Practical Steps To Becoming A Professional Chef

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Becoming a Professional Chef

So You’re Thinking of Becoming a Professional Chef

If you’re thinking of becoming a professional chef, but don’t know where to start.  I can give you practical steps on where, and how to start.

Becoming a chef, I’m not going to sugarcoat this, it’s a hard, and fast life where you will meet all walks of life.  

Hot, unforgiving atmosphere accompanied by long hours, and I mean long 14, 16, 18 hour days.

You’ll be working when everyone else is partying, and on weekends you’ll be working lots of them too.

Being thick-skinned, not afraid of hard work, able to handle pressure, and having the ability to multi-task are some of the qualities of becoming a great chef.

A sense of humor will help greatly, the darker, the better. 

Cooking professionally was once only a man’s domain, now there are just as many women in the game.  

Some of the best sous chefs (second chef) I’ve had the pleasure to work with have been women, they’ve been hard as nails, great cooks, and motivators of people.

Becoming a chef is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.

When I started working in kitchens and cooking it was the eighties, and there were no celebrity chefs or cooking shows on television.

Kitchens back then were hard, mean, and didn’t show any mercy. Weakness was not tolerated.

A chef today has to be so much more than a cook.  They’ve got to use color, language, images, and connect with customers’ emotions in order to animate what’s on the plate.

Chef Skills

Get A Job in A Professional Kitchen 

The best way to find out if you really want to become a chef is to go door-knocking at eateries in your area, looking for a job in their kitchen.  Or applying for kitchen jobs online.  

Some eateries don’t advertise for staff and rely on word of mouth or people door-knocking.

Start with a kitchen hand or pot washer position this will give you a good understanding of how commercial kitchens work.  

If you enjoy the fast-paced, family environment, and hard work. You’ll be welcomed into the team and quickly become one of the family.   

Get A Cooking Degree

When you’ve worked in a commercial kitchen, experienced the lifestyle, the crazy fast pace, your next step is to get a Degree or Diploma in the Culinary Arts. 

In New Zealand a City & Guilds diploma in the Culinary Arts. This is delivered by all major culinary schools and is an internationally recognized cooking qualification.

The 2-year diploma at AUT Auckland, New Zealand will cost Domestic (citizen or permanent resident) NZD $6,786 – $6,803, International students $31,307. (This is where I completed my culinary diploma).

A Diplôme De Cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu, Wellington, New Zealand will cost NZD $37,500.

This doesn’t take into account the cost of living and other expenses.

Deciding on which culinary school to attend can be a daunting task. There are prestigious cooking schools around the world that offer a wide range of degrees, and diplomas. 

Smoked Beef and Pumpkin Puree
Smoked beef pumpkin puree and barbecue plum sauce

Work With The Pros

Now you’ve graduated, and have got your cooking diploma or degree. You want to go and work for the pros, the great chefs.

Don’t think about money, right now you want knowledge, and hone your skill, knowledge, and skill is power remember that.

If you’ve got a partner, kiss them goodbye because you’ll always be working, this is the reality.

In time you’ll become a culinary warrior, a prepping, cooking machine, and you’ll start creating your own dishes, finding your own voice, and your own identity.     

Work Your Way Up The Ranks

Once you’ve become that prepping, cooking machine and have got some big numbers and busy services under your belt start moving up the ranks.

You can travel the world, chefs are transients, working in different kitchens, learning different techniques, cooking styles, and cuisines.  

CDP (chef de partie), Line Cook, Grill CookSous Chef, Head Chef, Executive Chef, or even open your own place.  Kitchen management can be rewarding creatively and financially.

However, there will be a lot more pressure and stress, your reputation and ass will be on the line, remember that. 

Final Words

Becoming a chef isn’t easy, however, it can be rewarding, you get to create food that people love to eat.

Taking practical steps to achieve your dream, starting from the bottom, and working your way up the ranks, there are no shortcuts.

Don’t think about money, right now you want knowledge, and hone your skill, knowledge, and skill is power remember that.

You can travel the world working, and having fun along the way. It’s an awesome lifestyle, where you party hard and work even harder.

There is nothing more rewarding than cooking food for people and watching them enjoy what you’ve created.

The fast pace, creativeness, and enjoyment will flow through your blood, and into your soul.

Becoming a professional chef is intoxicating, addictive, and highly rewarding.

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