So You Wanna Be A Chef?
I’ve been a chef since I left school (which is about 8 years now), so I thought I’d give you a little insight into what it’s like and things you can do to get into this industry! Here are my top tips:
- DON’T DO IT
- SERIOUSLY STOP
- GET THIS IDEA OUT OF YOUR HEAD
Still fancy it then? I was afraid of that. Seriously, if you really want to be chef then get ready for one hell of a rough ride. The normal boundaries of workplace behaviour and harassment do not apply in a kitchen. I repeat THEY DO NOT APPLY.
You’d better have a strong mind and be ready to leave your emotions, feelings & problems at the door because they will not help (in fact they’ll probably make it worse).
Illness? Forget about that rubbish. Unless you’re hospitalised, you’d better get to the pharmacy for some medicine because you WILL be working.
Enjoy Christmas time with your family? Not anymore you don’t. From now on you start earlier than any other day and make sure every person that walks in the door has the best Christmas dinner possible.
Got friends outside of work? Better wish them all the best and say “tatty bye”, the stove tops and stainless steel surfaces are your best friends now and the cloth is your wingman.
Oh and if you’ve got a partner then get ready for the constant “You never see me anymore. All you do is work!” argument.
Surviving all of that then CONGRATULATIONS! You’re now a part of one the most exciting, energising, fun-filled, passionate, creative and scary professions in the world! And by god, isn’t it brilliant?!
There’s a few different ways to get into the industry:
College will give you an internationally recognised qualification in catering and hospitality. They have at least one fully functioning restaurant that operates like any other restaurant. Your tutors will be industry professionals with extremely strong backgrounds, taking the time each day to guide you properly in all aspects of the industry from sharpening your knife effectively to brilliant patisserie skills and how to work front of house in a silver service setting.
These are pretty hard to get as you need to find a good enough place to do it at (somewhere that’s a chain and doesn’t use fresh ingredients or a variety of methods would be a huge no). The head chef can weary about having an untrained person in their kitchen potentially making a lot of mistakes which costs them money. You also have to rely on an external assessor from a college to come into your workplace to assess you. In my experience, these people can be more than a little bit unreliable leaving you hanging in mid air not knowing what’s going on with your qualification.
Work Your Way Up
You could just go to a place and see if they’re looking for a kitchen porter/potwash. Whether you’re qualified as a chef or not you’ll end up starting as a potwash. It’s not the prettiest job, but it’s easy, good fun and an essential test of someone’s character and how they handle pressure. With this option you can always ask your chef to show you a few things and train you up. I’ve trained a few people up to be competent enough to be left on their own and eventually flourish into promising chefs!
I went with the college route and got a job at the same time washing up in a local restaurant (I say local it was a 24 mile round trip). I worked with that same head chef for 6 years and have done some amazing things, including different work experience placements and some really cool food events.
In my opinion, college is the best way to go as it will teach you everything from the ground up. Combine that with working in the industry at the same time and you’re onto a winner; you’ll gain valuable experience and learn kitchen secrets, tips and tricks at work whilst doing everything by the book at college!
If you do all of this and end up realising you’re not cut out for the kitchen then don’t feel disheartened. It’s an extremely tough job to do, but if you do make the cut then take the upmost pride in what you do and be ready to experience the most euphoric highs and the disastrous lows. You’ll get screamed at, burnt, cut, stuff might get thrown at you, but as soon as that kitchen is clean and those chef whites are off it’s in the past, it’s over and it’s time for a well earned drink. You’ll all be friends again because well work is work and that’s where it stays- the same with your personal problems, never mix the two! Your team is your family you are an unbreakable chain of pure support that helps out a struggling link by taking some of the strain.
Enjoy the ride!!