Chef – Job Description
Chefs are everywhere, from takeaways to television studios, pubs to palaces, cafes to cruise ships. Long hours are a fact of life, as is relatively low pay unless you’re a Michelin-starred gastro-king, but there are a lot of jobs out there.
Chefs are the boss of any kitchen. They devise menus, make sure the kitchen is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, order stock and negotiate for best price, hire and fire kitchen staff and do whatever it takes for the customers to leave happy and return hungry for more. Oh, and they cook sometimes as well.
But nobody walks into a kitchen, dons a chef’s hat and starts barking out the orders without proving themselves first. So you’ll start as a commis chef – the lowest of the cooking low.
Commis chefs do all the day-to-day preparation and low-grade cooking work for the senior chefs. It’s gruelling and often repetitive work, but also a brilliant grounding and real hands-on experience at the sharp end.
Commis chefs normally get rotated through all the kitchen’s different areas, so one day you’ll be working on sauces, the next vegetables, another pastries and so on. You’ll learn about health, hygiene and safety, how to prepare ingredients for the different teams, help with the measurement of portion sizes and the delivery of supplies. And you’ll be honing your cooking skills as you go.
Working as a commis chef is, basically, an earn as you learn apprenticeship, but there are a number of NVQs (and the occasional degree) to be had in catering, health and safety and food hygiene.
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Other recommended resources:
British Culinary Federation
An organisation supporting excellence, training and quality in the culinary industry, promoting advancement of culinary skills. They support their members to become leading professionals, in addition to offering competitions to help get you to the top.
Master Chefs of Great Britain
An association supporting British cuisine and cookery, they offer a number of training and competition opportunities.
An invaluable support resource for those wishing to get into or improve within the culinary industry, the Hospitality Guild offers training and career development for the hospitality trade, including chefs.
The Sector Skills Council for the hospitality trade, People 1st offer a wide range of training and career development opportunities for chefs, including a national database of recognised qualifications.
A UK charity supporting young people to get into the hospitality trade, including access to training and education for budding chefs.
Skills for Chefs
An annual event showcasing the latest talent and leading chefs in the industry providing opportunities to learn from the best, get involved in the industry and network with professionals.
The British Food Trust Triple A Award
A practical examination of chefs, operated by chefs with the aim of promoting excellence within the food industry. They also run a Mentor scheme which offers apprenticeship opportunities helping chefs to reach the Triple A standard.
Institute of Hospitality
A professional body for those in the field of hospitality, they offer a number of career development, education and networking opportunities. They also offer a HAVE work experience scheme for students.
British Hospitality Association
A UK trade association for the hospitality industry, they include a Restaurant Association sub-division representing the interests of restauranteurs and chefs. They also offer workshop events and networking opportunities for its members.
Great British Chefs
A blog bringing together the UK’s top chefs, ingredients and recipes in one place. They offer How to videos, information about leading chefs and recipes endorsed by the best, this resource is great to get involved, learn the skills and keep updated on the latest in food.
Styled as the ‘online destination for adventurous cooks’, this blog resource provides the latest in inventive recipes, new flavours and imaginative techniques. Great for extending your skills and trying something a little bit different. They also sell a number of interesting products that can help to improve your culinary repertoire.
An online magazine aimed at chefs and members of the culinary trade bringing you the latest industry information and trends.
Research Chefs Association
A professional food research society linking chefs, food scientists and business professionals, they provide a forum for the continued development of food and culinary skills through research and education. Membership gets to access to the latest information and professional development opportunities.
Michelin Restaurant Guide
An online version of the Michelin Red Guide offering a directory of UK restaurants including those awarded Michelin stars.