As a professional chef, one of the questions I get asked often is how does one become a chef. Sometimes this question is asked out of mere curiosity. Other times the people asking this question are looking at the possibility of becoming a chef. I was once that girl with this question. I went into the culinary world with very little idea of the journey I was about to embark on. All I had was my desire and passion. Which fueled me enough, however, knowing certain things beforehand would have prepared me better. Hence why I am starting this new series called “Chef Convos“. So, If you’ve ever asked the question “How to become a chef?”, here’s your answer.
1. Get a job in any professional kitchen.
Walk into any restaurant, hotel restaurant, or any type of professional restaurant and ask for a job. It most likely will not get a chef. However, with humility, you can get any job that’s available in the kitchen at that time. All you need is to get your feet through the doors as a dishwasher, as a kitchen runner or as a waiter. This gives you the opportunity to learn and work your way to the top. Some of the most amazing chefs that we know today were once dishwashers and/or waiters. Thanks to the determination and humility, they started with, some are now world-famous chefs.
2. Enroll in a Culinary School.
This is self-explanatory. Although usually underrated, culinary schools are very beneficial in giving you a well-rounded education on what to expect. It is the best way to also learn the business aspects of being a chef. This is a more expensive route, but also a very beneficial route because you get to learn the basics. Step by step of what it takes to be in the kitchen. You will learn the different methods, techniques, culinary safety practices before you actually get thrown into the professional world. Every culinary school has a different approach to teaching. I attended a culinary school whose syllabus covered the hospitality industry together with the culinary industry. Do your research and find the best culinary school for you. If you have the means, then this is a great route I would advise anyone to take.
3. Do It Yourself!
Teach yourself to become the chef that you want to be right from home. Some amazing chefs we know today are self-taught. You can also learn from them. There’re so many amazing chefs that started in their own kitchen learning the basic skills. Such as basic knife cutting skills, basic bread making skills etc. You don’t have to learn everything, but you can tackle one technique at a time. Eventually, you can also specialise in cuisine or style of cooking. Practising with other like-minded and upcoming chefs is also a great way to do this. Find your own community, either online or within your peers with similar interests. Seek out people that have the same passion as you do. Reading culinary books and articles is another way to learn advanced techniques and gain insight into the industry. One of the first professional culinary books I read and still have till this day is “The Professional Chef“, also commonly known as “The Bible for all Chefs”.
The culinary industry is not made of milk and honey. Before beginning your professional journey to becoming a chef, first, debunk all the perceptions you might have. Start on your career path on a clean slate. We all have practices, methods, techniques and habits that we’ve grown used to. Especially if you are a home cook. Some of your old techniques might surprisingly be useful in the professional kitchen. However, for the most part, you will need to unlearn bad habits. Habits that may have been useful for your personal cooking might be a complete health and safety hazard for you, your fellow chefs in the kitchen and your customers. Additionally, you will need to actively seek out opportunities as the best ones are not always available. Being a chef is demanding both physically and mentally. Put in the effort to take care of yourself, simultaneous pursue your personal and professional development. Having a healthy mind and body is just as important as a healthy career progression. With passion, diligence, determination and making the right sacrifices, you will achieve amazing things.