Become a Raw Food Chef: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a raw food chef. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in raw food preparation. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a Raw…
  • 1:22 Step 1: Consider…
  • 2:58 Step 2: Gain…
  • 3:56 Step 3: Advance Your Career

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Raw Food Chef?

Degree Level Associate degree or certificate
Degree Field Culinary arts or related field
Experience Minimum 2 years
Key Skills Time-management, business, and leadership skills; creativity; keen sense of taste and smell; manual dexterity and knife skills
Salary $45,920 (average for all chefs)

Sources: Monster.com job postings in August 2012, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com

Raw foods are foods that are prepared without heat or by using temperatures less than 117 degrees Fahrenheit. The aim of raw food preparation is to maintain nutritional value. After all, most of a food's nutrients are believed to be destroyed when higher temperatures are used. So, raw food chefs oversee raw food preparation as well as other operations of kitchens in restaurants, corporate dining, private homes and more. Some raw food chefs may work only with vegan dishes, so these meals may consist of non-animal products, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, seaweed, sprouted grains and seeds. Other raw food chefs may include animal products that can be safely prepared using low temperatures.

Work as a chef is generally fast-paced and stressful, with many hours spent standing. Strong creative and technical skills are essential, such as a keen sense of taste and smell, an adventurous approach to food, time-management skills, manual dexterity and cutting skills. So how much can these culinary artists expect to earn? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chefs in general earned an average salary of $45,920 per year. Now let's explore the steps you may take to become a raw food chef.

Step 1: Consider Earning a Degree

Experience and demonstrated skill are the main requirements for a career as a raw food chef, but postsecondary training can provide you with the skills and industry exposure you need to break into the industry. Culinary arts degree programs provide training in the skills needed to supervise a professional kitchen. Students spend most of their time in the kitchen perfecting their cooking skills, so they get the type of hands-on experience that future chefs need. Students get to practice various cooking methods, gain knife handling skills and are drilled in food safety and sanitation.

Typical culinary arts courses include nutrition, food sanitation and safety, menu preparation, food chemistry and cooking methods. Many programs also offer business development courses and require completion of internships. Students interested in raw food preparation should seek out internships specifically in raw food establishments.

Here's a tip for success: Concentrate your education on raw food. Raw food chefs work with foods that are either uncooked or cooked using low heat, so they may want to enroll in degree programs with a significant focus in food science. A deeper understanding of the science of food can be crucial to learning how to prepare raw food dishes safely.

Another option for focusing on raw foods is to earn a raw food chef certificate, either in lieu of or in addition to a culinary arts degree. While rare, raw food chef certificates provide training in topics such as raw food recipe and menu design, raw food kitchen management and raw food science.

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Step 2: Gain Entry-Level Experience

Many aspiring chefs start out by working entry-level food industry jobs, such as food preparers, line cooks and even dishwashers for restaurants, catering companies and other establishments. This experience teaches students the ins and outs of professional kitchens and can build networking relationships that may be helpful for future employment as a chef. They often spend years working their way up the ladder before qualifying for promotion to chef. Ideally, aspiring raw food chefs should work in raw food restaurants. However, such establishments are relatively rare. An alternative option is to work for a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, as these establishments tend to serve more raw food dishes than other restaurants.

Here's a tip for success: Develop strong people and communication skills. Chefs lead teams of workers, so they must know how to communicate effectively and develop a team atmosphere. It may also be wise to learn to speak Spanish, as many food industry workers speak Spanish.

Step 3: Advance Your Career

With experience, demonstrated expertise and potentially formal training, you may advance to a position as a chef. Many chefs have worked for the same kitchen for years before being promoted within the establishment, while others may have to seek employment outside of their kitchens to find an open raw food chef position. One way to improve advancement opportunities is to obtain voluntary professional certification. The American Culinary Federation offers 14 different levels of certification for various levels and specialties of culinary artists. Such certification can demonstrate skill, improve job prospects and lead to higher earnings. Even simple membership with American Culinary Federation can be beneficial, as it gives chefs access to job boards and networking opportunities, continuing education events, scholarships, apprenticeship programs and more. Other organizations that offer professional membership benefits include the National Restaurant Association and the American Personal & Private Chef Association.

Raw food chefs generally start out in lower-level positions in the food industry and work their way up to chef status, though formal specialized training may be beneficial for chefs specializing in raw food.

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