Be a Certified Chef: Certification, Training and Career Info

Mar 09, 2020

Learn how to become a certified chef. Research the job description and various education requirements to find out how to start a career in the culinary arts as a certified chef.

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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 $48,460 in 2018

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Johnson and Wales University, Drexel University, and Monroe College; American Culinary Federation

Complete Training

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.

Get Certified

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.

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