Anyone who enjoys cooking has probably thought about what it might be like to work as a high-end chef. And let’s be honest – more than a few of us have pretended our kitchen was a studio and we were the latest Food Network star. But in reality, the road to becoming a chef takes time to travel. It requires countless hours of hard work, especially in the early years. “Paying your dues” is definitely what aspiring chefs must do to reach the upper ranks of the profession.
The tasks of a chef are varied, depending on the type of food served and where they work. However, chefs can generally be thought of as the head boss within a kitchen. In addition to cooking, chefs will plan the menu, choose and inspect ingredients, supervise the kitchen staff and handle any other food related issues relating to the kitchen.
Contrary to what some food shows portray, there are actually many chefs in the kitchen. There is the head chef, also known as the master chef, executive chef or chef de cuisine. There are sous chefs, who generally implement the head chef’s directives and are second-in-command of the kitchen; a chef de partie, which is a chef supervising a particular area or station within the kitchen; and a commis, who is usually one of the least experienced chefs, often fresh out of culinary school, who works directly under the chef de partie at a particular kitchen station.
Other chefs may specialize in a certain type of food; for instance, the pastry chef focuses on desserts, cakes and pastries. Some chefs handle not only some cooking but administrative tasks as well, including hiring and firing staff, managing cash flows, acquiring investors, ordering ingredients and more.
Culinary schools are dedicated to one thing – the culinary arts. No matter the diploma, certificate or degree that results from attending a culinary school, students should feel secure the curriculum will be focused strongly on what it takes to become a chef. Completion might require a commitment of anywhere from one to four years. Despite their generally higher cost, culinary schools can be one of the best ways to begin a chef career, thanks to the quality of faculty, training and updated facilities.
A certificate is the fastest way to get culinary arts training, typically taking under a year to complete. This curriculum is typically very intense and focuses mostly on hands-on learning and obtaining practical skills.