Chefs work in a variety of settings to prepare, cook and plate food. You can work in restaurants, pubs, hotel restaurants, cruise ships, the armed forces and in contract catering. Responsibilities and job titles can vary depending on your specific role, the type of cuisine you produce and the nature of where you work.
You can work at the following levels:
- Commis chef
- Chef de partie
- Sous chef
- Head chef.
Employers of Chefs
- chain restaurants
- educational settings (schools, colleges, universities)
- the armed forces
- contract catering
- hotel or bar restaurants.
As a commis chef, apprentice or trainee chef, you’ll:
- get to grips with the fundamentals of cooking, such as knife skills. This may involve understanding the basic cuts (e.g. chopping, dicing, julienne and chiffonade) as well as learning how to handle ingredients correctly
- work in different sections of the kitchen, helping the chef de partie
- be responsible for food preparation and basic cooking and also learn about portion sizes
- listen to instructions and work as part of a team.
Working as a chef de partie or section chef, you’ll:
- prep, cook and assemble dishes and make sure that they go out on time
- be in charge of a specific section of the kitchen such as sauces, fish or pastry so you’ll need to have a sound knowledge of cooking
- assist the sous chef or head chef in developing menus
- delegate responsibilities to commis chefs or other assistants that are helping if you work in a large kitchen; they are sometimes referred to as demi-chef or demi-chef de partie.
In a sous chef role, you will be the second-in-command in the kitchen and will:
- oversee the day-to-day running of the kitchen, order food and undertake the kitchen inventory (this potentially includes budgeting)
- be in charge of training and oversee hygiene and cleanliness in the kitchen
- prepare and plate dishes and have an input into menu design.
Operating as a head chef, executive chef or chef de cuisine, you’ll:
- create a vision for the cuisine, inspire your team and delegate tasks effectively
- be responsible for quality control and tasting the dishes; making sure they are at the right standard and are presented correctly before they go out to the customer
- recruit, motivate and manage staff
- liaise with suppliers, oversee deliveries, manage the kitchen budget and design menus. You may spend less time cooking than in other chef roles.
You might not need an education to get into the restaurant industry , but it certainly doesn’t hurt. A vocational school, trade school or training program is a great place to learn the basics. If you really want to learn everything you can about the biz, attend a culinary school or a four-year degree program.
- technical skills (cooking techniques, knowing how to cook, store and serve food)
- an understanding of food hygiene and health and safety
- teamwork and communication skills
- a willingness to learn and take on board instructions
- organizational skills and the ability to delegate
- attention to detail to ensure consistent, high standards
- commitment and loyalty
- a hard-working and calm approach
- the ability to work without supervision.