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Become a Garde Manger Chef: Education and Course Roadmap

Explore the requirements to become a garde manger chef. Learn what garde manger chefs do and check out the step-by-step process that can help you start a career as a garde manger chef.

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Should I Become a Garde Manger Chef?

Garde manger chefs specialize in preparing cold foods, including cold meats, salads, sandwiches, hors d'oeuvres and pates. They are a type of sous chef, or a high-level chef with menu-planning and supervisory duties. Although garde manger chefs often work in hotel restaurants or casinos, they can work in any area of food services. These chefs often work under the supervision of head chefs or cooks, but they can run the kitchen in a head chef's absence.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Undergraduate program via an associate's or bachelor's degree or certificate and/or apprenticeship
Degree Field Culinary arts, food service management, hospitality; sometimes programs have a garde manger concentration
Certification Voluntary certification available
Experience Minimum of 2-3 years working in food and beverage service; additional 2 years working as a manager or sous chef
Key Skills Business savvy, creativity, leadership, time management; sanitation; using equipment like knifes, grinders, meat slicers
Salary (2015) $36,397 per year (Median salary for pantry chefs/garde mangers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Culinary schools, Online job postings (September 2012), Payscale.com (2015)

Step 1: Complete an Undergraduate Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increasing number of chefs are pursuing formal training in the culinary arts. Online job postings also show that most employers require post-secondary education. Individuals interested in becoming garde manger chefs can earn certificates or 2-year or 4-year degrees in culinary arts and management. Some programs focus on garde manger training, though general degree programs in culinary arts typically include at least one course in garde manger.

A garde manger course provides training in preparing marinades, sauces, dressings, cold meats and seafood, cold soups, pates, terrines, galantines and cold mousses, among other dishes. Other applicable courses cover nutrition, food safety and cooking fundamentals. Students learn to arrange food aesthetically, add decoration to plates and assemble dishes on a buffet. An internship may also be required.

Success Tip

  • Take business courses. Garde manger chefs need to know the business fundamentals of the kitchen, such as ordering supplies, managing budgets, supervising staff and completing payroll. Courses in business fundamentals can help chefs understand the bottom line in the kitchen and employ tactics to increase profit.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

One can gain the required years of experience by simply working in a kitchen. Entry-level positions, such as line cook, require little to no prior experience and provide a working environment in a busy, functioning kitchen. Advanced training and promotions often happen within a food establishment, so a line cook could become a head chef after several years. Chefs with culinary training may have a competitive edge over applicants without degrees, but experience is ultimately important.

Individuals, with or without degrees, can also apply for apprenticeships to receive specialized instruction in becoming a garde manger. Apprenticeships can be organized through schools or professional culinary associations. They commonly include formal instruction on food safety and knife skills, but focus on garde manger recipe planning, cold food preparation and food bar presentation.

Step 3: Earn Food Safety Certification

Some states require people who handle food to receive certification in food safety. Some courses may be available as part of a formal training program. Online courses are also available.

Step 4: Get Professional Chef Certification

Chefs can apply for certification from the American Culinary Federation. Someone with two years of experience (either an associate's degree or hands-on) can become a Certified Culinarian. With five years of experience (education and work experience combined), along with mandatory coursework in nutrition, food safety and management, a garde manger chef can become a Certified Sous Chef. Both certifications require applicants to pass an exam in addition to submitting proof of training and experience.

Success Tip

  • Improve time management skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chefs can work days that last up to 12 hours, receiving shipments in the morning and cooking until late at night. It is important for chefs to practice time management to balance work obligations with time for eating, sleeping and nurturing relationships.
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