how they got to where they are.
  • Practice cooking at home and start developing your technique and style. Do you like a specific type of cuisine? Do you like baking instead of cooking?
  • Intern at a restaurant in the kitchen and see if you will enjoy this career and have the stamina to stay on your feet for 10+ hours.
Things to do in culinary school
  • Try to take as much pictures of the food you cook. That is your portfolio! When you start applying for jobs after culinary school, you want to send the chefs what you are capable of doing. Use Tumblr or some kind of internet resource to keep all of your food-folio organized. Most likely the chefs have seen thousands of pictures of food, so they are going to want to see organization and presentation.
  • While attending culinary school, find a part time job where you are able to use the skills that you are learning at school.
  • Towards the end of culinary school some schools will set you up with an “externship” which means you will have an opportunity to intern at a food-related company. Work hard, don't complain!
Typical Roadmap
Chef Roadmap gif
How to Land your 1st job
  • During your interview, listen carefully to what the Executive Chef asks. Do not mention your mother or grandmother's cooking. Explain to him why you respect the restaurant. Make sure you take the time to go the restaurant you are about to apply to and know what’s on their menu. Why? Because you must taste everything you cook.
  • If you do not get a job from your externship, ask to stage (unpaid internship) at a restaurant that you want to work for.
  • When you are staging, you need to follow these rules:     
    • Come in early and start prepping.
    • No whining.
    • Nothing is “beneath” you: If your chef asks you to chop 50 lbs of garlic, just do it fast with a good attitude.
    • Hurry up and get your tasks done and let the chef know so that he can give you something new to do. You need to show the chef that you can finish many things at once in a quick amount of time because higher positioned chefs need to manage several things at once.
Plan B

Alternate careers: Nutritionist, General manager of a restaurant, Product Development (Food company), Food critic.

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