Friday Guest Post: So You Want to be a Chef?

[ 0 ] January 7, 2011 |

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Are You a Good Cook?

First-rate chefs blend high-level cooking skills, creativity, and talent. They cook with passion, and they definitely do not cook mechanically! Many chefs acquire their culinary skills through formal training. If you’re considering a career as a chef there are some things you need to think about. Let’s take a look at them.

Career Paths

You can take an entry-level position in a restaurant and try to work your way up to a chef position. However, graduating from a culinary program broadens the spectrum of available career opportunities. Culinary programs provide valuable training in practically every aspect of cooking. You’ll have a competitive advantage on those without formal training, and you’ll be able to enter at the mid-level of the promotion scale instead of at the bottom.

Some restaurants and hotels train chefs through private programs. Some corporations provide paid internships and summer assignments to those entering the profession.

Education Programs

Most upscale restaurants require professional training and experience. Luckily, there are culinary arts and cooking schools located throughout the country. Many four-year and two-year colleges provide excellent degree programs in culinary arts and hospitality. Most of the culinary programs include an internship or an apprenticeship at a restaurant, which provide valuable training and networking opportunities. Also, restaurants often hire their skilled interns once they’ve completed their schooling.

Is Your Goal To Become a Head Chef?

A head chef, also called an executive chef, typically needs several years of training and some experience. Head chef positions typically require certification.

American Culinary Federation

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) has accredited more than 200 programs and sponsors many apprenticeships in the United States. Schools accredited by the ACF meet recognized standards regarding their facility, curriculum, and quality of instruction. Schools accredited by the ACF are automatically worthy of your consideration. Apprenticeships typically include two years of combined classroom and on-the-job-training.

The ACF also certifies chefs, and this prestigious certification is based mostly on experience and formal training. Certification is not required, however it shows a level of accomplishment and may help you obtain a higher paying position. Certification can make it easier to advance in your career.

Negatives of the Profession

Unfortunately, the turnover rate for professional chefs is high. For some people the pressure of working in a hectic environment becomes too much and they leave the profession. The blasts of heat and the high levels of noise can be annoying to some people. Also, many chefs work more than 40 hours a week and some chefs have erratic work hours.

Aspiring chefs may want to work in a restaurant for a short period of time and see if they’re suited for the environment before spending money on a culinary program. You may have to work on a volunteer basis to gain this experience.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of chefs and head cooks in 2008 was $38,770. Salaries vary significantly by the employer and the region. Upscale restaurants and hotels usually pay the highest wages. Also, wages are typically higher in major metropolitan and resort areas.

For those who enjoy cooking and can handle a busy kitchen environment, a chef career can be fun and rewarding. Keep this information in mind if you decide that becoming a chef is your career goal.

Brian Jenkins writes about culinary arts careers and college degree programs, among other topics, for BrainTrack.

Category: Food.Fun.Stuff.

About the Author ()

Johnna French is a Harlem NY native with deep roots in Panama, Washington, DC and North Carolina. All four places have heavily influenced her life and the foods she loves today. After graduating Howard University School of Law and beginning her life as a young professional in the city she was led to start Johnna Knows Good Food in November 2007 to keep family, friends and colleagues updated on where to go and what to eat while dining in the nation’s capitol. French, who still practices law, leads a team of three writers to cover the ever expanding Washington, DC food scene. French has been featured in print and television, appearing in Washingtonian Magazine and is a regular contributor to various local TV affiliates including WUSA 9, FOX 5 DC and WJLA (ABC Affiliate) News Channel 8. During the 2016-2017 football season, Johnna aired on Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic (CSN) show, Redskins Life, as the weekly tailgate host. Johnna is currently a regular contributor to the FOX Baltimore Weekend morning show.

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