How to become a Chef?Alternative Careers | June 23, 2010 | Share
Do you fancy yourself to be a gourmet? Do you wish to don a white toque and a double breasted jacket for daily work? Enamored by Jerome ‘Chef’ McElroy from South Park? Most importantly, love the kitchen? Then being a chef could be the job for you!
A chef is a person who cooks professionally. Chefs work in hotels, cafes, restaurants, fast food joints, catering units and other similar work locations. In a professional kitchen, the chef is the person in charge of the kitchen and the people working in it. Chefs are part of that booming industry known as Hospitality. As hotel and hospitality business takes giant strides across the world, the job of a chef could be a well rewarding and satisfying one too.
Types of Chefs
There are many types of chefs based on the work they do and the places where they work. One popular title is the executive chef or the Chef de cuisine. The executive chef decides everything in the kitchen – from the menu to the salary each member of the kitchen earns to the plating design. The executive chef is the all-in-all of the kitchen. The sous-chef de cuisine is the second in command in the kitchen. He is the direct assistant and understudy of the executive chef and substitutes for the executive chef when he is not available.
Another important component of a kitchen is the Expediter. The expediter is the person who takes orders from diners and conveys the same to the kitchen. He also provides finishing touches to the dishes to be served. A Chef de partie is a person who is in charge of one area of the kitchen. He may have many assistants under him. These apprentices are called Commis.
What it takes to be a Chef
A chef requires vast knowledge about various types of food and cuisine and how they are prepared. An aptitude for service and hospitality and the ability to serve with a smile are essential qualities a chef would require. Team work is of the utmost importance as a kitchen comprises of several people and the chef should be able to co-ordinate his staff to deliver an excellent performance.
An important aspect of the job any aspirant must realise is that the job of a chef is not a nine to five one. It is not a comfortable desk job. Rather, a chef should be prepared to work during evenings and be ready to be employed on weekends and holidays. People go out to eat when their desk jobs are done for the day and so chefs would have work at such times of the day.
A culinary career is not an easy one. A chef has to stand on his feet in the kitchen for hours at end and will be working under constant pressure. There will always be risks of getting cuts from knifes or suffering burns and bruises from simmering oil. Kitchens are always hot and noisy and are seldom a soothing environment. A chef will have to show endurance to stick it out in such situations which are sure to occur daily.
A chef is expected to cook a wide range of food from different cuisines. High profile chefs even have their own innovative and exclusive recipes. It will take considerable talent and experience to come up with a truly world class recipe.
No customer likes to wait a long time for their order to arrive and so chefs have to work fast and efficiently to ensure that there are no grievances from the customer. Speed and accuracy are definitely two major factors that determine how good a chef is.
Being a chef can bring in a lot of rewards. Chefs are paid decent salaries, the figure depends on the establishment you work for and the position you hold in the kitchen. Top chefs in luxury hotels earn seven figure salaries. A chef can be confident of bringing in at least a five figure monthly earning at the start.
However, not all benefits need to be monetary. The satisfaction of a customer wading into the dish you have prepared and showing immense satisfaction can be a very pleasurable sight and handsome reward. The satisfaction of a job well done, the camaraderie in the kitchen, the positive comments from customers are all plus points. You will have the satisfaction of earning a salary for doing something you love.
Many top class institutes in India offer courses that train you to be a chef. The Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad and the the Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, which has campuses in New Delhi, Goa and Ahmedabad are two premier government institutions that offer such courses. In the private sector, notable schools include Amity School of Hospitality, Noida and The Welcome Group of Graduate School Hotel Administration, Manipal.
Students who have passed class ten are eligible to pursue diploma courses in food crafts. Students who have done 10+2 can opt for degree courses in culinary arts.
The hotel and hospitality industry is burgeoning and there is a huge demand for chefs and kitchen staff across India and the world. There is a massive potential for growth. There is a tide in the affairs of men, which when taken will lead to fortune. This is one such tide that should not be missed by the young, upcoming and aspiring chefs among the youth.
Aju Basil James