With so many cooking shows on TV, whether it’s a competition, a how-to show in the afternoon, or trying to turn a restaurant around, being a celebrity chef seems like an incredible amount of fun (even if you’re yelling at someone). But before they became celebrity chefs, they were chefs. So if that’s the life you want, you need to know what skills you need to become a chef.
If you’re interested in the culinary arts because you want to be on TV, you may want to reconsider. That isn’t something you can just jump into–it takes a lot of time, skill, and effort to get where they are. You should first have a love of cooking, the confidence to try new things, and the desire to keep learning new cuisines and the techniques that bring them to life.
To do that, you need to build a foundational base of knowledge, from the different ways of cooking to choosing the best ingredients to basic knife skills. It’s not just as easy as bouncing spices off your elbow as they drop into the pan (as cool as that might look).
With the CASA Gourmet Chef Program, you’ll learn all the technical skills you need as well as how to move around a real-world kitchen. We place you in a working, professional kitchen, pairing you with an experienced chef who will give you practical experience in a fully immersive environment.
This goes beyond “textbook” learning: You’ll work in the different stations, interact with others in live situations, and see how the hustle and bustle all come together to create dishes that delight and satisfy. And you’ll do it without taking on huge student loan debt or spending years in a culinary school classroom.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Chef?
To be a successful chef, you need a combination of culinary skills, personal qualities, and professional attributes. Here are some essential skills and qualities you should have:
- Culinary Skills
- Time Management
Culinary Kitchen Skills
It’s a lot of work learning to become a chef, the majority of which learned by coming up through the ranks of the industry. You’ll need to learn about ingredients as a prep cook, different cooking techniques as a line cook, and how to run a kitchen as a sous chef.
For starters, you’ll need to get a complete understanding of food safety and precautions. Not many chefs survive after spending the dinner hour giving their customers food poisoning. This means not only how to handle food, but how to keep working surfaces and storage areas clean and tidy.
You’ll need to know different cooking techniques (roasting, grilling, sauteing, etc.), have a familiarity with a wide range of ingredients and their uses, and understand different flavor profiles and how to balance them in dishes. Beyond that, you’ll need to learn the tools of the trades, including how to use and take care of your cutlery.
Once you have that dialed in for a variety of cuisines, you’ll need to know how to develop recipes and create a menu. A refined palate and the ability to identify and create harmonious flavor combinations are essential for creating delicious dishes.
Whether it’s presenting a consistent roster of offerings or offering something new with the changing season (and available ingredients), giving the people what they want–or surprising them altogether–is part of the job. Beyond working with the food, professional cooks also need to master the “soft” skills to keep a kitchen running smoothly.
Time Management Skills
As a chef, you hold the power to create and deliver culinary experiences that leave a lasting impression on your customers–and time management plays an important role. You ensure that each dish is up to par and that your team can work together smoothly and efficiently.
Not only does this lead to happy customers and a thriving business, but it also boosts morale and fosters a positive working environment. After all, who wants to wait an hour for their food–and who wants to spend an hour preparing a dish? A kitchen that runs efficiently is a kitchen that satisfies regularly.
A well-organized kitchen is the key to a successful restaurant experience, for both the patrons and the workers. It’s not just about storing ingredients or cleaning equipment–it’s about ensuring food safety, facilitating smooth front-of-house operations, and creating an overall inviting atmosphere.
All too often, restaurants neglect these important aspects of kitchen management, leading to chaos behind the scenes and inconsistency on the plate. But with careful attention and dedication to organization, a restaurant can transform into a finely tuned machine, with each staff member playing a crucial role in the experience of every customer.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Chef: Leadership
As a leader in the kitchen, it is important to skillfully guide and delegate tasks among your kitchen staff. It is crucial to stay calm and collected, even when others around you are feeling the heat. A good leader is one who remains level-headed and focused, even in the most challenging circumstances (despite what you’ve seen on TV). But you also need to know when someone needs a kick in the apron ties.
If you want to run your own restaurant or manage a kitchen, an understanding of food cost control, menu pricing, and other business aspects is an absolute requirement, especially if you want to keep the lights on. When you lead effectively, your kitchen staff will respect and admire you, creating a collaborative and productive environment where everyone can thrive.
Effective communication is a vital tool in managing a successful kitchen. Skilled chefs recognize that engaging in clear communication is essential for instructing kitchen staff, collaborating with colleagues, and interacting with customers. Communication is key to ensuring that dishes are of high quality and are consistently produced with precision and attention to detail.
Clear direction plays a monumental role in time management and organization. As a chef or kitchen manager, when you clearly communicate your needs and expectations, your team will be empowered to produce the results you require. When your staff is sure of what you want from them, they can make more effective decisions, prioritize their tasks, and better allocate their time.
The culinary industry is always evolving, so chefs need to adapt to new trends, ingredients, and techniques. As cuisines often reflect cultural traditions, having an appreciation for different cultures and their culinary practices can be beneficial.
The culinary field is constantly evolving, so a willingness to continuously learn and improve is key to long-term success. But you also need to know what to do when a food shipment is late, a mistake leads to food being thrown out, and how to think on the fly when equipment suddenly stops working.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Chef: One Last Consideration
While there are many high-profile culinary schools to choose from if you want to become a chef, the majority of head cooks learn from working their way up within the industry. We aren’t saying a formal education is unnecessary, you just need to make sure you find one that fits your goals and gives you the practical experience you need to get started on your culinary journey.
CASA offers just such an educational experience, giving you a bedrock foundation on what every chef needs as well as the freedom to pursue the career you want. And with hands-on, practical experience in a professional kitchen, you’ll learn sooner rather than later if this is the right job for you. Don’t waste time or money at a university if you don’t have to–get started today on the life you want to live.