“You can't prepare meals if you don't like people.” - Joël Robuchon
According to therapists, cooking for others can have psychological benefits.
Self-confidence, altruism, a feeling of accomplishment, who would have thought that food could combat depression?
However, cooking as a career can also be good for your health. Don’t hesitate to get started. Fast food, traditional cooking, hospitality, there are plenty of ways to get into the foodservice industry. No matter what job you do in the industry, you must remain passionate.
Whether you're into baking and pastry, scientific cooking methods, the art of cooking, or the catering business, restaurants looking for gourmet cooking, catering companies for weddings, and cooking classes are all ways to get started with a cooking career.
Let's look at what choices you have.
Cooking in Large Restaurants
After studying cooking, there are many different places a chef can work. The first place you may end up is a large popular restaurant.
Generally, these places offer quality food and are quite demanding when it comes to their staff. They have a reputation to maintain so their kitchen and service staff need to be exceptional.
The doors to these places aren’t open for every cook though you might get in through internships or apprenticeships. This is especially true if you’ve studied at a prestigious cooking school, for example.
Once you’ve got your foot in the door, you need to start climbing the ladder. You can’t become a head chef without having been a commis. Commis chefs are the first rung on the kitchen ladder and they’re sort of a basic chef who works under the chef de partie. They prepare ingredients, make mixes, plate dishes, etc. They don’t make any real decisions, though.
In larger kitchens, they work under the chef de partie (line cook) who works under the chef de cuisine (head chef). The head chef decides the recipes and chooses the suppliers. They are in charge and they make the big decisions. Smaller decisions may be taken by their sous-chef; hygiene and health and safety, rules, stock management, etc. Don’t forget that every dish is made through teamwork, though.
At the top of this ladder, you'll be involved in foodservice operations, restaurant management, and working alongside and above many different culinary professionals, each a master or different culinary techniques.
Working as a Chef in a Smaller Kitchen
The big restaurants aren’t the only places where chefs can work. A lot of chefs work in smaller businesses. This might be roadside cafés, pizzerias, etc.
The advantage of working in a smaller business is that there’ll be less stress than working in a large team. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there’s no stress. The teams will generally be smaller as there’s less to do.
It’s easier to get started in a smaller restaurant. This doesn’t mean that you have to work in a pizzeria, though. There are plenty of smaller restaurants offering a range of interesting dishes. However, this does mean that you’ll start as a commis chef since you need to gain experience.
If you’re not interested in any of them, why not start your own restaurant?
Being in charge of your own restaurant will allow you to create your own recipes as you see fit. Of course, you’ll also have administrative roles outside of the kitchen.
Find out more about the different cooking qualifications.
Cooking in the Tourism Sector
Cooks can also do seasonal work. Of course, this does mean that you’ll regularly be changing jobs. You can find work in campsites or lodges. The chef will need to put together a small menu for visitors or even offer unique dishes for groups of hikers or travellers.
As a seasonal chef, you’ll get more freedom with what you do. Chefs are regularly in demand in the UK and all over the world. Culinary savoir-faire is often needed. You could also spend a few summers abroad honing your craft.
Hotel chains regularly look for help around the kitchen in summer or chefs in the winter for ski resorts.
Food and tourism go hand in hand and are a great option for your career. You'll have more of a focus on hospitality management than food service management, but you'll still be expected to know a lot about food production and have practical experience as a chef.
Schools, retirement homes, businesses, there are plenty of places that need chefs to prepare meals for students, residents, employees, etc. and mass catering is regularly hiring. You’ll need to make a lot of food, though. The work’s not the same as in a prestigious restaurant, though.
You’ll need to make balanced dishes that can be eaten day-in-day-out. As a chef, you’ll need to prepare the weekly menu in advance. Furthermore, you’ll need to order in bulk!
Cooking for so many people requires a lot of organisation. Cooking for thirty people isn’t the same as cooking for hundreds. The way you cook will change. You can learn on the job or even do training courses for working in these kinds of roles.
Check out the best culinary schools in the UK.
Becoming a Caterer
Catering is another way to become a chef. A caterer usually prepares food for a particular meal or day. A marriage, birthday, seminar, sporting event, etc. There are plenty of events that require a caterer.
They need to put together several menus in terms of their guests’ tastes as well as their budget. Just like mass catering, a caterer will need to cook for many people. They’ll need to manage the ingredients, cooking, and storage.
A lot of caterers travel, which means they need ways to ensure everything is cooked right and that hot food is served hot. They can work alone or with others. If you decide to work with other chefs, they can help you with planning and finding more clients. However, you’ll also need to pay them out of the earnings. Find a balance.
You could also specialise in a particular cuisine so that you’re not spread too thin. Vegetarian food, Asian cuisine, local specialities, etc.
Freelancing as a Chef
Very few chefs believe they can work for themselves but freelancing as a chef is possible.
So what does it entail?
A freelance chef can work at somebody’s house, for example. They can go directly to the client. These kinds of ook will generally prepare the food at the client’s house, too. A freelance chef might work at a client’s house daily or for special events, for example.
Some people employ a chef to cook for them regularly. They can also prepare food for weddings, holidays, etc.
As a freelancer, you’ll need to be flexible and adapt to all sorts of situations. You mightn’t always have everything exactly as you want it. You need to act quickly and effectively regardless of where you find yourself. While you don't necessarily need a culinary arts degree to do this, being a personal chef is demanding and customers will expect a lot from your food.
You could also consider teaching people how to cook. With a few years of cooking experience, chefs can start teaching the next generation how to cook. Teaching cooking can be an enriching experience, which is why a lot of cooks choose this route when they’re no longer stuck behind an oven.
You can also teach private cooking tutorials. You can do this at your home or even in cooking workshops. Whatever job you choose, make sure you enjoy it! There are a lot of different culinary careers, after all.
If you want to improve your culinary skills, you might want to consider getting culinary training from a private tutor. There are plenty of skilled private tutors on Superprof with experience in the hospitality industry, food industry, or a school of culinary arts.
Whether you want to learn about pastry arts, knife skills, menu planning, of food preparation, they can help you become a professional chef by teaching you both cooking skills and management skills that will help you further your career. 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.
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.