How to Become a Chef

Four Parts:Deciding to Become a ChefGetting a Culinary Arts EducationWorking Your Way Up to ChefSample Cover Letter

If you love to cook so much that you want to make it your profession, consider becoming a chef. The path isn't easy - it involves long hours, physical labor, and heavy competition - but the reward is the opportunity to design creative dishes, run a kitchen, or even manage a restaurant. Learn what education and experience you need to start your career as a chef.

Part 1
Deciding to Become a Chef

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    Get a job at a restaurant. You'll be exposed to an environment that you're choosing to embark upon. Learn from the Chefs there by showing enthusiasm as to what they're doing.
    • Your first restaurant job doesn't have to be prestigious. And it won't be. You'll start as a kitchen hand as you claw your way to higher ranks and more prestige.
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    Practice cooking at home and be prepared to replicate your skills at work. When you cook at home, you're going at your own pace. At work you have to adjust your speed to the circumstances. You are essentially producing a set amount of output in an efficient amount of time. This is done during Prep where you are producing the ground work for a smooth service. In service you'll be cranking out high quality dishes to crowds of people. .
    • Become confident with a knife and other kitchen equipment. Be confident with your tools but be prepared for the many cuts to come. It is a rite of passage to becoming a chef.
    • Learn everything about the food you love. When you're a chef, food is no longer just what you eat. Food is what you speak, food is your lover and is the epitome of who you are.
    • As you practice at home, think about what type of cooking best suits you. Do you see yourself working with a particular type of cuisine? Do you enjoy making desserts more than main courses? Your interests will determine where you seek education and experience down the line.
    • Practice cooking for other people. Chefs are under a lot of pressure to perform well. If people's expectations aren't met, they send dishes back and write negative reviews. Find out early whether you'll be able to hold up under close scrutiny of your work.
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    Have a passion for the culinary arts field. Not just anyone can be a chef. It takes dedication to becoming an expert on how to cook, but also an obsession with new flavors and trends and an awareness of your competition.
    • Visit good restaurants to get a sense of how they are run. If you can, pay attention to the roles the staff are playing, and how they work together to make the restaurant run smoothly.
    • Read restaurant reviews, cooking magazines, profiles of head cooks and chefs, and other literature related to culinary arts. Gain a deep understanding of the field you are entering. Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America, and Becoming a Chef by Dornenburg and Page are all great resources.

Part 2
Getting a Culinary Arts Education

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    Enroll in a culinary arts program. Going to cooking school isn't a prerequisite for becoming a chef, but it can give you a leg up when it comes to getting hired at good restaurants.
    • Programs are offered at trade or vocational schools, colleges and culinary institutes.
    • Most programs offer a broad education in nutrition, sanitary food preparation techniques, butchery, pastry making, and other basic cooking knowledge.
    • If you plan to eventually start your own restaurant, find a program that offers classes in business, management, human resources, and other areas of knowledge that will come into play.
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    Find an internship. Some culinary arts programs have relationships with local restaurants and offer internship positions to students. If you have this opportunity, take it. You'll continue learning new techniques and skills while also acquiring experience you can put on your resume.
    • If your program does not offer internships, pursue one yourself. Talk with the head cook or chef at your favorite restaurant and ask if he or she would be willing to let you help out and ask questions.
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    Get certified. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers a generalized certification as well as certifications in specialized areas, like pastry making. A certification from the ACF will help differentiate you from other candidates trying for the same job.

Part 3
Working Your Way Up to Chef

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    Apply for jobs. Now that you have years of education and experience under your belt, find a job as part of the kitchen staff at a restaurant that appeals to you.
    • If possible, use some of the connections you made through your culinary program and internship. If you've already worked with people before, you may be able to move up toward chef status more quickly.
    • In Europe, the interview process involves working at the restaurant for a day for free. You see what their staff can do, they see what you can do, and if it's a good match, you're hired.
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    Understand you are going to start at the bottom. There is no such thing as graduating cookery school and buying your way to Head Chef, that mentality doesn't exist because a Chef is an individual who learns through experience and has to be tested to climb the ranks to a position of power. These tests come in the form of cuts, burns and guided by the Chefs that came before them.
    • People who do well with scut work are promoted to garde manger, and are in charge of preparing appetizers, soups, and cold dishes.
    • The next step up is to become a line cook, working directly with entrees.
    • Talented people are promoted to sous chef, the head chef's second in command.
    • Finally, an executive chef manages the entire kitchen, and sometimes owns the restaurant. This level is achieved after years of hard work.
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    Stay at the top of your field. As you're climbing the ladder, keep yourself abreast of the latest food trends. Eat at excellent restaurants, get to know other people in the business, and keep your culinary skills sharp. Start thinking creatively and with an eye toward what ensures the success of a restaurant. When the time is right, you'll be promoted to executive chef, or you'll have the knowledge and skills to branch off on your own.

Sample Cover Letter

Sample Chef Cover Letter


  • Check out culinary programs at the community colleges in your area. More and more schools are offering night classes, certificate programs, and full culinary degrees.
  • Be nice to everyone in the kitchen. The pot washers and guests you meet today may be opening the hot new fusion restaurant tomorrow.
  • Eat out! Cooking at a restaurant is nothing like cooking at home, and there is a lot of good information and ideas on menus.
  • If you call in sick because you are hungover, you deserve to have dirt and boiling water thrown in your face
  • Try your best and try to make up your own special recipes.


  • Working in a kitchen is hard work, especially if you're not the executive chef. Be prepared to be yelled at a lot if you're just starting out in a kitchen.
  • Use caution when working with knives, as it is easier to cut yourself once you become good with a knife since you trust yourself more.
  • There are chefs that dislike their jobs, they are under constant stress, live nocturnal lifestyles and have social lives that deteriorated into non existence. Maintain a balance outside of work.
  • Stuff the ego, nobody wants to hear you ramble incessantly about how good you think you are, or why your food is more technically sound than the competitors. It's about humility and using food as a medium to express yourself.
  • It is not unheard of chefs to work very long hours in top hotels and restaurants, you will need to think of this if considering to work as a chef in a top hotel or restaurant. Many chefs (especially the top celebrity chefs) often work 10 to up to 18 hours a day!
  • To embark on the path of becoming a Chef involves self sacrifice. You'll miss most holidays and birthdays. You will no longer live a civilian life of working 9 to 5. Nothing about your life will be normal, but who wants normal. You'll face obstacles and be tested.

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