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How to Become a Head Chef

Doris Benitez
Reading time: 3 min

Job Basics

Head Chefs can earn anywhere from £18,000 at junior level, to £50,000 and more, depending on the size and standard of the restaurant they are running, and their experience.

The restaurant business has long hours – 45 hours a week is normal, and 60 to 70 is not unusual.

Because customers want to go out at weekends and in the evening, you’ll be working when most people are out enjoying themselves.

What do Head Chefs do?

Head Chefs decide what will be on the menu.
• They do all the budgeting to make sure the costs stay under control.
• They choose suppliers, order the food ingredients and make sure that the quality is good.
• They manage the staff in the kitchen.
• They make sure that everyone works safely, observing health and safety rules to avoid accidents.
• They are responsible for everyone storing and preparing food hygienically, so that customers aren’t struck down by food poisoning.

What Qualities Should a Head Chef Have?

You’ll need stamina, cooking ability, people skills and a flair for organisation. You have to be able to cope with a lot of pressure at busy times, when the kitchen is working at full steam. You are on your feet constantly, so you need to be physically fit.

To become a Head Chef, you’ll need to have experience in different aspects of food preparation and in other areas of running a kitchen. In a large restaurant, there will be chefs employed to produce sauces, starters, desserts, entrees and other parts of the meal. The Head Chef needs to be have experience of these roles so that he or she can supervise the work of other chefs. In a smaller restaurant, such as a pub or bistro, there may be one or two assistant chefs working to the Head Chef.

How do You Become Qualified?

Head Chef isn’t an entry level job – it’s one that you work your way up to, by gaining experience and skills in the kitchen. But it’s a job that’s open to anyone with the talent to run a kitchen and produce great food. It’s not uncommon for Head Chefs to move upwards, to more demanding jobs, as they gain experience.

You can get right to the top without any formal qualifications in catering. But more often, chefs take courses to improve their skills and to learn about different aspects of the job.

To get into catering as a career, take a look at the courses in catering run by your local college. Or apply for an entry level job as a kitchen assistant, in a restaurant where they offer training. This is an area where you may be able to get an apprenticeship that would provide both on the job practical training and some college courses. This is an ideal way to start your career.

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