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To Become A Professional Cook: A Career Resource Guide

by D. Lawton

Category: Career Management

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So you know you love to cook... But do you want to become a professional chef? If so, where should you begin? How can you make cooking your career?

This career guide provides a quick and easy reference depicting what most professional chefs say about their culinary arts training and their career. Where should you begin? Where should you study to undergo extensive culinary arts training? How do you become an apprentice in a well-known cooking program? Are there shortcuts? What do well known professional chefs say about their path to success? What do chefs make and what is the career outlook for culinary professionals? (We will continue to update this section to provide additional information.)

Overview
Most professional chefs started their careers by spending four years at an accredited culinary art school. The best culinary schools are those that include the Le Cordon Bleu as an important part of their training. (This website provides information from the very best culinary schools. To find a map of cooking schools near you, click here.)

Following culinary school, most career chefs spend at least five years working under head chefs at different restaurants. Typically, they start out as support staff in the kitchen, performing a special task (such as preparing vegetables). Since most young chefs want to be sous-chefs under the top brass at the best restaurants, (particularly in large cities), they often work at several restaurants, acquiring experience under different mentors. Then, they decide to specialize in an area of their primary interests. Professional chefs that are able to withstand the high stress and pressure of the job will find themselves at the helm of a kitchen as head chef. On average, this could take as long as 10 years. To be a head chef means he or she will direct an entire kitchen staff or even start a restaurant.

About Being a Chef
Many chefs view themselves as artists, blending ordinary ingredients to create masterpieces. They are very serious about their careers and many feel drawn to their profession. Most feel it is their calling in life. The apprenticeship is for most chefs rigorous and challenging. And the career isn't that different. Most work about 50 hours a week, including nights and weekends.
Professional Chefs Enjoy:

  • High Prestige
  • Creativity
  • Constantly being surrounded by food

Professional Chefs Endure:

  • Specialized Training
  • Long hours
  • High stress level
  • Potential for career burnout

Characteristics of A Professional Chef:

  • Organized
  • Opportunistic
  • Creative

Where to Start:

Professional Chefs need to get a Certification from a professional cooking school.


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