Becoming a chef requires a passion for food and hard work. The advent of cooking shows on television ushered in the era of star chefs. Celebrity chefs earn a great deal of money and make cooking seem glamorous. Most food professionals started by working in a kitchen and learning on the job. You might prefer to invest in a culinary education.
You might have had a love affair with food since childhood. Most successful chefs love to cook and love to eat. Searching out hard-to-find ingredients in remote locations is a symptom of being a food lover. Volunteering to prepare Christmas dinner for the entire clan, when you were just 16, is another good clue that perhaps you are meant to be a chef.
You might have grown up around food and know your way around the kitchen. Learning at home is a good way to start your cooking career. Many chefs learned cooking basics as children, such as how to sauté and how to season correctly. The French and the Italians, among other food-loving peoples, have a rich culinary tradition and admire those who learn to cook well. The 1960s brought world cuisine to the United States and, along with it, a new appreciation of cooking.
Some chefs get their start in restaurants. There are jobs for beginners, such as prep chefs, who spend entire days peeling and chopping vegetables and fruits, according to specifications. Speed and accuracy are essential in professional cooking. The best way to get good at the task is repetition. Chopping 50 lbs. of onions certainly feels different from making dinner for two at home. Line cooks usually prepare specific meats or fish. Consistency is the hallmark of a seasoned line cook. Knowing how to make a medium-rare steak right every time will keep you employed and get you promoted.
Some budding chefs choose formal education over working their way up in a restaurant. Culinary schools differ widely in approach and price. Those schools supplying hotels and institutions with their graduates focus on technique and food safety. Smaller schools with a focus on individual tastes cater to those dreaming of opening a restaurant and creating original menus.
Being a chef is grueling work. Long hours in hot, often cramped, conditions are often the norm. Some women encounter resistance in certain areas of food preparation. Grilling meats and preparing roasts sometimes are bastions of male supremacy. A new cook must prove herself to a sometimes gruff or skeptical crew. Professional chefs and cooks work together as a team, so a winning personality and a good work ethic are both assets.