Become an Armed Forces Chef
Armed Forces chefs serve in the U.S. military by preparing food according to military-approved recipes and serving it both in the field and at garrisons. They're also responsible for maintaining and cleaning equipment in military kitchens. Aspiring armed forces chefs must enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces and pass the aptitude test for specialization. Next, attend Basic Military Food Service Training School. Key skills include interest in cooking, healthiness, or home economics.
There's no listed median annual salary for Armed Forces chefs, but for all chefs and head cooks the median annual salary was $41,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Let's take a look at the steps to become an Armed Forces chef.
Step 1: Enlist in the Military
To become a military chef, one must first join the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces. During the enlistment process, the military will determine suitability for specific training. This classification is called the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in the U.S. Army and Marines. Other branches use the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC), Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), and the Coast Guard rating system.
Those wishing to become chefs should speak with their enlistment officer to try to determine the best initial steps. Applicants for enlistment are required to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which will help determine a future MOS.
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Step 2: Attend Basic Military Food Service Training School
After completing boot camp, enlisted personnel report to an Advanced Individual Training school specific to their MOS rating. The Joint Culinary Center of Excellence (JCCoE) works with the U.S. Army Quartermaster School (QMS) and trains over 6,500 military cooks each year; the bulk of them are trained in Basic Military Food Service Training School.
Students in Basic Military Food Service Training School learn basic cooking and baking techniques as well as garrison and field operations. Instruction involves both classroom and hands-on practice portions. Testing includes hands-on and written sections and qualifies students to enter their MOS.
Step 3: Gain Experience in the Kitchen and the Field
On becoming a military cook, personnel will be deployed and join regular military life. Food service is considered part of quartermaster support operations and logistics. In time and with promotion, a cook's responsibilities grow, from working in a kitchen to overseeing one. Levels of responsibility in the military are equated with rank and should provide a clear path for career growth.
Step 4: Attend the Army's Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course
The JCCoE not only trains new military cooks but also offers advanced culinary training through the Army's Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course (ACSTC). Generally, only enlisted soldiers of sergeant or higher rank as well as warrant officers are permitted to pursue this course. For the best military cooks, this program offers an opportunity to learn advanced techniques in menu planning and evaluation, gourmet food preparation, and meal service. Being a chef in the military can also teach you skills that can be transferred to civilian life if you leave the service.
In short, aspiring Armed Forces chefs must enlist in the Army, complete Basic Military Food Service Training, gain experience, and have the option of gaining advanced skills.