Have you ever envisioned yourself as a glamorous executive chef who goes to “Iron Chef” and cooks everybody else’s bum to another planet? You are not the only one.
Becoming a chef can be a good career move only if you have the right personality, and it is definitely not as glorious as it seems on TV.
Working under constant pressure to deliver the food fast without sacrificing quality throughout the process, standing on your feet for long hours, enduring cuts and burns, heavy lifting, noise, heat, smokes and fumes, working on evenings, weekends and holidays and almost anytime when the rest of the world is not working are just a few of the things you must go through as a chef.
When you finally become a head chef you might not have to do the heavy lifting, but your responsibilities will increase significantly. Executive chefs, or head chefs, are in charge of coordinating the work of the kitchen staff, control food cost, determine serving sizes, plan menus, order supplies, ensure quality and presentation of food is correct, schedule staff, train the cooks on public health regulations and how to store all products in order to control waste.
All that being said, however, the chef profession has many advantages over a 9-to-5 job. For one, you’ll never be bored. There is always something going on in a kitchen. You will always be trying to outdo yourself and cook the most memorable meal possible for each of your patrons. Add to this a dash of the good comments of your customers, a sprinkle of the satisfaction that comes with a job well done at the end of the night, the camaraderie and teamwork in the kitchen, the possibility to apply your creativity on a daily basis, the lifelong learning and prospects of advancement, and you have all the ingredients for a successful and satisfying career.
Not everyone who steps into a kitchen is destined to become a chef, let alone a successful chef. Many people choose this line of work only to support themselves while they go through college or university, and I have no problem with that. The service industry is growing fast and always need workers. However, only if you become a real chef will you get to experience the beautiful sensation of creating art, experience, love, madness, and pleasure all in one dish. Of course not every chef have the gift to do it, but at least everybody can try. As they say, it is possible to paint even if you are not a Picasso.
There are many ways to become a chef. Culinary school is one, but I think the best way is to work in a good restaurant for two years, learn everything you can and then go to college or start traveling the world and grow up through the ranks of the chef’s brigade.
There are many opportunities for chefs around the world. Cruise-liners are booming, Dubai is a hotspot, resorts in Europe, the Caribbean and so on. Also, the number of job openings for cooks and chefs in North America are expected to grow at a rate of 11 percent over the next decade.
I have done both – gone to college and travelled the world. I have been to so many places because of work that I have to still pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. It has been always fun and very rewarding experience. I am still learning new things and having fun, and if I could turn the time eleven years back – when I left my old career for this one – I would do it all over again.