A highly skilled person who is in charge of food production in a commercial kitchen of a restaurant, hotel, resort, hospital or cruise ship is normally referred to as a chef. Their duties are very diverse. Apart from managing the kitchen and overseeing its staff, they have to plan menus, work out the costing of each dish, and manage inventories and raw material procurement.
What is the difference between a professional chef and a cook?
Although very often the two terms chef and cook are used interchangeably to denote an individual producing food in a kitchen, to those in the culinary trade, there is a huge difference between the two. The difference basically lies in the education and experience. In today’s world a person with a degree from a culinary institute who joins a commercial kitchen will be recognized as a sous chef as soon as they complete their training.
There are two ways to become a chef. One can join a commercial kitchen as an apprentice and work their way up, or learn the craft at a culinary academy and then join an establishment. In the first option, although one gets paid for the job and the hours put in, the progress up the ladder is a long and slow process. In the second instance although one has to spend money to learn the trade the entry is at a higher level, normally as a commis. No matter which way one enters the industry, the fact remains that being a chef means long hours of hard work on one’s feet. It is not an easy career and only people with a total passion for food and cooking should opt for it.
There are some qualities that a person must have if he or she decides to become a chef.
• An absolute passion for food and cooking;
• A total commitment to cleanliness and personal hygiene;
• An ability to work under pressure;
• Time management skills;
• A balanced calm temperament and an ability to maintain equanimity in difficult situations;
• An acute sense of business so as to rake in profits for the organization;
• Good health so that he or she can spend long hours on his feet, lift heavy pots and pans, work in proximity to fire and heat;
• The ability to take criticism;
• The ability to work as a team member and mentor others once he or she becomes experienced enough;
• Has to have the flexibility to take the unconventional hours that the trade demands;
Ultimately to become a successful chef an individual has to have vision and foresight.
He or she must have the talent to create exquisite food, has to be up to date with the latest trends in gastronomy and be extremely good at interpersonal relations.
A talented chef is looked upon with great respect in today’s world. Many of them also become celebrities, write bestselling cookbooks, and have their own television shows. In the burgeoning hospitality industry there is a tremendous demand for talented chefs and the remunerations are more than satisfactory. This is definitely a great career option for those passionate about food and cooking.