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PERSONAL: David always enjoyed cooking, but never considered becoming a chef until he got a summer j ob in a hotel kitchen after finishing his GCSEs.

He had intended to go back to his school sixth form in September to begin his A Levels, but the experience convinced him to go to college to study catering instead.

After finishing his course, David got a job as a trainee chef in a small restaurant, before moving to a larger establishment. He has worked his way through the ranks, and was recently made Head Chef.

JOB DESCRIPTION: It is a chef's job to prepare and cook food. They usually work in restaurants, hotels and outside catering - people who prepare food in canteens, schools and hospitals tend to have the job title 'cook', while those who work in snack bars, takeaways, and fast-food outlets are often called short order or quick service cooks.

The job can differ depending on the size of the restaurant and the experience of the chef.

Larger kitchens are often split into different sections for different stages of preparing meals. Junior chefs, also known as commis chefs, will usually spend time in each section, and may also have to wash up and look after kitchen utensils, while chefs de partie will oversee each department.

The Head Chef, who may also be called the executive chef or chef de cuisine, will be in charge of the whole kitchen. This job will include planning the menu, ordering ingredients, supervising the other chefs, maintaining the quality of the food and keeping the kitchen rubbing efficiently.

In smaller restaurants, the roles of the different chefs can overlap, and head chefs may also cook and prepare the food themselves. They may also serve tables and clean up.

Chefs often have to work shifts and will usually be required to work weekends, evenings and bank holidays.

SKILLS AND PERSONALITY: Chefs should have a genuine passion for food and cooking, and they should be imaginative and creative when it comes to presenting food.

It is also important that they able to think and work under pressure - kitchens can be hot, noisy and hectic, and chefs will have to prepare food quickly and efficiently while still maintaining high standards.

Chefs should also be prepared to carry out some of the more routine tasks, such as washing up or peeling vegetables, especially in the early stages of their career, and they need to be able to work as part of a team.

Head chefs should also be good at motivating and managing other members of staff, be good communicators, and be confident about handling budgets.

TRAINING AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: There are no set entry requirements for chefs, and many begin their careers without formal qualifications and learn on the job.

However, gaining a recognised professional qualification can be an advantage. Many full and part-time vocational college courses are available, including NVQs, and some higher education institutions offer HNDs in Culinary Arts.

Some employers offer structured training programmes or send new recruits on day-release college courses that lead to recognised qualifications. Apprenticeships may also be available for younger candidates.

It is possible to train to be a chef at any age, but older candidates may need previous experience of preparing food or working in the catering or hospitality industries.

EARNINGS AND PROSPECTS: Salaries vary, and a typical starting wage for a trainee chef can be anywhere between pounds 8,000 and pounds 15,000. Experienced head chefs can earn between pounds 16,000 and pounds 38,000.

Those at the top of the profession can earn much more - just look at the celebrity chefs on TV.

In larger kitchens, chefs will typically start as commis chefs and then work their way up to chefs de partie, and then sous (second) chefs, before becoming a head chef.

In smaller establishments, promotion prospects may be limited and chefs may have to change employers to progress.

Chefs can also start their own restaurants and catering businesses, move into management, or work as advisors for food manufacturers. Some may also choose to move into training and teaching.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2006
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