A chef is probably the most important person in the running of restaurants, hotels and other food outlets. He/she is in charge of the kitchen section and oversees the successful running of the business by managing team members, choosing ingredients, designing menus and recipes to suit the needs of customers. The chef should be creative so as to come up with new recipes, seasonings and specialties that attract more customers.
A chef is also responsible for all kitchen equipment and ensures safety in the kitchen. He/she takes precautions and trains other kitchen staff on safety measures in the kitchen.
A good chef is responsible and ensures the resources are not wasted or misused. A chef may or may not cook in the kitchen depending on the type of kitchen, size, staff number and number of regular customers.
Being a chef at a busy kitchen is a demanding job and requires one to be organized. It helps to minimize mistakes and saves on time. A good chef takes time to plan the day’s activities.
9 Pros of being a chef
1.Availability of jobs
Professional chefs are usually in demand and are not restricted to a particular workplace. They can work in restaurants, private households, traveler accommodation such as ships, at recreation joints, hospitals, schools, in institutions like hospitality training colleges or even as self-employed. A professional chef often has numerous opportunities to grab.
A chef can decide to specialize in the field of work as there are different types of chefs such as; butcher chefs in charge of the meat, poissionnier (fish chef), roast chefs, saute (sauce) chef, pastry chef, fry chef, grillardin and vegetable chef. This ensures the chef is working in favorable conditions and is working on what he/she is comfortable with.
3. High income
Chefs are some of the most highly paid professionals. The payment depends on the level or job group and the size of the business entity. They pocket more in classy restaurants and hotels, for instance, the executive chef is paid much higher as he/she plays the managerial role in the kitchen. Often, an executive does not necessarily take part in the kitchen activities but oversees its successful running. A sous chef is second in command and supervises the kitchen’s activities. Chef de partie is in charge of a particular section in the kitchen.
Chefs are regarded highly in society and command a great amount of respect from their fellows for their great knowledge and creativity. Expert chefs are looked upon and held at high standards. They are a society’s source of pride and are considered role models.
5. Does not require formal training
Unlike most professions, being a chef does not necessarily require one to have attended a training institution. Passion and creativity are the main ingredients to being a good chef. Every day in the kitchen is always a learning experience and an inspiration to coming up with new delicacies. The level of experience is what most employers consider.
The great passion for food makes the chefs feel satisfied with their jobs. They take it as a fun activity to discover the different cuisines and to share them with people. They like to use their expertise to bring people together and create wonderful moments.
7. Room for creativity
A chef is not tied to a particular recipe or menu, he/she is free to explore foreign ingredients and different types of cooking methods to come up with new types of dishes. Chefs have the freedom to be creative and innovative hence it is a fun job.
8. Career growth
Being a chef, one is able to advance on his career based on his/her experience in the practice as well as knowledge gained through formal, informal and no formal training methods. The more knowledge one has and gains along the way, the higher one climbs the ladder in the career. A step higher in the profession means more privileges and remuneration. If you are an expat, this is one profession worth going for, it can fetch lots of money for you.
9. Learning different cultures
Chefs tend to create better relations as they interact with others opening them up to new opportunities, cultures and environments which in turn inspire them to come up with new recipes and cuisines. This helps them improve on their skills and knowledge and boost their expertise.
11 Cons of being a chef
The schedule of a chef depends on the number of customers at a particular time. Sometimes, working could extend late into the night especially during weekends and holidays when people have a tendency to go out. Sometimes, the working hours could also be less. To be a chef, one has to be prepared and able to handle either condition.
2. Time consuming
Managing a food outlet requires the chef to commit his/her time in order for its success. He/she has to supervise the work being done and ensure full professionalism. It requires the chef to be present throughout the day checking up on the junior chefs, training and correcting their mistakes. He/she has to ensure that the work is done to perfection.
Chefs barely have time off and work around the calendar including weekends and holidays. One is therefore not able to balance between work and social life.
3. Uncomfortable working conditions
The kitchen is not always a comfortable workplace. There are temperature extremes; high due to fire and cookers and sometimes low especially around the freezers. The kitchen is also usually a crowded place as there are many staff members working at the same time. There are noises from the kitchen equipment and staff members. This type of congestion makes it very uncomfortable to work in.
4. Demanding job
Cooking is a manual job and sometimes the chefs have to stand for longer periods than others, carry around pots of food and ingredients and especially on busy days, they need to rush in order to save time. By the end of the day, they are totally worn out physically as well as mentally as they have to respond to all needs of the customers with their specifications.
The kitchen job can be very risky and unsafe as accidents such as fire outbreaks may occur. Cuts and bruises by knives and suffering burns are some of the most common kitchen accidents which may result in severe health complications.
6. Expensive training
To be a good chef, it is necessary that one acquires some form of training or education to gain knowledge on the various cuisines and how to manage the kitchen among other skills. These training institutions however, tend to be very expensive. One may decide to hire a trainer also but they also charge expensively.
7. Open working environment
While working in a kitchen, there is no privacy, everyone can see the other and one has to interact with the rest of the people and be in a position to handle each one of them, unlike in offices where there is a bit of privacy and one does not need to be in direct contact with his/her colleagues.
8. Competitive job market
Nowadays, the cooking job market is flooded and thus the competition is high. It usually takes a lot of time, skills and training in order for one to get promoted to the next level. Technology has also negatively affected the cooking industry as people no longer hire chefs in private households as much as before. With good internet access, one can easily gain access to all recipes. However, as an expat, you can export recipes and start teaching people how to cook your country’s cuisine.
9. Poor pay
In cases of working extra hours, there is usually minimal or zero possibility for overtime payments. Due to the flooded job market, employers take advantage of junior chefs often do a lot of work and are paid much lesser as compared to their seniors.
A chef has to ensure the work is done perfectly in spite of challenges and workload since a bad review could cost his job or losses for the food outlet. Working as a chef can be stressing since the chef is under pressure to deliver quality. Sometimes chefs get blamed after complaints from unsatisfied and ungrateful clients in spite of them having done a good job.
It is also stressing since they barely have time to rest and are always on the move.
Employed chefs are bound to stick to a particular menu and recipe hence monotonous. This denies them the chance to be creative and innovative and are not allowed to explore other options, for instance chefs working in a Chinese restaurant have to stick to the Chinese cuisine.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.