To become a chef you do not have to have academic qualifications, but you definitely do have to have a passion for food and cooking, the stamina to take long hours on your feet and the ability to multitask. And of course you have to have creativity and imagination in food presentation. In a large kitchen chefs work as a part of a team each looking after a different part of the preparation or food area like the frying or grilling station or the bread and pastry section, the meat or fish station or the vegetable station. In a smaller kitchen there may be fewer separate stations depending on the menu.
If you join the trade without any culinary qualification your first job in the kitchen will probably be that of an apprentice and you may have to spend hours peeling onions and potatoes. But a graduate with a culinary certificate or diploma joins the trade as a commis chef, the first rung of the ladder.
The job description or duties of a commis chef are:
Primarily learning the various cooking methods. He or she has to rotate in the kitchen from station to station and pick up the skills of each station.
- Practice the skills they have learnt so that they can master them and move on to the next level.
- On the job the have to do all the preparation of ingredients for the senior chef at his station
- They have to carefully and accurately measure dish portions
- They are responsible for deliveries and stock rotations at their designated station
- A commis chef has to be able to communicate with their colleagues and not be afraid to ask questions or clarify doubts with senior chefs
- Being the junior most chef a commis are at the beck and call of the seniors and must have the ability to maintain calm and multitask when under pressure
- Like all other members of staff one of the major duties of a commis chef are to maintain cleanliness and hygiene both personal as well as at their work station.
Once they have mastered the basic skills, the commis chef moves one step up the ladder and becomes a sous chef. They are just below the head chef or executive chef and their duties as a sous chef include
- A thorough knowledge of all aspects of the operations of a kitchen
- To be able to plan and delegate job tasks to the junior staff
- To be able to mentor and coach junior chefs
- Primarily to plan and direct food preparations
- A large part of their duties are administrative involving staff scheduling, supervision, disciplining and even working out incentive schemes.
The next step up the ladder is the position of the head chef or executive chef.
The duties of a head chef include:
- Planning menus
- Ensuring food quality and taste is of the highest standard
- Managing inventory of stock and ordering raw materials
- Controlling budgets and minimizing wastage
- Maintaining health and hygiene in the kitchen
- Organizing duty roster of the staff
- Recruiting, training and developing staff
Being a chef can be very challenging but it can be extremely gratifying too when the compliments pour in.