How to Become a Chef
Chef Careers Overview
This article provides an overview of chef and cook careers and the requirements to become a chef. This article will outline a chef's job duties, salary levels, and employment prospects, as well as discuss the career's necessary skills, training, and educational requirements to become a chef.
Executive chefs, sometimes referred to as head cooks, coordinate all dining operations of a restaurant, hotel, or other eating establishment. Their responsibilities may include managing the kitchen staff, overseeing meal preparation, planning menus, and ordering supplies.
Certain personal attributes are important for executive chefs to possess. These include the ability to work quickly and efficiently, a well-developed sense of taste and smell, good personal hygiene, and a willingness to work with a team. Familiarity with a foreign language may also prove useful in communicating with other workers.
In 2002, executive chefs and head cooks earned a median hourly wage of $13.43. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $7.66 per hour, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $25.86 per hour. The highest median hourly earnings were found in the amusement and recreation industries, and the lowest were found in limited-service eating places.
Training and Education
Becoming an executive chef or head cook requires numerous years of training, as well as a strong passion for cooking. However, the type of training varies tremendously. High school or post-high school vocational programs offer the earliest chance for education. Independent cooking schools, culinary institutes, and 2- to 4-year college programs provide more in-depth training. Some restaurants and hotels even offer their own training and job-placement programs. Whichever path of training you choose, it will probably include some sort of apprenticeship or internship component in which you will receive real-world experience.
Many different colleges and universities provide the training required to become a chef. A good list of such institutions can be found on this page of college and universities offering information on Culinary Schools and related training.
Out of the nearly 3 million culinary jobs in 2002, about 132,000 people were employed as executive chefs and head cooks.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of executive chefs and head cooks is expected to increase, though only at an average rate. A great deal of that increase will come in the form of jobs at casual restaurants, as opposed to full-service, high-end dining places.