FoodFindsAsia | 6 Things You Should Know About Becoming a Professional Chef | Bringing incredible dishes to life to the delight of paying customers is a dream of many young aspiring chefs. Having the opportunity to use your creativity in the kitchen to whip up new and exciting flavors is just a day in the life of many professional chefs out there who have been able to “make it.”
That being said, becoming a professional chef is not a straightforward path. You will be met with a number of challenges and obstacles along the way that you will need to overcome if you hope to be the best. Those who have dreams of opening their own restaurant one day will have to put in many hours cutting their teeth and honing their skills.
It is also important to note that the life of a chef is hardly glamorous. Even those who make it big and establish a name and reputation for themselves in the industry have to continue to work incredibly hard in order to stay at the top of their game.
If tough competition, hard work, and the need to think on your feet (literally) are things that appeal to you, then you might very well be cut out for a career as a professional chef. Here are six of the other things that you should know about such a career choice if it is a path you are determined to follow.
1. Your Clothes Will Always Be Dirty
Even though the movies often portray chefs as wearing pristine white clothes all day long, the truth is quite different. Working with food and on a tight timeline means that there are bound to be spills and splatters. While a chef should always arrive at the kitchen with clean, pressed clothes, you will no doubt leave knowing that what you are wearing is bound for the laundry.
Before starting your first gig in a kitchen, make sure that you have stockpiled a supply of kitchen-appropriate clothing. The kitchen you are going to work in might have a uniform in place, so make sure that you check in to see what sort of attire is required. There is also a variety of cook shirts available online for purchase so that you won’t ever have to run a midnight load of laundry in order to be ready for your next shift.
2. You Will Be On Your Feet All Day
To that point, it is also a good idea to invest in some comfortable shoes for work. You are going to need good foot and ankle support when you are working in a kitchen as you will literally be on your feet all day.
Whether your job is to work at a particular station in the kitchen or if you are finally able to run the place yourself, chefs rarely, if ever, sit when on the job. Be prepared to have some strong calf muscles!
3. Things Can Get Emotional
One thing that the movies do tend to get right about the job of a chef is that it can be quite an emotional one. Chefs are creatives who also have a complex understanding of the science of food. Their minds are always working. These traits, combined with a truly competitive nature can result in a bit of tension when things aren’t going precisely according to plan.
As long as things are working as they should, kitchens performing at the highest levels tend to be relatively void of conversation. Each member of staff has their own job that must be performed as if the person were a part of a machine. However, if things start to go off track, be prepared for the emotion to boil over.
In order to be a successful chef, you need to have thick skin, innate attention to detail, and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
4. You Will Always Be Part of a Team
Even though many chefs who make it to the top are seen as these individual figures who act autonomously, there is no such thing as a chef who goes it alone. There will be a team of sous chefs, assistant cooks, and other staff who are part of the equation. While the head chef is undoubtedly in charge and makes most of the big decisions, the kitchen cannot function without the entire team working cohesively and in unison.
When you want to be a professional chef, you must possess the ability to work as part of such a team yourself. Learn how to get along with others and develop trust between you and your coworkers and superiors. Teamwork is an essential ingredient when it comes to becoming a successful chef.
5. You Will Never Stop Learning
The food industry is always developing and growing. Since cooking involves such a large creative component, chefs and cooks the world round are always looking for the best new ways to source, combine, and present food. Since this is and always will be the nature of the beast, you need to be prepared to embark on a career of perpetual learning.
Just because you graduate near the top of your class in culinary school doesn’t mean that your education is complete, far from it. The most successful chefs are excited to learn more and explore new ways to work with food. While you will no doubt develop your own particular style of cooking and methods of doing things your own way, never be afraid to learn new techniques.
6. You Can Get Burned Out
With the sort of hours and schedules that most chefs keep, it is easy to get burned out yourself. Because of this, you should be proactive about taking care of yourself from a mental health perspective.
Since your success is in no small part related to your ability to be creative, you should protect your mind and give yourself a break when you need one. Even if your schedule allows a day or two off here and there, use those days wisely to recharge and rest.