Chefs oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants or other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.
Rewarding Aspects of Career
- You can become your own boss and open up your own restaurant one day!
- Getting to design creative dishes!
- Getting to make yummy dishes!
The Inside Scoop
Different places of employment
- Work Life: Hard work, work nights and weekends, extremely cutthroat, “glamorous”, have opportunity to move up and one day have the opportunity to create dishes on the menu and your own menu.
- Work at the headquarters at companies such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Dominoes, etc.
- Product Development: Here you are able to help develop recipes, help record what ingredients were used.
- Work Life: regular hours, no weekends, stable income from the get go, not as glamorous and safe.
- Requirements: (Depending on which company you apply) Some companies require ~10 years of experience of being a chef because you need to have experience on how much food cost, how to reduce ingredients to pull more profits, etc.
- Work in food development for their customers. You would need to help cook larger orders of food and meet the required time for it to get on the plane.
- Work for a company that prepares food for events (such as wedding).
- Work for one client, such as a corporate executive, university president, or diplomat, who regularly entertains as part of his or her official duties.
- Plan and prepare meals in private homes. They also may order groceries and supplies, serve meals, and wash dishes and utensils. Personal chefs are often self-employed or employed by a private cooking company, preparing food for a variety of customers.
Different check level in a restaurant kitchen
- Executive chefs are primarily responsible for overseeing the operation of the whole kitchen. They coordinate the work of sous chefs and other cooks, who prepare most of the meals. Executive chefs also have many duties beyond the kitchen. They design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train employees. Some executive chefs are primarily occupied by administrative tasks and spend little time in the kitchen.
- Chefs de cuisines are a kitchen’s second-in-command. They supervise the restaurant’s cooks, do some meal preparation tasks, and report results to the head chefs. In the absence of the head chef, the chefs de cuisines run the kitchen.
- Sous chefs (pronounced "soo-shef" -- French for "under chef") are the direct assistant of the chefs de cuisine. Larger kitchens often have more than one sous chef, with each covering a certain shift or having his or her own area of responsibility, such as the banquet sous chef, in charge of all banquets, or the executive sous chef, in charge of all other sous chefs.
- Chef de parties (also known as a "station chef" or "line cook") are in charge of a particular area of production. In large kitchens, each station chef might have several cooks and/or assistants. In most kitchens however, the station chef is the only worker in that department. Line cooks are often divided into a hierarchy of their own, starting with "First Cook", then "Second Cook", and so on as needed.
Chef de parties stations include:
- Sauce chef or saucier - prepares sauces, stews, and hot hors d'oeuvres, and sautes foods to order. This is usually the highest position of all the stations.
- Fish cook or poissonier - Prepares fish dishes (this station may be handled by the saucier in some kitchens).
- Vegetable cook or entremetier - Prepares vegetables, soups, starches, and eggs. Large kitchens may divide these duties among the vegetable cook, the fry cook, and the soup cook.
- Roast cook or rotisseur - Prepares roasted and braised meats and their gravies, and broils meats and other items to order. A large kitchen may have a separate broiler cook or grillardin (gree-ar-dan) to handle the broiled items. The broiler cook may also prepare deep-fried meats and fish.
- Pantry chef or garde manger - is responsible for cold foods, including salads and dressings, pâtés, cold hors d'oeuvres, and buffet items.
- Pastry chef or pâtissier - Prepares pastries and desserts.
- The relief cook, swing cook, or tournant - Replaces other station heads.
Skills Needed on the Job
- Ability to work under pressure.
- Culinary skills (knife skills, boiling, sautéing, poaching, braising, and grilling)
- Effective communication
- Time management
- Safety and sanitation
- Ability to lift heavy objects.
- Leadership and management (in order to move up the ladder)
- Artistry (presentation of the food)
- Highly competitive industry
- For restaurants: Not a 9-5 job. This is a lifestyle! Work long hours, nights and weekends.
- Tiring and stressful environment: you will be always on your feet and be ON while you are working.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
- Loved to cook!
- Loved going to restaurants and interested in food and drinks.
2026 Projected Employment
- Technically, Chefs do not need a degree; however, employers generally like to see evidence of formal training
- O*Net notes that 52% of workers in this field have an associate’s, 10% a bachelor’s, and 17% a certificate
- Many Chefs learn via a community college or vocational school culinary programs, where they earn a certificate or associate’s degree. Some pick up the trade through apprenticeships or are simply promoted from line cook positions after a few years of work experience
- Culinary students should expect to learn not only cooking skills but also general kitchen protocols including sanitation. Other topics include planning menus and sourcing ingredients and inventory
- Many states require Chefs to obtain a Conference for Food Protection’s Food Protection Manager’s certificate or a Food Handlers card from an American National Standards Institute-accredited program
- Other certification options include:
- American Correctional Food Service Association - Certified Correctional Food Service Professional
- American Culinary Federation -
- Certified Chef de Cuisine
- Certified Culinary Administrator
- Certified Master Chef
- Certified Master Pastry Chef
- Certified Secondary Culinary Educator
- Certified Sous Chef
- Certified Working Pastry Chef
- Personal Certified Executive Chef
- International Food Service Executives Association - Master Certified Food Executive
- North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers - Certified Foodservice Professional
- Retail Bakers of America - Certified Decorator
- United States Personal Chef Association - Certified Personal Chef
- Wedding Planning Institute - Certified Wedding and Event Planner
What you will learn in culinary school
- Health and safety courses
- History of cooking
- After about 3 months in the classroom, that’s when the fun begins!
- Basic cutting and chopping techniques, basic sauces,
- Learn about presentation, taste, and temperature.
- Will practice on various dishes to help the student learn about cost effective product usage, presentation ideas and time management. This is how you will be graded.
Things to do in high school
- Cook at home and take cooking classes in high school. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your own unique style
- Consider whether you prefer cooking or baking. If cooking, decide if there is any particular cuisine you want to specialize in, such as Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, etc.
- Ask friends and family to sample your creations! Accept feedback gracefully
- Learn how to follow cookbooks and recipe websites. Subscribe to culinary magazines and watch food-related shows on TV or YouTube
- Discover the wide world of spices! Try to build up a solid cabinet of essential, good-quality spices and seasonings
- Try out different types of cooking oils, condiments, garnishes, and side dishes to pair with entrées
- Study food presentation photos and tips. Capture pics of your best dishes to use in your online portfolio
- In addition to photos, your Chef’s portfolio should contain recipes, sample menus, reviews, awards, academic achievements, and a short biographical “About Me” page with contact info
- Get familiar with various types of cookware, utensils, heating elements, and other equipment
- Study ingredients and where they come from. Many Chefs focus on using ingredients that are locally sourced, fairtrade, and/or sustainably produced. These practices are often appealing to restaurant patrons
- If you don’t want to earn a bachelor’s, try enrolling in a Chef program at a local community college or vocational school
- If you’re serious and want to become a top Chef, consider applying to one of the finest culinary training institutes in the world, such as the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts (in Colorado and Texas), the Culinary Arts Academy (Switzerland), or Le Cordon Bleu (France)
- If international training isn’t up your alley, check out the 19 Best Culinary Schools in America
- Schedule an informational interview with a working Chef to ask about their career path
- Take a part-time job as a line cook to gain experience while getting paid (and building the stamina needed to work on your feet for long hours under hectic conditions)
- Apply for culinary internships. Come in early enough to start prep work, maintain a positive attitude no matter the tasks assigned, and try to work quickly while maintaining quality and safety at all times
- If you do not get a job from your externship, ask to stage (unpaid internship) at a restaurant that you want to work for
- Be ready to accept a culinary externship, which is shorter and more intense than an internship
Things to do in culinary school
- Try to take as much pictures of the food you cook. That is your portfolio! When you start applying for jobs after culinary school, you want to send the chefs what you are capable of doing. Use Tumblr or some kind of internet resource to keep all of your food-folio organized. Most likely the chefs have seen thousands of pictures of food, so they are going to want to see organization and presentation.
- While attending culinary school, find a part time job where you are able to use the skills that you are learning at school.
- Towards the end of culinary school some schools will set you up with an “externship” which means you will have an opportunity to intern at a food-related company. Work hard, don't complain!
How to Land your 1st job
- If you do not get a job from your externship, ask to stage (unpaid internship) at a restaurant that you want to work for.
- During your interview, listen carefully to what the Executive Chef asks. Explain to him why you respect the restaurant. Make sure you take the time to go the restaurant you are about to apply to and know what’s on their menu. Why? Because you must taste everything you cook.
- When you are staging, you need to follow these rules:
- Come in early and start prepping.
- No whining.
- Nothing is “beneath” you: If your chef asks you to chop 50 lbs of garlic, just do it fast with a good attitude.
- Hurry up and get your tasks done and let the chef know so that he can give you something new to do. You need to show the chef that you can finish many things at once in a quick amount of time because higher positioned chefs need to manage several things at once.
Alternate careers: Nutritionist, General manager of a restaurant, Product Development (Food company), Food critic.
- American Correctional Food Service Association
- American Culinary Federation
- American Culinary Federation
- American National Standards Institute
- American Personal and Private Chef Association
- Chaine des Rotisseurs
- Conference for Food Protection
- International Food Service Executives Association
- James Beard Foundation
- National Association for Catering and Events
- National Restaurant Association
- North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers
- Retail Bakers of America
- Retail Bakers of America
- United States Personal Chef Association
- Wedding Planning Institute
- World Association of Chefs Societies
- How to Become a Chef: The Essential Guide for Becoming a Chef and Building a Successful Culinary Career, by Brandon Fiore
- The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Great Cook, by America's Test Kitchen
- The Professional Chef, by The Culinary Institute of America