Career as a chef

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Gary Hall is an apprentice chef on a work-based course. After college training, he started his work placement at one of the country's top establishments, Claridges in London, under the supervision of the head chef. He is currently working in the fish section of the kitchen.

What does your job involve?

I prepare and cook dishes. I mostly do the lunch service, but also help prepare banquets and provide meals for the foyer, bar and room service. I might be preparing meals for up to 700 customers a day.

How did you start your career as a chef?

I won a Specialised Chef's scholarship from the Academy of Culinary Arts. I did some initial training at the Bournemouth and Poole college. When I started my placement at Claridges, I had to do a kitchen induction course.

Do you have a typical day?

I usually start by 8 a.m., preparing sauces and garnishes, and displaying them for use by the chefs. I then do fish preparation, which involves checking the quality of the fish to be cooked. I might also be making canapés for a private lunch.

I usually finish at around 5pm, but I have to be flexible. Sometimes I might be cooking for a really important function and I also enter competitions, which takes a lot of time and preparation.

What equipment do you use?

Lots of pots and pans! As well as basic equipment such as spoons, knives, scales and bowls, I also use more specialised equipment.We have walk-in fridges which store larger quantities of produce. Some of these are specifically designated to hold meat, fish, shellfish or herbs and salads, for instance.

How important is kitchen hygiene?

It is very important and I have to make sure that my section is clean and tidy. We use specialist antibacterial cleaning products. I have to wear a fresh, clean uniform every day, even my white chef's hat. Not only is this hygienic but it makes us look professional.

What are the pros and cons of being a chef?

I love cooking and the catering atmosphere. I take a real pride in maintaining a high standard of food for our customers. I have already had some unique experiences – I once helped Prince Charles' executive chef cook a dinner party, and I have helped cook at a Jubilee party for the Queen!

The only real downside for me is that you can get very physically and mentally tired. You also have to be very aware that kitchens are dangerous environments and you must follow strict regulations.

Gary's route to his career as a chef

  • GCSEs.
  • Scholarship course.
  • Work-based training.
  • NVQ Level 3 Basic Food Hygiene.
  • NVQ Level 3 Food Preparation and Cookery.
  • NVQ Level 2 Food and Beverage Service.

Gary's career as a chef tips

  • Be willing to work long hours.
  • You never stop learning so always be willing to listen to everyone!

Chef related jobs

Chef salary

  • Newly qualified young people will start as junior (commis) chefs, earning about £12,000.
  • Section chefs (chefs de partie) earn between £14,000 and £18,000. Second chefs (sous chef), earn between £20,000 and £22,000.
  • Head chefs (chefs de cuisine) earn between £25,000 and £30,000, and sometimes more.
  • Those who have become well known and are also restaurant managers can earn up to £50,000 or more.

Career as a chef

  • No formal qualifications are needed to start training as a chef, although some employers may require them.
  • A passion for good food is a great advantage, and GCSE/S grades (A-C/1-3) or vocational A levels (AVCEs) would be useful.
  • A number of colleges offer NVQ Levels 1, 2 and 3 for Chef Training in Food Preparation on a one-year fulltime, or two-year part-time course. Students can specialise in areas such as kitchen, larder, confectionery and patisserie.
  • Foundation and Intermediate GNVQs and vocational A levels (AVCEs) are available in Hospitality and Catering. In Scotland, students can take a oneyear full-time GSVQ Level 3 in Food Preparation and Cooking (National Certificate level). Candidates need a GSVQ Level 2, or four GCSE/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.
  • Higher national certificates are available, either over one year fulltime, or two years part-time, in Professional Cookery or Professional Patisserie. A National Certificate in Catering (or relevant units), NVQ/SVQ Level 3, or relevant experience, may be needed. Modern Apprenticeships may also be available.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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