Becoming a chef can be a great career move but it takes the right type of personality to succeed, and it’s definitely nowhere near as glamorous as it seems on TV. If you’re spending all of your time dreaming about going on to Master Chef the Professionals and cooking everybody off the planet, ultimately this might not be the right long-term profession for you.
Lets face it, whatever job you’re in, you need a plan that’s ambitious, but let’s not forget the reality check that comes with being in a commercial kitchen. Working under constant pressure to deliver great plates of food quickly without sacrificing quality throughout the process, standing on your feet for long hours, enduring cuts and burns, heavy lifting, noise, heat, smoke and fumes, working on evenings, weekends and holidays and almost anytime when the rest of the world is not working are just a few of the things you must endure as a career chef.
When you finally rise through the ranks to lead the kitchen you might not have to do the heavy lifting, but your responsibilities will increase significantly. As an executive or head chef you will be in charge of coordinating the work of the kitchen staff, food cost and portion control, menu planning, supplies, quality and presentation of food, staff scheduling, training your team both on technique and health / hygiene regulations and lets not forget waste control (we could go on!).
However, despite the hectic and demanding nature of being a chef, this profession has many advantages over a 9-to-5 job. For one, you’ll never be bored. There is always something going on in a kitchen. You will always be trying to outdo yourself and cook the most memorable meal possible for each of your patrons. Good comments from your customers, the buzz that comes with a job well done at the end of the night and the camaraderie / teamwork you get while in a commercial kitchen are all successful ingredients for a satisfying career. Being a chef is one of those vocations that truly embodies the meaning of life-long learning, the possibility for personal advancement and creativity are literally limitless.
Not everyone who steps into a kitchen is destined to become a chef, let alone a successful chef. Many people choose this line of work as a temporary measure – perhaps to support themselves through higher education for example – and as an industry we should support these people while they work in our kitchens, especially as we’re currently suffering from a chronic candidate and skill shortage.
So, to chef or not to chef – that is the question? For us, the answer is ‘to chef’ as its a profession where all the emotions – love, hate, madness and pleasure can be experienced often during a single busy service, and lets face it, you’re not going to get that sat in front of a computer screen all day!