Do you have a passion for creating great dishes from scratch? If so, you’re not alone. Just flip on your television to find proof that the world adores food, preparing food, and those who do the preparing: From contest cooking shows to entire networks dedicated to all that is food, there’s a giant market for those who share your passion, and plenty of resources for taking it to the next level. If you’re interested in turning your love for food prep into a career, there are certain steps you can take to become a professional chef:
Get an education. Not every professional chef has a culinary school background, and you certainly don’t have to take that route, either. Consider all of your options, keeping in mind that an education can come in many forms. Some chefs start out as students in community college food prep programs, some start out as home cooks, and some travel to exotic countries to train with world-famous chefs. Whatever you do, you need to get a broad education to serve as your foundation. It should include food history, kitchen safety, food prep technique, nutrition, pastry making, kitchen management (ordering and stocking food products), and team skills.
Gain experience. If you want to join the ranks of other successful professional chefs, then you will have to know about every aspect of the kitchen. Don’t expect that you will go straight from culinary school to executive chef. It’s more likely that you’ll have to work from the bottom up. Fortunately, even the most mundane kitchen tasks can better prepare you for the reality of being a chef. Therefore, when you’re in the experience phase, you can be less choosy about which position you start in. The most important thing is that you get your foot in the door, so that you can get a feel for how the kitchen works, from the dish room to the prep line.
Decide on an area of specialization. Once you have enough experience to understand every aspect of how a kitchen operates, you can steer your career in a particular direction by choosing a specialization. This will determine which specific steps you need to take in order to reach your goal station as a chef. For example, you may desire the prestige of an executive chef position in a world-class restaurant, the challenge of running your own restaurant, the flexibility of being a personal chef, or the completely separate venture of pastry making. You may want to work in your pajamas in your own kitchen or you may want to grab a nice Chef Works uniform and showcase yourself in an open restaurant setting. It’s up to you!
Becoming a professional chef will require an investment of your hard work and time. If you’re willing to devote yourself to the endeavor, you are setting yourself for a considerable payoff, as a chef career can be challenging, exciting, and rewarding for an entire lifetime.
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