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Is Being a Chef a Good Career Choice?

05/04/2023

If you love trying out new recipes and learning new techniques in the kitchen, you might have a passion for culinary arts that could become a career. Your love of all different cuisines, always trying something new may reflect a gift for becoming a chef.

Quite different from your standard office job, working as a chef provides you with a fast-paced, exciting and unique career option. It can be tiring at times as long hours take a lot out of you, but this is also a very rewarding position that can take you to places all over the world.

If you’re considering becoming a chef, this article is designed to help you determine if this is the right job for you. We’ll dive into the various pros and cons of working in this field, helping you realize whether this is the dream job that you’ve always wanted or whether there is a different direction you would like to go in.

Is Chef a Good Career? What are the Pros?

Just like any other profession, being a professional chef has a lot of different benefits. 

But is it really a good career choice? Well, let’s find out by exploring the most rewarding pros and cons of this job.

Creative Expression and Experimentation

One of the best parts of being a chef is expressing your creativity through the dishes you prepare. The best places to show off your culinary artistry are restaurants with special attention to food presentation. You also get to experiment with new recipe ideas and ingredients. 

When crafting the menu, you will need to think about the typical customer at your restaurant. Tailor the offerings to foods they will love. In the beginning, not every dish will be a hit right away. But working at a restaurant that gives you creative freedom is invaluable. You can constantly learn from each attempt, using feedback to craft amazing dishes. 

Opportunities for Growth and Advancement

You’ll likely need to start in an entry-level job when you first graduate from culinary school or get your professional chef certificate. However, only you can determine the pinnacle of your achievements, as you have many opportunities for career growth. You can either grow up in one restaurant or travel the world and receive offers from the most prestigious food establishments. As you progress, you may get to learn from some of the very best in the industry.

No Routine

Some people thrive off of having a routine, while others really prefer a more fast-paced environment where things are always changing. When you’re working as a chef, you don’t always know who will be coming into your restaurant, how busy things may get, who will be ordering what dishes, etc. You have to be ready at all times to adjust accordingly.

Things that Scare People Regarding Becoming a Chief

There are a number of challenges that you will face as a chef. If this is the career for you, then you have to be ready for whatever comes your way. One of the main things that deter people from becoming a chef is the long hours that you have to put in. Depending on what your position is, you may be working many hours in a row, on your feet the entire time. It’s a physically demanding job for sure. The hours can really vary as well, with the prospect of having to work evenings and weekends.

If you have a high-up position within a kitchen, you’re responsible for a team and the product that the kitchen is putting out into the restaurant. A lot of pressure can come from that realization. There is also the focus on food allergies that has become a common issue. If your restaurant is going to accommodate people with different allergies and dietary restrictions, you’ll need to make sure that everyone is trained on preventing cross-contamination, how to exclude certain ingredients from a recipe, etc.

Despite all of the potential challenges that you may face as a chef, this is still a profession that is well worth the time it takes to go through culinary school and establish your career. Are you motivated to become a professional chef? Then continue reading to find out more.

Professional chef cooks

Skills and Qualities Needed to be a Successful Chef

Some of the best chefs in the world share some similar qualities that have helped them become the success story that they are today. Let’s look at some of the soft skills that you may bring to the table as a chef.

The Ability to Work Under Pressure

Can you adapt to any situation that you’re presented with? Can you handle pressure and stress with a high level of professionalism? If so, you are likely capable of handling a high-stress, professional kitchen.

Time Management Skills

It’s really important that you can multi-task throughout the workday when you’re a professional chef. There are a lot of different things that need to be addressed, from food preparation to cooking and even cleaning. It all needs to get done in a timely manner when you have customers waiting in the dining room.

Attention to Detail

There is detail in how you prepare food, how food is plated and even how a restaurant looks. Being able to manage all of these details determines your professional success and the success of the location where you work.

Teamwork

The staff of a restaurant typically becomes very close the more that they work together. Being able to work with other people, respecting their opinions and working through conflict are all important qualities of being a chef.

Leadership

If you’re looking to work your way up your career field in culinary arts, it’s important that you’re able to manage others with respect, react professionally to any issues that come up and listen to what customers are saying.

Creativity

Being able to maintain the same quality food items day after day is important, but there’s also some creativity that you need to bring to the table. You may be asked to come up with a new menu item, find ways to engage with new clientele on social media or schedule special features for holidays.

Different Types of Chef Careers

There are different types of chefs within a kitchen. It’s helpful to know a little bit about each, but there may be one that stands out to you as far as being the most interesting.

Executive chef preparing food

Executive Chef

An executive chef oversees all of the different preparation that occurs in a kitchen, ensuring all meals being made are consistent in presentation and quality. This position may also take on different aspects of a kitchen budget. The average base salary for an executive chef is £42,062 per year, but this number can vary quite a bit based on what kind of restaurant the position is located in.

An executive chef’s responsibilities include:

  • Managing the kitchen staff – hiring, training, delegating tasks
  • Planning menus and developing new recipes
  • Controlling food costs and maintaining the kitchen budget
  • Ensuring the kitchen follows safety and sanitation regulations
  • Coordinating with other departments like wait staff and purchasing
  • Leading kitchen operations and workflow
Sous Chef standing with a delicious dish

Sous Chef

As sous chef, you are second-in-command after the executive chef. The responsibilities of this role are:

  • Overseeing daily kitchen operations
  • Managing staff schedules and workflow
  • Ensuring food quality and presentation meet standards
  • Stepping in for the executive chef when needed
  • Providing input on menu planning and new dishes

You’ll work closely with the executive chef to make sure day-to-day operations run smoothly. The average salary for a sous chef is approximately £31,436 per year.

If this profession is interesting to you, then check out our article on how to become a sous chef.

Female pastry chef

Pastry Chef

As a pastry chef, you specialize in baking items like bread, cakes, pies, cookies, pastries and other desserts. You oversee the bakery operations and create sweet confections that wow your customers. Typical responsibilities as a pastry chef include:

  • Designing dessert menus and developing recipes
  • Preparing breads, cakes, cookies from scratch
  • Decorating baked goods with icing, chocolate, fruit etc.
  • Ensuring quality control and standardization of recipes
  • Managing bakery staff and overseeing operations
  • Controlling costs of ingredients and minimizing waste

The average annual salary for a pastry chef is £29,996. However, top pastry chefs at elite restaurants and hotels can earn much more. For more information on their salaries, you can check our article on how much pastry chefs make in different countries

Professional private chef

Private Chef

As a private chef, you work directly for an individual or family rather than a restaurant. You plan, grocery shop, and prepare meals tailored to their preferences.

The duties of a private chef include:

  • Creating meal plans and grocery shopping
  • Preparing breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
  • Tailoring menus to accommodate dietary needs
  • Cooking for parties and events
  • Maintaining a clean kitchen
  • Providing meal variety and introducing new dishes

The rates of private chefs depend on their culinary skills, client’s budget and number of meals. But according to Indeed, in UK private chefs charge on average £22.75 per hour.

You have seen that all the salary numbers were provided for the United Kingdom. If you are interested in other regions, such as the US, France, Italy, and Germany, then we have prepared a detailed article on chef salaries in different countries.

How are Chefs’ Salaries Determined?

Several factors influence a chef’s salary. The level of experience is the first thing to affect a chef’s salary. The pay usually increases with each promotion as you take on more responsibilities. Formal education and training can also increase your earnings. Candidates with a culinary degree tend to command higher starting salaries than those with only on-the-job training.

The workplace type and location are the next factors that determine income. Prestigious restaurants and hotels pay the highest salaries compared to casual eateries. 

A chef’s cuisine specialty is another consideration. Those with expertise in high-end cuisines like French, Japanese, or molecular gastronomy tend to earn more than fast food chefs, for example. Specialized training and certifications in a specific type of cooking bring higher pay. Pastry chefs also earn more due to their specialized dessert-making skills.

Reputation and publicity are the last factors. Chefs who have worked at Michelin star or otherwise acclaimed restaurants can ask for higher salaries. Positive reviews and publicity for a chef’s signature dishes can increase their earning potential over time.

What is the Way of the Chef: How to Start the Career?

Education

If you want to become a professional chef, getting a quality culinary education is key to starting your career. While it may seem appealing to try to get into the top European cooking schools, these come with ultra-high price tags and intense competition for admission.

Fortunately, at HRC Culinary Academy, we offer the same high quality culinary training at a fraction of the cost — about 4-5 times lower than what you would pay at other leading European academies!

Our experienced chef instructors provide intensive hands-on training so that you gain all the core cooking and kitchen management skills you need to succeed as a chef. We also help you prepare for coveted industry certifications. Here you can learn about the current culinary programs that we have. 

Internships

Completing an internship at a restaurant or hotel kitchen is another excellent way to gain real-world experience. Internships allow you to learn on the job from seasoned chefs and better understand the fast-paced restaurant environment. While most internships are unpaid, they can often lead to a full-time job offer.

If you still don’t see the point in attending to them, then here is an article that explains the importance of internships in more detail. 

Entry-Level Jobs

Working an entry-level job such as a line cook, catering assistant, or kitchen helper is a good opportunity to develop fundamental abilities. Starting in an apprentice position teaches basic food preparation skills and kitchen operations. With strong work ethic, you can advance to sous chef or executive chef over time through the ranks.

FAQs about being a chef

Is being a chef a high-stress job?

Being a chef can be a very stressful job. However, that stress can be managed effectively, especially if you truly love the field that you work in.

Can you become a chef without attending culinary school?

Though culinary school can be a very helpful tool for advancing your career as a chef, you can also obtain different certifications and work your way up the corporate ladder starting with an entry-level position.

What is the difference between a chef and a cook?

A cook knows to simply follow recipes and cook food that way. A chef has a great understanding of different techniques, flavors and foods that take their food preparation to the next level.

Are you Ready to be a Chef?

Becoming a chef is an excellent career option if you’re someone who appreciates different types of cuisine and how food is made. If you’ve worked at all in the culinary industry, then you may have already fallen in love with how flexible and fast-paced it can be. The next step in becoming the very best chef that you can be is to look for entry into a culinary academy. If you’re curious about the process of admission, you can take a look at our article “How to Get into a Culinary School”.

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