Here is an article from wikihow that I found very useful to those of you who wish to be chefs but want to figure out the exact requirements and lifestyle to see if it fits your desires.
from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Don’t do it for the money. Except for a handful of celebrity chefs and restauranteurs, the income level is fairly average. A Sous Chef in a small restaurant may make $9-$10 per hour in the U.S., while an Executive Chef for a large hotel may make $125,000. Just do it because you love to cook.
- Ask to work in the kitchen of your dreams. See if this is the life you really want. Even fast food experience is applicable. The most important thing is that you get exposure to the conditions, techniques, equipment, and culture.
- Practice your recipes at home! You can cook all you want and if you mess up, it’ll be okay.
- Know that there are two categories of Executive Chefs. Those who teach, and those who don’t. Those who teach are willing to share their knowledge, expertice, and experience with any employee who is willing to learn, and seeks out the information. Those who don’t expect absolute precision in faithfully love food – if you don’t, you’ll be a cook, and even though that is good too it is not a chef. Not just anyone can be a chef. You have to have passion for food!
- Learn everything about the food you love. More importantly, learn about the food other people are willing to pay money to eat. Organic, free range, kosher, Kobe – these are all good to know. If it’s patisserie you’re interested in, know that a souffle isn’t just a bunch of hot air.
- Become confident with a knife. You don’t need to butcher a chicken with surgical precision just yet, but knowing the breast from the thigh will certainly help you a lot, both in life and in cooking. Know that size doesn’t matter because a 2″ turning knife can do some jobs faster than a 10 inches chef’s knife.
- Try working in the industry. In Europe, the interview process is a day working at the restaurant, for free. You see what they can do, they see what you can do, if it’s a match made somewhere close to heaven, or you’re a cooking good, you’re hired. Students are allowed to learn through work experience under similar circumstances, where they are not paid, but put explicating their ideas and concepts, with no room for creativity and expression. While both have their place, it is important to work with someone willing to assist you in your future goals. Once you have acquired a skill set, you can go work for the demanding tyrant (Gordan Ramsey).
- Buy or borrow copies of some culinary printed work. Some examples are Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”, “The Professional Chef” from the Culinary Institute of America, and “Becoming a Chef” by Dorenburg and Page. Put Professional Chef on your shelf – it’s an indispensable reference.
- Know that you have some options:
- Go to cooking school. As most cooking is seeped in the French tradition, a French training-based course is an option.
- Try on the job training – through your school or job centre you may be able to find a paying position at a restaurant. Always pick the places that emphasize good hygiene – both yours and theirs.
- Check out the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
- Eat Out! Cooking at a restaurant is nothing like cooking at home, and there is a lot of good information and ideas on menus.
- Check out culinary programs at the community colleges in your area. More and more schools are offering night classes, certificate programs, and full culinary degrees.
- Be nice to everyone. The pot washers and guests you meet today may be opening the hot new fusion restaurant tomorrow.
- You must have a step by step plan of how you are going to become a chef.
- Don’t fall into the wrong crowd.
- Don’t let people tell you can’t do it. Just do it.
- Always wash your hands
- Working in a kitchen is hard work, especially if you’re not the executive chef. Be prepared to be yelled at a lot if you’re just starting out in a kitchen.
- Do it to your best ability.
- Cuts are unavoidable. Use caution when working with knives, as it is easier to cut yourself once you become good with a knife since you trust yourself more. Be careful, and make sure those little nips at your fingertips don’t actually cost you a finger.
- Burns are unavoidable Use caution – always presume that everything in a kitchen is hot. Make sure to keep your ears open – and make sure to communicate when going behind someone.
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