"Being a chef is like going back in time...you are tasting and preparing food you originally ate as a child." -Richard Mead

The process of becoming a chef is an immersive experience that brings aspiring culinary experts back to their roots and reminds them of the food items and meals they ate that inspired them to take up a career in the food industry. Many chefs claim that the simple dishes their grandmother created are still the best meals they've ever eaten.

The childhood dishes that were your favourite, whether mac and cheese, Sunday roast, or sweets, will undoubtedly shape a person's culinary style. 

Without further delay, in today's article, we shall consider a comprehensive guide to becoming a chef in the United Kingdom. We'll glance at the necessary qualifications to become a chef, how many years it can take, the established hierarchies among chefs in the kitchen, and the pressing topic of food safety that chefs must adhere to at all times.

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What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Chef?

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To become better at cooking in the future, young ones should consider taking culinary lessons. (Source: Unsplash)

Becoming a chef is a worthy endeavour and a brilliantly creative career that you will never regret choosing. Slightly different from a cook, who works in the kitchen and follows the recipes given to them, a chef creates and is consistently passionate about serving good food.

But, are there specific qualifications that a chef must possess before starting to work in a restaurant's kitchen? Not necessarily. While it is necessary to have a high school leaving diploma and excel at maths and English subjects to possess above-average literacy and numeracy abilities, being accredited by a culinary school is not mandatory.

However, it's worth mentioning that having a degree or training qualification from an institute or cooking school is exceptionally suggested and looked upon favourably since it shows that specific characteristics have been honed. Some aspiring chefs have taken their cooking abilities to the next level and have attended classes at the following culinary learning institutes in the UK:

  • Le Cordon Bleu London, 
  • Tante Marie,
  • Westminster Kingsway College in London, 
  • The Academy of Culinary Arts, 
  • The Bertinet Kitchen,
  • Chef Academy London, 
  • Ashburton Cookery School & Chefs Academy.

The previously mentioned schools boast courses that last between a few weeks to a few years and are brilliant for chefs of all learning levels.

For those who don't have the money or the desire to attend a cooking programme, you can become more attractive to chefs  and restaurants who are recruiting by attempting to hone the following skills:

  • Willingness to learn, 
  • Problem-solving,
  • A genuine passion for culinary arts,
  • Ability to multi-task, 
  • Teamwork,
  • Leadership, 
  • Creativity. 

By possessing the previously mentioned abilities, aspiring chefs prepare themselves for success in the kitchen before they even start.

Also, since qualifications are not always necessary, many chefs and cooks are self-taught, and they have taken the time to practice new recipes on their own time in their kitchens at home. However, for self-taught learning, it is highly recommended to receive the assistance of a private cooking tutor who is available for lessons either in-person or online; their expertise adds necessary guidance for chefs in training.

But, how many years does it take on average for a person to become a chef in the UK? Take a look at the following subheading to discover the answer!

How Many Years does it Take to Become a Chef?

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The beautiful creations of a culinary master are from the skills that he possesses through formal training or self-taught lessons. (Source: Unsplash)

Before starting to learn a new career pathway, people often are curious about the length of time it will take to study and become proficient in a particular employment position. Therefore, the question of knowing how long it takes to become a chef should not surprise us in any way.

So, how many years should a person dedicate to studying to become a working chef? Unfortunately, since there are so many unique circumstances and contributing factors that dictate how many months or years it may take to study to become a chef, it's nearly impossible to give a general answer.

Why's that? Well, since there are different types of training programmes that are open to those who want to study art, the time frame of studying varies. The following list highlights three education pathways available to aspiring chefs and cooks:

  • Formal Training Programmes: ranging from a few months to a few years, traditional training programmes in the culinary arts are usually held at vocational training schools or universities. A Bachelor's in some form of the culinary arts may be acquired. Training is both theoretical and hands-on.
  • Apprenticeship Programmes: by shadowing the example of more experienced chefs, aspiring cooks may take part in apprentice programmes. By being an apprentice, you receive a lot of hands-on training in the kitchen and have the opportunity to learn from the greats. Courses range from a few weeks to a few months.
  • Self-Taught Training: by learning on your own and occasionally receiving guidance from tutors and other experienced ones, some follow the self-taught method. However, the period it takes to complete varies.

Although the answer of how long it takes to become a chef may be varied, it's safe to say that if you want to boast fancy skills and work in reputable restaurants, you should budget a few years honing your culinary knowledge. Nonetheless, on the other hand, if you are looking for a job as a chef, you might not need any training, and a few weeks of self-taught learning is enough.

However, no matter how long it takes you to become a chef that is working in a UK-based restaurant, you should keep the following things in mind:

  • Don't worry about making little money in the beginning, 
  • Master the fundamentals of cooking, so you don't fall behind in the kitchen, 
  • Continually try your best to have a positive attitude and work well with others. 

Honestly, working as a chef is a fantastic career choice that any person can considerably enough because your making people happy with your food, it's a creative outlet, and there is never a dull moment in the kitchen!

Chef Hierarchy and Salaries

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If you want to make a lot of money and enjoy a prosperous career, don't become a chef since they make meagre salaries. (Source: Unsplash)

As is the case with most employment sectors, in the culinary industry, there is a hierarchy in the kitchen that dictates the roles of each chef that may be working and the amount of money they receive per year.

The hierarchy in the kitchen to rank and organise chefs was first established in the 19th century by culinary expert Georges-Auguste Escoffier. The hierarchy of chefs is known as "The Brigade System" and was implemented and is still used today to maximise efficiency and ensure that the kitchen works smoothly like a well-oiled machine.

The following list demonstrates the brigade de cuisine. It is written in terms of the highest to lowest rank that can be experienced in the 21st-century kitchen across Europe and other continents:

  1. Executive Chef: the big boss of the kitchen, the Executive Chef is the one in charge and oversees all occurring tasks. Also, the Head Chef is responsible for creating new recipes and tasting menus.
  2. Sous Chef or Deputy Chef: the second in command is known as the Sous Chef, and they are often in charge of the kitchen when the Executive Chef is gone. In many cases, the Sous Chef does most of the cooking and responds directly to the Head Chef.
  3. Station Chef: also known as the Chef de Partie in French, the Station Chef is head of their station, and they specialise in a specific aspect of cooking such as meat, fish, vegetables, or sauces to name a few. The Station Chef will follow the directions of other the Executive or Sous Chef.
  4. Junior Cook: often seen as the chef in the kitchen with the least amount of experience, the Junior Cookworks with a Station Chef to slowly develop their skills and move up in the rankings.

While we could go on and on about more of the chef ranks in the standard kitchen, it's worth mentioning that most restaurants have the previously mentioned hierarchy positions. Sometimes the roles are combined or excluded if the kitchen is of a small size.

But, how much do chefs make? Based on hierarchy and experience, the Executive Chef is the one who makes the most money per year. On average, in the UK, Head Chefs can expect to welcome a salary of between £25,000 to £60,000+. On the other hand, Deputy chefs have a lot of responsibility, yet they earn significantly less and have a yearly salary of £20,000 to £30,000. If you're starting in the kitchen as an intern or Junior Chef, a salary of between £12,000 to £16,000 is expected.

To make a little extra cash on the side as a chef, some have considered selling prepared meals to working families in their community, launching a YouTube cooking channel, or teaching cooking courses on weekends.

The Importance of Food Safety for a Chef

If you want to become a chef, there is something that you must know: food safety is paramount! To ensure the excellent health of patrons who come to visit the restaurant and to guarantee that the kitchen is a clean environment, there are specific rules that chefs must adhere to that are usually established by the government.

In many cases, food safety training is provided to all members in the kitchen to prevent the spread of disease, make sure that no one becomes allergic to a specific item they shouldn't have had contact with, and ensure that foods are fresh.

Also, food safety requires those working in the restaurant to frequently wash their hands, avoid cross-contamination of raw and cooked items, and wear protective equipment such as gloves, masks, or hairnets. If all kitchen employees are taught well, it's much easier to ensure cleanliness and having issues arise.

Since it's such an essential aspect of kitchen life, there are courses and culinary classes that teach chefs and other employees about the elements of food safety, whether in-person or online, via videoconferencing platforms.

Please look at our article about food safety to become familiar with the tips and tricks that experienced ones suggest.

In conclusion, we sincerely hope that all the information in today's article has inspired you to consider an exciting career in the culinary arts. Happy cooking!

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Brentyn

Avid movie-goer, reader, skier and language learner. Passionate about life, food and travelling.