Skills and personal qualities needed to be a Chef.
Chefs need to:
- stay calm under pressure
- cope with several tasks at once
- work as part of a team
- use creativity and imagination to make food look good
- be patient when doing routine tasks such as slicing vegetables
- be good communicators, organisers and managers
- understand health and safety requirements
- work with figures, if they are responsible for budgets.
It helps to:
- enjoy cooking
- have a real interest in food
- have creativity and imagination.
Getting in as a Chef
Around 520,000 people work in the restaurant industry in the UK and that number is growing. A large proportion of those people are under the age of 30.
Each year, there are around 30,000 vacancies for chefs in Britain, and this number is thought to be rising. There are many opportunities to train and work in hotels, restaurants and bars. About a third of the restaurants and other eateries are found in the south-east of England, but there is no shortage of opportunities in most towns and cities. More than half of the UK’s restaurants are owner-managed or run in partnership, and many are owned and run by chefs.
Cooks are in demand for work in company restaurants, schools, hospitals and in the armed forces.
Jobs are advertised in trade magazines such as Caterer and Hotelkeeper, in Jobcentre Plus offices, and on specialist recruitment websites. Jobs may also be advertised in the local press, and there are many recruitment agencies that deal with catering positions.
Entry for young people
Many chefs start without any formal qualifications and learn their skills in the kitchen. Today, though, there are many ways of gaining valuable qualifications before getting a job, or while working.
Many employers offer Apprenticeships or placements with a structured training programme, or trainee chefs can take full or part-time college or university courses.
Courses that may be available include:
- City & Guilds Food Preparation and Cooking Progression Award
- City & Guilds Professional Certificate in Professional Cookery
- NVQ/SVQ Levels 1 and 2 in Food Preparation and Cooking
- SQA Level 2 in Hospitality Practical Cookery
- SQA Level 2 in Hospitality Professional Cookery
- Edexcel Certificate in International Cuisine
- NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Kitchen and Larder
- NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Patisserie and Confectionery
- SQA Higher in Professional Cookery
- SQA Scottish Progression Award in Food Preparation.
An HNC in Professional Cookery or Professional Patisserie can be studied either on a one-year full-time or two-year part-time basis. Applicants may need a National Certificate in Catering, NVQ/SVQ Level 3, or relevant experience to be accepted on the course.
Some higher education institutions offer a two-year full-time HND in Culinary Art, Patisserie, Food Service or Kitchen and Larder Work.
In Scotland there is a two-year full-time or four-year part-time HND in Culinary Arts with Management. Applicants need a National Certificate Level 3 in Professional Cookery with Communication, an HNC, or the equivalent.
Apprenticeships which may be available in England are Young Apprenticeships, Pre-Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships. To find out which one is most appropriate log onto www.apprenticeships.org.uk or contact your local Connexions Partnership.
It is important to bear in mind that pay rates for Apprenticeships do vary from area to area and between industry sectors.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For further information contact Careers Scotland www.careers-scotland.org.uk, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact COIU www.delni.gov.uk.
Entry for adults
Mature applicants are welcome especially if they have experience in preparing food, or in customer service.
Large restaurants, hotels and catering services may offer training, usually as a combination of on-the-job experience (supervised by a trained chef) and college studies.
It is also possible to take NVQs/SVQs Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 in various aspects of food preparation and cookery on a one-year full-time or two-year part-time course at some colleges.
Some trainees may choose to specialise in areas such as kitchen, larder, confectionery and patisserie, and there are many courses specifically designed to provide training in these areas.
In larger organisations, NVQs/SVQs, or plenty of experience in the job, can help chefs work their way up to head chef. In smaller businesses, though, there may not be any promotion prospects, and progression means moving to another employer.
Experienced chefs may move into related jobs, such as managing the food and drinks side of a hotel business, running their own restaurant or pub, or managing a contract catering business.
Chefs can also lecture or teach, train in nutrition or food technology, or work as advisers for food manufacturers.