How To Become A Chef
Virtually everywhere in the world, the one thing people have in common is the love of food, and learning how to become a chef gives you the ability to use food to bring people together. From humble down home cooking to five-star restaurants, learning to become a chef is not simply about learning to prepare and cook food, but learning to use food to create a work of art that others can enjoy.
- Learn everything you possibly can about food. The difference between a good cook and a world-class chef is not always simply technique, but passion. Accomplished chefs have a love of food and a fire for cooking that drives them to success. The most recognized chefs are often those who are innovative, and bring a new flair to old recipes. Before you can bring your artistic vision to the plate, you need to learn about the building blocks and tools of the trade.
- Build industry experience. There's no substitute for experience, and before you can become a chef, you need to know your way around the kitchen. The European tradition of interviewing restaurant employees is not based on a resume or recommendations, but upon the aspiring employee spending a day working in the kitchen, to see if it's a good fit. The most invaluable experience a chef can gain is working in the kitchen with other talented and knowledgeable people, so get to work.
- Sharpen your knife skills. Whether you choose to attend culinary school, or join the kitchen of your dreams, polishing your knife skills will put you one step ahead of the competition. Education and experience will teach you the finer points of the techniques, but you can start learning and practicing on your own, even before your first day in the industry.
- Take advice from the masters. There are literally hundreds of great books out there written by some of the world's greatest chefs and culinary masters. Reading the stories and advice these cooking greats have to share will help give you a realistic idea of what the field is like, and what you can expect when you decide to become a chef. Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" and "The Professional Chef" by The Culinary Institute of America are good places for an aspiring chef to start building a collection.
- Attend a culinary training school. While many chefs have launched brilliant careers without attending culinary school, the training that a culinary program offers gives you a competitive edge out there in the job market. Most culinary schools are steeped in the classical French style of cooking, the idea being that once a chef has the building blocks of classical cooking techniques at his disposal, he can embark upon a successful career. Many students gain restaurant experience through working part-time at a local restaurant while completing cooking school. While culinary school may not be the best option for every chef, most find it gives a much-needed foundation and knowledge of the industry.
- Be nice to everyone. Some of the most important knowledge and experience you'll gain as a chef comes from your interactions with other people. When you're just starting out, showing that you're friendly, eager to learn, and quick to absorb information will encourage those more experienced chefs around you to help you out, and someone will eventually take you under his wing. Being rude to a dishwasher or server has cost many an aspiring chef not only the opportunity to learn, but his job. A reputation for being difficult is tough to escape in the culinary world, and rudeness will land you on the wrong side of the kitchen door.
Becoming a chef is a rewarding and creative career path. Though it often requires long hours and quick reflexes, those with a passion for food will find few outlets more rewarding. There is no one, clear-cut path to becoming a successful chef, but the one quality all top chefs share is a dedication to excellence. Aspiring chefs will encounter difficult obstacles along the way, as in any career field, but demonstrating character and refusing to be discouraged will very quickly carve a path to culinary success.