Entertainment Magazine: Dining: Education: Culinary

Culinary Career Profile: Head Chef

Many people dream about becoming a head chef at a fine restaurant, but what does it take to get there exactly? 

There are actually a number of different paths one can take to become a head chef, but the most direct path involves securing advanced certification (a bachelors degree or higher) from an accredited culinary school. 

Alternatively, you can receive an associates degree in the culinary arts and couple that with extensive experience as a sous chef under the tutelage of a more experienced head chef.

And then of course, there are a handful of extremely talented, dedicated, or lucky culinary arts professionals who get by with on-the-job training and experience alone.

However, this particular career path is not necessarily recommended since most employers prefer to hire those with formal education from an accredited program. 

The more training you have, the more likely it is that you'll be able to make the current median salary of $15 an hour that most head chefs make. 

And if you manage to secure employment at a 5-star venue, there’s truly no limit to how much you can earn. 

Attending Culinary School to Become a Head Chef

The skills and training that you'll receive in a standard culinary arts school are actually quite varied. 

For in addition to cooking techniques, baking principles, and ingredient selection, you'll also need to master business administration, inventory maintenance, marketing, public relations, managerial skills, and organization. 

That's because professional kitchen environments are incredibly high paced, stressful settings that requires tremendous attention to detail, constant innovation, and leadership.

Cooking in the comfort of home allows you a certain degree of wiggle room and flexibility.  Contrast that with a five-star restaurant where discerning customers expect to receive perfectly prepared meals in as little time as possible.  Dissatisfied, they can easily take their business to other dining venues. 

This is why employers place such heavy emphasis on extensive formal training from an accredited program.

A bachelors degree is often sufficient, but a masters degree in the culinary arts is even more preferable.  Even while securing this advanced certification, you'll want to gain some experience as a sous chef through actual jobs or internships.  

This is the best way to secure hands-on, real-life experience in professional kitchen environments.

US Department of Labor


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