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Restaurant Chef Career Education Info

Working as a restaurant chef requires some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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There are no education requirements to work as a restaurant chef; many learn through culinary degree programs, while others pick up skills through on-the-job experience. Good job growth is expected for chefs and head cooks in the coming years, due to a growing tendency for customers to seek out specialized cuisine. If you have good interpersonal skills, an interest in food preparation, and the desire to work in a restaurant environment, you could benefit from this trend by pursuing a career as a restaurant chef.

Essential Information

Restaurant chefs are able to bring their passion and creativity to the table in a fast-paced career setting. They are able to specialize in one of many cuisines or settings within the profession. Individuals interested in becoming restaurant chefs often gain the necessary skills through prior work experience or on-the-job training, though many aspiring chefs choose to complete associate's or bachelor's programs in culinary arts.

Required Education None mandatory; associate's or bachelor's degree in culinary arts is common and may be preferred by employers
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% for chefs and head cooks*
Median Salary (2015) $41,500 for chefs and head cooks*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Restaurant Chef?

Restaurant chefs are responsible for selecting the cuisine and recipes of a given establishment, hiring the staff to prepare it and providing an appropriate atmosphere. These professionals also hire support personnel, such as bookkeepers and reservations staff. They are responsible for the complete restaurant package, and often their names are directly associated with the eatery.

Restaurant chefs often work in uncomfortable, hot kitchens for more than 40 hours per week. Good communication skills are required to effectively supervise and manage others in potentially hazardous kitchen environments. These professionals need creativity and a fundamental understanding of preparation and cooking techniques. The cuisine that a restaurant serves also has to be appealing to the local community, so this particular factor comes into play on a case-by-case basis.

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Career Education Programs

While people can obtain these positions with no postsecondary training, restaurant chefs may begin their careers by obtaining an associate's or bachelor's degree in restaurant management, hospitality or culinary arts. Some programs offer career specialization in areas such as wine and beverage, pastry and baking, culinary sustainability or similar fields. Depending on the program, students may learn skills including front and back office operations, accounting, kitchen preparation, bartending, facility design, sanitation, food service management, food presentation and other essential skills to operate a restaurant.

Other sources of education or training are available for prospective restaurant chefs, including cooking schools or culinary institutes. Food service workers with years of experience can also be promoted into chef positions. Chefs, especially those in fine dining, often serve in an apprentice role prior to their promotion to management.

Occupational Outlook for Restaurant Chefs/Managers

Restaurant chefs could see employment growth of about 9% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. Diners were expected to seek more specialized cuisine, but restaurants across the nation increasingly look to hire regular cooks instead of chefs to trim costs. Upscale restaurants were projected to have stiffer job competition for chef openings.

In summary, working as a restaurant chef can be a high-pressure but rewarding career. Those best suited to becoming a chef are skilled at managing teams of people and have a creative knack when it comes to food preparation. On-the-job training or completion of a culinary degree are two ways to gain the required skills and knowledge.

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