What does it take to become a qualified and well-paid chef in the UK? If you have a passion for creating fabulous culinary experiences, thrive under pressure, and have excellent people management and communication skills, you may be interested in training as a chef. A chef can be a very rewarding career that offers plenty of opportunities for progression and international mobility, as well as remuneration.
These are the steps to becoming a qualified chef in the UK if you are starting from scratch.
There is no single route into becoming a qualified chef. However, there are basic qualifications you should have to work in the role.
One of them is a Food Hygiene Certificate that matches the CIEH syllabus. There are 3 levels to this certificate, covering all aspects of food safety awareness. If you’re looking for an entry-level job, a Level 2 Certificate is enough, but as you move through the kitchen hierarchy, you’ll be expected to have a Level 3 certificate.
A degree is not a required qualification, but it can be a bonus if it’s related to the food industry. Some degrees that can be helpful are those in Culinary Arts or Professional Cookery. Knowledge of food and wine pairing is also useful, as are courses offered by internationally respected and recognised organisations, like Cordon Bleu. Alternatively, you can take relevant NVQs and enrich your skills with on the job training.
Apprenticeship schemes can place you in a kitchen straight from school, where you will learn and train at the same time. In other words, if you become an apprentice, you will earn a wage, train as a chef, and gain a qualification at the end of your apprenticeship.
If you are just getting started, you should consider becoming a kitchen apprentice or apply to a commis chef apprenticeship. After 12 to 15 months, you will be awarded with an Apprenticeship Standard and will be able to move on to another level, such as a Chef de Partie apprenticeship.
No matter how many qualifications you have or your level of raw talent for cooking, no one hires a chef without wide and varied experience. Becoming a head chef is an ambitious goal, so you should never stop learning and gaining experience. Often, what you can learn from seasoned professionals through mentoring schemes and on-the-job training cannot be taught through formal education, so keep your eyes wide open and ask local restaurants or hotels about work experience opportunities.
During your years as a commis chef, you will work alongside and learn from head or senior chefs on a formal and informal basis. Don’t be afraid to ask your managers and senior colleagues about the things you can do to become a better commis chef. If you are a successful commis chef, you may eventually be promoted or gain the experience needed to apply for higher positions at other restaurants.
Becoming a chef is a long-term goal and as such it requires long-term vision and dedication. You will need to cultivate patience to reach your goal, as accumulating the experience and knowledge needed to be a top chef can take years. Above all, view your career as a long-term investment in your future, be patient and open minded – and enjoy the journey!
At Spayse, we’re a boutique recruitment agency specialising in high level chefs for restaurants and hotels. To find out more, please contact one of our hospitality recruitment consultants today on 020 4538 4334.
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