Being a chef is not just a good career choice.
It’s a great career choice for the right person.
But how do you know if that’s you?
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the attributes of this exciting field…so you can decide whether or not being a chef might be the best career choice for you!
Working As a Chef Is a Creative Career
Depending on the specific food establishment, being a chef can be an incredibly creative career! At a restaurant, hotel, or catering company, executive chefs usually curate the menu and create the recipes. They may decide on the composition of each plate, including entrees and sides. They may set the final look of each dish, with sauces and garnishes for a pretty presentation. They may determine which substitutions or customizations are available. They get to decide what’s possible—taking into account inventory, workflow, and budget.
The creative work of a chef is never done! Once a menu is established, chefs may create daily specials and menus for special events, and they may even collaborate with other chefs for one-off dinners.
Becoming a chef should be at the top of the career list for anyone who wants the freedom to create great food moments over and over again.
“Understanding all the ins and outs of ingredients and techniques allows you to take your skills to the next level and even allows you more creative freedom to start creating your own recipes.”*
Chef Jen Gross, Escoffier Lead Pastry Instructor
For a Chef, the Kitchen Is Your Office
The environment where you work can be a major contributor to your career happiness. Some people want to work outside, so they pursue careers in landscaping, agriculture, and environmental work. Some prefer to work at a desk, so they may pursue work in an office setting or work-from-home jobs.
For others, there’s nothing like the bustle of the commercial kitchen. The kitchen environment keeps you up and moving all day. You’re working with your hands, creating something beautiful and delicious. And unlike the front of house, you’re generally insulated from the view of customers (unless you work in an open kitchen).
How can you be sure that you’ll like the kitchen environment? The best way is to test it. An entry-level kitchen position can help you decide if it’s the right place for you.
Being a Chef Can Put You at the Lead of a Close-Knit Team
It would be hard to overstate the bonds created in a professional kitchen. Working on the line to complete tickets, communicating with the team, and helping each other to succeed can create close-knit relationships among colleagues. Each shift is like a race to the finish. And as the chef, you’re holding the torch and leading the way.
The camaraderie of the kitchen crew is legendary, with team members often choosing to socialize long after the day’s work is through. The people and relationships that can come with professional kitchen work can be a major draw to the cooking environment.
“You have super-educated people [and] you have people with no education at all in the same kitchen, all in this mosh pit, trying to produce a plate full of food. You might have three different languages going on in that kitchen. You say, ‘I need to harness this team so we’re moving like a laser in one direction. How do I do that?’ [It takes] a lot of love. It’s a lot of compassion”*
Jon-Paul Hutchins, Chef and Stand-Up Comedian
A Career as a Chef Can Mean a Lot More Than Working in Restaurants!
Don’t want to pigeonhole yourself to one possible future? A career as a chef is the opposite of limiting or restrictive.
Chefs usually start out as cooks and work their way through the ranks to the top leadership role. But that’s just the start.
Some chefs choose to work in restaurants throughout their careers. Others build their skills in restaurants but go on to pursue a wide variety of passions. Some may go on to become media personalities, either on popular television networks or as food influencers. They may write memoirs, like Anthony Bourdain, or cookbooks like Julia Child. They may become chef consultants or research chefs, helping other food businesses with their products or processes. They could become personal or private chefs, or start their own restaurants or food trucks. They could even become chef instructors, teaching the next generation of cooks and chefs.
To reach any of these careers, you may have to combine culinary education with a great deal of experience. And that means you have to start out at the beginning: with an entry-level cooking job and/or a culinary school education.
How to Get Started as a Chef
- There is no single path to becoming a chef. But for many, the career trajectory looks something like this*:
- Pursue a degree or diploma from culinary school to learn the foundations of sanitation and safety, cooking techniques, seasoning, and much more.
- Transition to the working kitchen with an industry externship.
- Get a job in the culinary industry as a prep cook, line cook, or another skill-building role.
- Continue to build industry certifications through groups like the American Culinary Federation.
- Work your way up through the ranks of the kitchen.
- To learn more about the path to a chef career, check out How to Become a Chef: The Complete Guide.
Every Day As a Chef Is Different
Working as a chef does involve hands-on food preparation, but it’s so much more than that.
While the kitchen is built on systems and routines, the chef is leading it all. Their responsibilities are constantly shifting and could include personnel management, creating new dishes, troubleshooting equipment, and handling emergencies. In a single week, a chef could:
- Interview candidates for a sous chef position
- Work on recipes for new seasonal items
- Onboard a new inventory system
- Update training materials
- Do an interview with local media
- Run a class for front-of-house staff to teach them about new menu items
- And much more!
So if you’re looking for a career that keeps you on your toes, then becoming a chef could be the right career choice for you!
The Job Outlook for Chefs Is Great!
From a practical perspective, the prospects for chefs are looking bright. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates growth for chefs and head cooks as 15% between 2021 and 2031. That’s much faster than the average growth for all occupations (just 5% for the same time period).
While everyone’s timeline is different, it is possible to go from beginner to executive chef over the span of several years.* And with the need for chefs growing, it may be easier to move through the ranks of the kitchen than usual. That means it could be the perfect time to start down the path toward becoming a chef!
Like What You See?
Becoming a chef is a rewarding and exciting career for the right person. Do you think that could be you?
If so, it may be the right time to take the next step. Contact Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts’ Admissions Department to get answers to all of your questions about online and on-campus programs, what you could learn, and how your education could get you closer to your goal of becoming a chef.
For more resources about becoming a chef, try these articles next:
- Am I Too Old to Become a Chef?
- What Does It Take to Be a Line Cook?
- What It Takes to Be an Executive Chef
*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.