Chef Career Info
Chefs oversee food preparation and manage kitchen personnel in restaurants, hotels, or other places that serve food. They might also develop recipes, plan menus, and train new employees. Tact and patience may be needed when dealing with demanding customers or difficult employees. Extended hours spent standing are often required, and injuries from equipment or slips and falls are possible. Most chefs work full-time and are given creative culinary freedom.
|Degree Level||Not required, but many complete an apprenticeship or earn an associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Culinary arts|
|Licensure or Certification||Voluntary certification offered by the American Culinary Federation (ACF)|
|Experience||Some on-the-job training is usually required, but apprenticeships are also common|
|Key Skills||Creativity, manual dexterity, and a good sense of smell and taste, as well as some business and leadership skills|
|Salary||Chefs and head cooks across the country earned a median annual salary of $41,500 in 2015|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Johnson and Wales University, Drexel University, and Monroe College; American Culinary Federation
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Aspiring chefs can complete an apprenticeship or degree program. Apprenticeship programs may be offered by industry associations, culinary institutes, and trade unions. Community colleges, culinary arts schools, independent cooking schools, and technical schools offer classes and degree programs in the culinary arts. These programs may provide instruction through lectures, field trips, hands-on demonstrations, and practicums. Associate's degree programs in the culinary arts include courses in cooking, baking, and pastry making, as well as in hospitality and management. In a bachelor's degree program, students take classes in basic and advanced cooking skills, finance, marketing, and international cuisine.
Executive chefs need to understand the business aspects of restaurants and how to communicate effectively with staff. Taking courses in accounting practices, communication, and human resources management can help chefs understand how to execute the administrative tasks required to run a restaurant.
Work in Kitchen
Aspiring chefs can practice their culinary skills by assuming non-chef positions in kitchens. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that many chefs work as line cooks to learn from experienced chefs.
Earning certification allows chefs to stand out in a highly competitive job market. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers 14 chef certifications designed to highlight a chef's experience and education.
To become certified through the ACF, chefs first choose a designation, such as the certified sous chef, certified executive chef, or certified master chef, and ensure that they meet minimum education and work experience requirements for that designation. Next, candidates apply for and take certification exams, which consist of written and applied segments.
To reiterate, aspiring chefs aren't required to complete any particular degree. However, studying the culinary arts and taking business and hospitality courses can help an aspiring chef as they work their way up through the kitchen.