Should I Become a Chef's Assistant?
Assistant chefs work alongside head chefs, prepping ingredients, cooking, and plating meals. They also clean the kitchen, shop for food items, and work with other staff members to coordinate services. Chef's assistants work in kitchens, which are dangerous environments, resulting in the possibility of injury, burns, or illnesses. They work on their feet, spending hours at a time moving about the kitchen. Assistants' job security depends largely on the restaurant's success and their personal dedication to the work. This job serves as a stepping stone to a head chef position.
Positions require completion of an associate's degree program or an apprenticeship program pairing classroom and on-the-job training. Graduates qualify for voluntary certification. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for chefs was $30,840 in May 2015.
|Education Required||Associate's degree or apprenticeship|
|Degree Field||Culinary arts|
|Experience||1-2 years' kitchen experience|
|Key Skills||Food preparation and presentation; training in sanitation and food safety; knowledge of food and equipment standards; knowledge of enterprise resource planning; nutrition analysis; inventory and recipe software as well as the ability to use spreadsheets and databases; ability to use professional cutlery, commercial ranges and ovens, food thermometers, commercial mixers, graters, meat slicers, grinders|
|Certification||American Culinary Federation, Inc. (ACF) offers various levels of voluntary culinary certification|
|Salary||$30,840 (2015 median for chefs)|
Sources: Online job listings from November 2012, American Culinary Federation, Inc. (ACF), O*NET OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Steps to Become a Chef's Assistant
Step 1: Complete a Culinary Arts Degree or Apprenticeship Program
Associate's degree and apprenticeship programs in the culinary arts provide formal coursework in conjunction with the opportunity to practice culinary skills, such as baking, menu planning, food preparation, food purchasing, and kitchen management. A variety of 2- to 3-year programs are available.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Graduates of culinary arts degree or apprenticeship programs work as assistant chefs for hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, hospitals, catering companies, and other businesses that prepare food. Gaining experience qualifies you for voluntary certification or will help you to advance to head chef positions.
Step 3: Get Certified for Career Advancement
To qualify for ACF's voluntary Certified Culinarian (CC) designation, you must complete either a minimum 2-year apprenticeship or degree program or have two years' experience as an entry-level culinarian. You must hold a high school diploma, as well as have documentation verifying completion of 30-hour courses in food safety and sanitation, nutrition, and supervisory management. You must also pass practical and written exams.
Keep your certification current. ACF certifications last for five years. Maintaining certification requires 80 hours of continuing education, including refresher courses in food safety and sanitation.
Obtain additional certifications. The ACF offers 14 certifications, five of which are designed for cooking professionals. As you gain more experience and expertise, you'll qualify for more advanced certifications. With multiple certifications, the continuing education requirements are reduced to 40 hours for the second certification and 20 hours for every additional certification.
To become an assistant chef, you'll need to earn a degree or complete an apprenticeship, gain experience, and consider voluntary certification.