“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” - Colin Powell
Choosing a career isn’t an easy decision. According to OpinionWay, 48% of young people have doubted their ability to finish their professional training. Cooking isn’t always a piece of cake!
Making food, doneness, buying ingredients, etc. the foodservice industry isn’t as simple as you may think. Different culinary techniques are required for different situations.
Each position requires particular knowledge that you can get through qualifications, training, or study. In this article, we’re looking at how to train to become a chef.
What Do You Need to Learn to Become a Chef?
Are you interested in learning how to cook?
Are you thinking about making a career out of it?
Whether you’re starting your career or changing careers, working as a chef can be as attractive as it is scary.
Training to become a chef is the first step on your way to becoming one.
You need to be able to cook, create recipes, and run a kitchen that effectively serves its customers. Starter, main, dessert, a chef needs to know which flavours work together and how to combine them. After all, being a chef is quite artistic.
The chef also needs to follow hygiene and safety rules to ensure the establishment runs effectively. This isn’t always easy, especially when you’re just starting your career and trying to ensure that all your dishes turn out alright. A chef’s job doesn’t stop there.
A good chef should also know how to manage a kitchen, especially if they’re the head chef. In this case, your job isn’t just about cooking dishes and creating recipes. You also need to ensure your kitchen is stocked and manage the finances of the kitchen. You need to multitask, but first, you’ll need to complete your training.
There are plenty of different training courses available for budding chefs including courses in cooking, hygiene, health and safety, and management. Certain studies will allow you to manage a team, work on your timing, etc.
You can do work placements and work experience, too. Young chefs need to build up their experience if they want to succeed in the kitchen.
Level 3 Cooking Qualifications
Some people know exactly what they want to do from an early age. In this case, you can start your training as soon as you finish your GCSEs. Once you’ve finished obligatory schooling, you can start training to become a chef.
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There are a few different choices. The culinary arts are varied and almost all kitchen staff will have some form of culinary training at different levels. Your first chef job will probably be that of a commis chef (or line cook) and you'll need some basic culinary skills.
Level 3 qualifications are the equivalent of A Levels and include access to higher education diploma, advanced apprenticeship, international baccalaureate diploma, and the level 3 award, certificate, diploma, ESOL, national certificate, national diploma, or NVQ.
For example, in terms of cooking qualifications, you can study Hospitality and Catering - Level 3, choosing either a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery (Preparation and Cooking), a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery, or a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery (Patisserie and Confectionery).
These courses are offered at places such as the University of West London, St. Helens College, and Northern Regional College, for example.
Level 4 Cooking Qualifications
Level 4 qualifications include the certificate of higher education (CertHE), higher apprenticeship, higher national certificate (HNC), and the level 4 award, certificate, diploma, or NVQ.
At this level, you could study the Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts offered by the Confederation of Tourism & Hospitality in partnership with Gordon Ramsay's Tante Marie Culinary Academy, one of the best culinary schools in the UK.
Level 5 Cooking Qualifications
Level 5 qualifications include the diploma of higher education (DipHE), foundation degree, higher national diploma (HND), and the level 5 award, certificate, diploma, or NVQ.
For example, at this level, you could study the two-year BTEC Level 5 Higher National Diploma in Culinary Arts Management from the Hotel School: Hotel Management College. Of course, this is a course with those wanting to move into management and you'll probably consider doing this after working in a kitchen yourself.
Level 6 Cooking Qualifications
Level 6 qualifications equate to bachelor's degrees (with or without honours) and include the degree apprenticeship, graduate certificate, graduate diploma, and the level 6 award, certificate, diploma, and NVQ.
If you're planning on going to university to study cooking, this is the level you'll leave with at the end of your course. At the time of writing, there are several culinary schools offering degrees in cooking or culinary arts.
If you'd like to study BA in Culinary Arts Management, Professional Culinary Management, Professional Culinary Arts, or Food and Professional Cookery, you can study at either the Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism in Derby, the London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism, or Ulster University.
Level 7 Cooking Qualifications
By Level 7, we're looking at master's degrees and its equivalents such as the postgraduate certificate, the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), postgraduate diploma, and the level 7 award, certificate, diploma, or NVQ.
By this level, there's very little available for those wanting to cook and the courses start to get very academic. Options include an MA in Anthropology of Food at SOAS University of London or an MA in Culinary Arts Management at University College Birmingham.
To be fair, you'll probably already be working as a chef before you even get to study a level 7 qualification.
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Choosing the Right Route to Become a Chef
With all these different qualifications, it can be difficult making the right decision.
You need to choose by considering what courses are available near you. Keep in mind that some teachers and parents aren’t comfortable letting their children move towards more vocational fields. However, if you’re motivated, you’ll need to convince them. Choose somewhere near home and choose a course that lines up with your ambition.
What kind of cooking do you want to do? Do you want to just work in a kitchen or manage your own restaurant?
These questions will help you decide on what to do. You can always change your mind as you go. If you’re changing careers, talk it through with your family and friends. Make sure you’ve got a clear goal in mind.
Attending a culinary school or culinary institute isn't a guarantee that you'll become the head chef of a famous restaurant, but it will ensure that you know more about restaurant management, pastry arts, menu planning, knife skills, food preparation, etc., and have the skills and knowledge to work in a commercial kitchen.
While not every professional studied a culinary arts degree or attended culinary arts schools, most culinary careers start with job training and study. Of course, if you prefer to learn by doing, you might consider doing an apprenticeship and gaining practical experience with on-the-job chef training.
If you need to learn more about cooking, consider getting private tuition from one of the talented tutors on Superprof. There are many cooking tutors on the platform and there are three main types of tutorial available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.
Group tutorials include a single tutor and several students. While this dynamic means you won't get as much attention from your private tutor, you can save money by sharing the cost of your tutor's time with other students.
Face-to-face tutorials are just between you and the tutor and are tailored to the student. They tend to cost more because they're a bespoke service but they're also hugely cost-effective. However, for hands-on subjects like cooking, these may be your best bet to learn more about the field. After all, your tutor can adapt each lesson to particular skills that you need to know.
Finally, online tutorials are taught via webcam. With no travel costs and the ability to schedule more tutorials per week, the tutor can charge a more competitive rate for their tutorials. While this type of tutorial isn't usually recommended for non-academic subjects, if you've ever watched a cooking show or a YouTube video on how to cook, you'll know that you don't necessarily need someone in the room there with you to help you learn how to cook something!
Don't forget that a lot of the tutors on Superprof also offer the first hour of tuition for free!