A chef oversees a restaurants kitchen. A chef plans the menu, maintains the budget, prices menu items, prepares food, purchases supplies, ensures quality of service, ensures safety, and manages staff. There is a lot of work that goes into becoming a chef. Chefs ensure the meals are cooked and seasoned properly and that they are pleasing to the eye. Pay varies greatly depending on the location and nicer or more upscale restaurants generally pay the most.
Watch one cooks journey to become a chef:
How to Become a Chef
A chef generally has a 4-year college degree, but many employers are now accepting applicants from community colleges, culinary art schools, or technical schools. The Armed Forces have apprenticeships as well. You can still be called a chef without a formal education, but you would have years of experience in the restaurant industry. A culinary education can be vital as being a chef means you can run a restaurant down to training any cook staff, purchase the food you’ll need to cook with, create the menu, and price your menu items.
Watch a video to learn what a chef does:
Job Description of a Chef
A chef is in charge of the kitchen in restaurants or other places where food is served. They watch all activity and food preparation with any staff that would assist in the kitchen. They supervise the preparation of food for its garnishing and presentation, as well as, the seasonings for a perfect taste. A chef orders food or kitchen supplies and provides cost estimates to the employer. They monitor any staff requirements and production schedules to be sure any services are delivered on time.
A chef or head cook needs to have knowledge of food preparation, production and processing. They need to have knowledge of the customer and personal service in order to achieve customer satisfaction. They need to be current on public safety and security. A chef should be skilled in monitoring, coordinating and effectively speaking to others. They need skills of time management, active listening, judgment and decision making. He or she has the ability to create an idea or new application to enhance job performance among staff or themselves.
A chef would coach and develop other staff in the kitchen to improve their skills. Because a kitchen depends on a cooperative team effort, the chef or head cook would encourage staff to have mutual respect and trust for each other. A chef or head cook can be found working in restaurants, private households, hotels, casinos or other food service places. They work a variety of hours, such as, early morning, late evenings, holidays, and weekends. This occupation is very fast-paced and normally has full-time hours. You should expect strong competition especially at upscale restaurants, casinos, or hotels because of the higher salary paid in these places.
Accountant Job Posting
Let’s look at a job description posted by the Army Installation Management Command. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:
- Plans and manages the day-to-day operation of a food service program in a small club where formal dining and catering are a regular, substantial basis of the total food operation.
- Develops daily catering and specialty menus. Prepares and/or oversees the preparation of meals which involve both standard to moderately complex and new cooking methods.
- Balances nutritional value of menus and ensures the quality of the total foodservice program.
- Develops operating budget, identifying labor, equipment and supply cost elements. Controls pricing; food ordering, storage and issue; and food production methods and techniques.
- Directs subordinates in all phases of food preparation.
This position was posted to run 12/19/2018 until 01/22/2019 with a salary range of $39,650 to $46,950 per year on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Free Teacher and Student Resources
Harvard University offers a free Science and Cooking course on EdX.org (link opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.
By taking this course, you’ll learn:
- The chemical and physical principles that underlie everyday cooking and haute cuisine techniques.
- How chefs can use enzymes to make foods that would otherwise be impossible.
- How to use the scientific method to learn how a recipe works, and find ways you could improve it.
- How to think like a chef AND a scientist.
Interview with a White House Chef
Watch this video to learn what it’s like to be a chef at the White House.
Chef Career Video Transcripts
White House Chef Video Transcript: My main responsibility as executive chef of the white house is taking care of the first family foremost and all just their daily meals and of course if they have any social functions or state dinners, or any kind of entertaining, we take care of everything in the kitchen. Definitely, it’s high pressure because first and foremost it’s only for the President of the United States so, and also like the visiting countries and the visiting heads of state because you want to respect their traditions you want to respect their protocol, dietary restrictions, so there’s a lot of things to learn.
We have harvested so much in that little garden and in the span of like two and a half years. I mean there’s like 300 at least pounds of produce that we have harvested throughout the years. These are the actual Italian eggplant that came from the garden. Eggplant is such a wonderful staple, and then what I did earlier is just grilled this until it’s charred and what it does, it really just, you know it’s easy to peel but then at the same time, it gives it a wonderful flavor. I didn’t know that I wanted to be a chef growing up, it’s definitely not on my top list.
I didn’t know that I wanted to be a chef growing up, it’s definitely not on my top list. But I think the more that I worked with food and I always have helped my mom cook for a family of eleven, it’s a huge family so every day it’s like a banquet in our house but not thinking that’s what I’m really gearing up for. If you really make food yourself you can control the taste, you can control the fat that’s in there, you can control the salt, you can control the sugar and at the end of the day, it’s very rewarding because it’s your own hand that made it.
How to Become a Chef Video Transcript: Some people think the words “chef” and “cook” mean the same thing, but in the restaurant world, there’s a big difference. Chefs are more highly skilled and better trained than most cooks and have more responsibility for designing the meals that make a restaurant’s reputation. But it’s not just about the food. This job requires good organizational and management skills. Sometimes called a head cook, the chef supervises the entire kitchen staff and keeps track of supplies and schedules.
A chef should have a highly refined and inventive sense of taste. He or she creates the menu items and often prices them too. Advancing in this field may depend as much on limiting food costs and supervising less-skilled workers, as it does on creating a memorable menu. To keep things running smoothly in a hot, noisy kitchen, chefs need to be expert multitaskers. The work is fast-paced and a missed detail can result in time lost and wasted food, not to mention an unhappy customer.
Chefs are on their feet for hours at a time, often working evenings, weekends, and holidays. While many cooks learn skills on the job, chefs and head cooks usually hold degrees in the culinary arts from a recognized cooking school. Many employers look for safe food handling certificates as well. Chefs advance by moving to new jobs and learning new skills, sometimes opening their own restaurants. And while only a few ever get their own cooking show, they’re always delighted to accept your compliments.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chefs and Head Cooks.
National Center for O*NET Development. 35-1011.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.
The White House chef career video is in the Public Domain and originally hosted on Kids.gov which is now USA.gov, an interagency product administered by USAGov, a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.