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Become A Chef

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Working As A Chef

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Coaching and Developing Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $28,863

    Average Salary

What Does A Chef Do

A Chef supervises a restaurant's kitchen through managing the members of the food preparation team and deciding what dishes to serve. They ensure safety and sanitary practices in the kitchen, as well as keep all food and other items stored properly.

How To Become A Chef

Most chefs and head cooks learn their skills through work experience. Others receive training at a community college, technical school, culinary arts school, or 4-year college. A small number learn through apprenticeship programs or in the Armed Forces.


Although postsecondary education is not required for chefs and head cooks, many attend programs at community colleges, technical schools, culinary arts schools, and 4-year colleges. Candidates are typically required to have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter these programs.

Students in culinary programs spend most of their time in kitchens, practicing their cooking skills. Programs cover all aspects of kitchen work, including menu planning, food sanitation procedures, and purchasing and inventory methods. Most training programs also require students to gain experience in a commercial kitchen through an internship or apprenticeship program.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most chefs and head cooks start working in other positions, such as line cooks, learning cooking skills from the chefs they work for. Many spend years working in kitchens before gaining enough experience to be promoted to chef or head cook positions.


Some chefs and head cooks train on the job, where they learn the same skills as in a formal education program. Some train in mentorship programs, where they work under the direction of an experienced chef. Executive chefs, head cooks, and sous chefs who work in upscale restaurants often have many years of training and experience.

Some chefs and head cooks learn through apprenticeship programs sponsored by professional culinary institutes, industry associations, or trade unions in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeship programs generally last 2 years and combine instructions and on-the-job training. Apprentices must complete at least 1,000 hours of both instructions and paid on-the-job training. Courses typically cover food sanitation and safety, basic knife skills, and equipment operation. Apprentices spend the rest of their training learning practical skills in a commercial kitchen under a chef's supervision.

The American Culinary Federation accredits more than 200 academic training programs at postsecondary schools and sponsors apprenticeships around the country. The basic qualifications required for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 17
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Passing grade in substance abuse screening

Some chefs and head cooks receive formal training in the Armed Forces or from individual hotel or restaurant chains.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification can show competence and lead to advancement and higher pay. The American Culinary Federation certifies personal chefs, in addition to various levels of chefs, such as certified sous chefs or certified executive chefs. Certification standards are based primarily on work-related experience and formal training. Minimum work experience for certification can range from 6 months to 5 years, depending on the level of certification.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Executive chefs and chefs who run their own restaurant need to understand the restaurant business. They should know how to budget for supplies, set prices, and manage workers so that the restaurant is profitable.

Communication skills. Chefs must communicate their instructions clearly and effectively to staff so that customers’ orders are prepared correctly.

Creativity. Chefs and head cooks need to be creative in order to develop and prepare interesting and innovative recipes. They should be able to use various ingredients to create appealing meals for their customers.

Dexterity. Chefs and head cooks need excellent manual dexterity, including proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing.

Leadership skills. Chefs and head cooks must have the ability to motivate kitchen staff and develop constructive and cooperative working relationships with them.

Physical stamina. Chefs and head cooks often work long shifts and sometimes spend entire evenings on their feet, overseeing the preparation and serving of meals.

Sense of taste and smell. Chefs and head cooks must have a keen sense of taste and smell in order to inspect food quality and to design meals that their customers enjoy.

Time-management skills. Chefs and head cooks must efficiently manage their time and the time of their staff. They ensure that meals are prepared correctly and that customers are served on time, especially during busy hours.

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Chef jobs

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Real Chef Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Chef Veronica and Josephine Corp New York, NY May 04, 2015 $98,259
Chef/Cookbook Developer Formac Inc. Irving, TX Sep 08, 2016 $87,360
Chef Gent's Enterprises Inc. New York, NY Apr 14, 2015 $79,997
In House Chef Gotham Industries LLC New York, NY Jul 29, 2015 $79,352
Specialty Chef Yee FATT Corp. Hoboken, NJ Jul 22, 2015 $79,352
Chef Bridgewater Associates, LP Westport, CT Jan 21, 2016 $78,125 -
Chief Chef, Japanese Sugio LLC New York, NY Feb 17, 2016 $77,938
Chef Jawid Inc. D/B/A Charcoal Kabob Herndon, VA Dec 14, 2016 $73,070
Indian Continental Fusion Chef Rasika West End, LLC. Washington, DC Apr 29, 2016 $73,070
Indian Continental Fusion Chef Rasika, LLC Washington, DC Feb 12, 2015 $73,070

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Top Skills for A Chef


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Top Chef Skills

  1. Kitchen Operations
  2. Food Preparation Areas
  3. Banquets
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Directed kitchen operations in support of Executive Chef and supervised all line stations.
  • Monitored and maintained all food preparation areas, cooking surfaces, and utensils.
  • Set up buffet style and plated meals per corporate orders, counted and measured accurate amounts of food for banquets.
  • Followed procedures for safe food preparation, assembly, and presentation.
  • Coordinated expo line during dinner service

Chef Videos

Modern Apprenticeships: Being a chef

Becoming a Chef: Advice from Nick Nairn

Career Advice on becoming a Head Chef by Paul Z (Highlights)