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So You Wanna be a Chef

by on December 10, 2015 | Top Stories, Career Guide

There are many types of cooks and chefs but if you want to make it all the way to the top as an executive chef, you'll need a whole lot of experience. The French Brigade system was originally employed in kitchens to ensure a smooth and systematic operation. Typical roles begin at the top with Executive Chef, followed by Chef de Cuisine or Sous Chef, and then a Chef de Partie. Find out how you can join this brigade!

The Job of a Chef

So You Wanna be a Chef -

Did you know that chefs don't just cook all day? They also need to purchase food and kitchen equipment, keep records of supplies, plan menu options and prices, create new dishes, manage the staff, supervise the cooking process in the kitchen, maintain cleanliness and safety in the kitchen, and communicate with customers.

The hierarchy in a kitchen is like that of a French Brigade. With Executive Chef at the top followed by Chef de Cuisine or Sous Chef, and then a Chef de Partie, there are still many other chefs in the kitchen with different specialties such as sauces, pastry, fish, roast, vegetable, and more.

If you are interested in being a chef, you need to decide what type of chef you want to be and what you want to call your specialty. Check out this Glossary for some common chef positions within the commercial kitchen. In smaller restaurant kitchens, some of these positions may be merged together.

What's the difference between a chef and a cook?

  • A Chef is trained to master culinary forms, but also to provide creative innovation in menu, preparation and presentation.
  • A Cook is trained to master forms of food preparation, but usually takes close direction from a chef.

Is this Job for You?

You might enjoy the job of a chef if you're passionate about developing top-notch menus, and able to multitask. You'd also need business skills to manage a restaurant efficiently, and leadership skills to motivate kitchen staff. Time-management skills are also important.

The interest code for this career is ERA (Enterprising, Realistic and Artistic):

Enterprising — Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Artistic — Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Work Styles

Being reliable, responsible, and dependable are important qualities in a chef. You'll also need good attention to detail and be open to change, both positive and negative. Working in a kitchen is stressful – you'll need to be able to deal with stress calmly and accept criticism. It is important for a chef to be able to lead, take charge, offer direction, and welcome challenges.

Work Values

Chefs value a work environment that allows them to work independently and gain recognition for their achievements. They also enjoy providing a service to others and working as a team.

Work Environment

Working as a chef is physically demanding. According to a survey by, executive chefs worked an average of 11 hours per day, with around 60 hour work weeks. That's not all – you'll spend most of your work hours standing on your feet, surrounded by hot stoves. You will also need physical strength to lift and move big pots. If you enjoy an active work environment, a chef might be an ideal career for you.

Places of Employment

So You Wanna be a Chef -

Chefs can work at any of these places:

  • Resorts and hotels
  • Restaurants and cafeterias
  • Catering and food service companies
  • Cruise ships
  • Hospitals and retirement homes,
  • Theme parks
  • Country clubs
  • Convention centres
  • Private homes and more...

Job Entry Requirement

While you can work up the ladder to become a chef without formal education, an entry-level culinary qualification such as a diploma in culinary arts is becoming increasingly important to employers.

Education and Training Qualifications:


  • Find out what a Chef does in this Video.
  • Watch this Special Feature on a day in the life of a chef.
  • Need advice on how to become a chef? Watch this.

Sources used in this article:

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