Do you hold an unconditional love for food? Do you love conjuring up innovative and delicious recipes in your kitchen? Are you looking for an opportunity to introduce your taste to the world? Then you should definitely build a career as a cook!
Chefs are professionals in the culinary industry who are specifically involved in preparing meals and fancy dishes using the various techniques and tools of cooking. They work at restaurants, hotels, and cafes, as well as other established institutions (wherever cooking is involved).
Why become a chef?
As a Chef, you will be involved in all the work related to cooking or preparation of food in various establishments which offer food and beverages to guests or operate canteens. Establishments include 5-Star and other hotels, restaurants, resorts, guest houses, corporate and industrial canteens, airline kitchens, hospitals, ships, luxury cruises, bakeries, and so on.
Depending upon your ranks and responsibilities in a kitchen, you will be involved in all the tasks required for preparing healthy and delicious food such as – peeling, cutting, washing, marinating, frying, sautéing, roasting, braising, steaming, smoking, baking, grilling, seasoning, and garnishing.
Popular specialization in chef career
- Speciality Cuisine Chefs: As a Chef, depending upon your experience and interest, you can specialize in one or more cuisines such as North Indian, South Indian, Mughlai, Konkani, Bengali, Kashmiri, Chinese, Continental, French, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, American, British, Spanish, Mexican, and so on.
- Culinary Art (Chefs): In Culinary Art, you will specialize in the preparation, cooking, and presentation of food aesthetically and stylishly. The food dishes you prepare must be pleasing to the eye, tasty and nutritious. All cooking jobs may not require aesthetic and stylish presentations. Chefs working in establishments such as fine dining restaurants, 5-Star and other star hotels, luxury cruises, airline kitchens, etc. require to stylish food presentation.
- As a Baker, you will be involved in the preparation of food by baking, that is, in most cases, using ovens. Ovens could include electric ovens, microwave ovens, clay ovens, stone ovens, and so on. Using baking methods, you will prepare various food items such as bread, cookies, cakes, pies, etc.
- As a Confectioner, you will be involved in the preparation of sweet food items. These may include sweet items made by baking as well as other cooking methods. Confectionery food items include chocolates, pastries, cakes, sweets, etc.
- Molecular cuisine is a contemporary style and method of cooking which involves the application of knowledge in Molecular Gastronomy. Molecular Gastronomy involves a detailed understanding of how physical and chemical transformations occur in food during preparation. Molecular Cuisine Chefs use this understanding to create recipes and prepare dishes that are aesthetically appealing, tasty and nutritious.
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What does a chef do?
Every chef has to learn the basic tasks and tricks of the trade including:
- Create a new menu for food items to be prepared in a kitchen and change menus from time to time.
- Experiment and develop new recipes and cuisine for preparing nutritious and delicious food dishes.
- Estimate the requirement of raw foods, food ingredients and other cooking materials as per the menu and recipes planned.
- Estimate costs for the purchase of raw foods and other ingredients.
- Plan and implement processes for food preparation and estimate the time and labor required for food preparation.
- Source and maintain the inventory of various raw food items and ingredients.
- Plan and supervise food preparation and culinary activities in the kitchen.
- Prepare and cook food as per recipes and cuisines using various cooking methods such as frying, sautéing, roasting, braising, steaming, smoking, baking, grilling, seasoning and many more.
- Presentation of cooked food dishes aesthetically, wherever it is necessary.
- Maintaining cleanliness and standards of hygiene in the kitchen and maintaining nutrition and quality standards in the food dishes prepared.
How to become a chef – Educational Requirement
Undergraduate studies after school:
After your Senior or Higher Secondary School, to be a Chef, you can either study for an Associate Degree (not available in India) or a 3 – Year Diploma or a 3 / 4 -Year Bachelor Degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management / Hotel Administration and Management / Hotel and Catering Administration & Management / Hotel Operations Management & Services or in similar fields. In these fields, you have to specialize in Food & Beverages.
You may also do a 2 / 3 – Year Diploma in Food Production/ Bakery & Confectionery / Food & Beverage Services Operations/ Food & Beverage Services Management to get an entry-level job.
In some countries, you may find a Diploma / Bachelor Degree Program in Culinary Art & Management / Culinary Techniques & Technologies / Culinology.
Post Graduation is not required to be a Chef unless you want to specialize further and get into teaching in the field of hotel management. But for some of you, who may find interest in this field after a Graduation degree in any subject, you do a Master’s Degree program in Hotel Administration and Management / Hotel and Catering Administration & Management or in a similar field.
You may also do a Master’s Degree or Post-Graduate Diploma in Culinary Art & Management / Culinary Techniques & Technologies / Culinology or a similar field after your Graduation in Hotel Management or in any subject.
A Doctorate Degree in Culinary Arts is the highest degree one can get in the field of study. However, to pursue a doctorate degree in Culinary Arts, one needs to hold a master’s degree in the same. Earning a doctorate degree makes one eligible for some of the highest-grossing jobs in the industry. Also, it opens up new and exciting employment opportunities. For instance, you can either become a Professor of Culinary Arts or you could be a Research Professional combining your culinary expertise with engineering and food science.
The cost of pursuing a career as a chef in India can vary depending on factors like course duration, institute, and location, and can range from Rs. 1,00,000 to Rs. 8 lakhs.
At the beginning of your career, you will get a job as a Management Trainee or as a Commis Chef, depending upon your educational qualifications. Commis Chef is a kitchen assistant who works under a Chef de Partie, who is responsible for managing the work of a section of a kitchen. For example, a section in a large kitchen that does grilling and roasting of food or a section in which baking is done.
You will get a job as a Management Trainee/ Commis Chef in various organizations or facilities such as:
- 5-Star and other Star hotels as well as different types of non-star hotels
- Restaurants and Cafes
- Resorts and Guest Houses
- Airline Kitchens
- Industrial and Corporate Canteens or Dining facilities
- Merchant Navy ships (Merchant Navy ships carry commercial cargo or passengers)
- Luxury cruise ships (Cruises carry passengers for recreation and entertainment onboard or at several tourist destinations)
- Bakeries and Confectioners
- Central kitchens of various food companies (typically many companies which own a chain of food stores or restaurants or bakeries have a central kitchen where most of the food items are prepared)
- Central kitchens of catering companies
- House kitchens of wealthy individuals
Salary of a chef
In entry-level jobs as a Management Trainee or a Commis Chef, you may expect to earn between Rs. 1,96,000 – 3,50,000 per year. Salaries vary according to your job role and the kind of organization in which you are getting a job.
After having 3-4 years of experience, depending upon where you are working, you may expect to make about Rs. 2,40,000 – 4,50,000 per year as a Chef handling a particular task in a kitchen. When you find work as a Chef de Partie (heading a particular section of a kitchen), you may get about Rs. 2,40,000 – 6,00,000 or more per year.
After having 5-10 years of experience and if you work in the role of Sous Chef (Sous Chef handles a larger part of a kitchen containing several food preparation sections) or as a Chef de Cuisine (Head Chef of a particular specialty cuisine), you may earn between Rs. 4,00,000 – 18,00,000 or even more per year).
As Head Chef / Executive Chef or a similar senior-level role, you may earn between Rs. 7,00,000 – 48,00,000 per year or even more. Executive Chefs of 5-Star hotels and Fine Dining Restaurants make much more.
Career progression in this profession of chef
- In the entry-level roles, you start your career as a Trainee or a Commis Chef. A Commis Chef handle several tasks in the kitchen such as cutting, chopping, cooking and grilling under a Chef de Partie.
- After 3-4 years of experience, you may grow to become a Chef de Partie heading a particular section of a kitchen such as a section for all the roasting work, a section for cooking by smoking or boiling, a section for making all the sauces and curries, a section for all the baking and grilling, etc.
- After 5-10 years of experience, you may grow into the role of a Sous Chef (Sous Chef handles a larger part of a kitchen containing several food preparation sections – such as a part of the kitchen where only vegetarian food is cooked) or as a Chef de Cuisine (Head Chef of a particular specialty cuisine such as Chef de Cuisine of continental cuisine or Chinese cuisine).
- You can expect to become the Head Chef / Executive Chef (heading all the food preparation work in a kitchen in a hotel, restaurant and other establishments) after having 8-15 years of experience.
What does industry trends say – future prospects
You may expect an exciting future as Chef as India’s food services industry is growing rapidly at a rate which is more than 10% on average every year, according to a KPMG report. This is a CAGR growth rate. CAGR means compounded annual growth rate. This kind of rapid growth means that you will have plenty of job opportunities in the future. The global food service market is estimated to grow by a rate of more than 7% on a CAGR basis. This is also good news for you as you can expect to have many opportunities to find work in many countries across the globe.
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