Whether you aspire to be the next celebrity chef or simply dream of having your own restaurant, all chefs have to start somewhere. If you’re thinking of entering the industry, there are key skills and attributes that most employers will be looking for.


Not everyone is chef material and if you are disorganised or panic easily, it probably isn’t the ideal career for you. A busy kitchen can be a stressful place, especially with people shouting orders from all directions. Therefore, it’s important that you can remain calm and focused in the most pressurised situations. The ability to concentrate on more than one job at a time is also a great advantage.

Working in a kitchen is all about teamwork to bring together a dish. You need to be comfortable working within a team and have the ability to communicate effectively. As you progress within the industry you’ll also need to be able to manage people for whom you have responsibility. In more senior positions you may also have to budget and manage finances effectively.


Some parts of the job can be learned, but others should come naturally. As a starting point, you need to have a real passion for good food and a desire to experiment with new flavours and combinations. This will be backed up with an excellent sense of taste and smell, which are vital for developing new dishes. You will be able to get specific requirements for catering positions from catering recruitment agencies.

An employer will want to see that you have the creativity and flair to design new menus and create your own unique style or signature dish. But to create dishes, you need to have an understanding of the basic skills and cooking methods: from chopping and slicing to sautéing and grilling. It’s also important to understand the main rules surrounding food safety and preparation, such as how to store ingredients and cook food correctly.


The qualifications that an employer will expect will depend on the specific role, your age and any previous experience. For more junior roles there may be on the job training, as well as attending outside courses, so you won’t always need previous experience. Try searching for local apprenticeships or trainee chef programmes that will provide you with well-rounded industry experience.

If you’re looking to expand your qualifications, there are a range of full and part time courses available. These cover everything from food preparation and basic cooking to international cuisine and professional skills. Once you have some experience you can choose to specialise in a specific area or field, such as patisserie or confectionery.

Following a career as a chef will usually involve long and stressful hours. However the reward of achieving your dream will make the hard work worthwhile.

Harvey White is a respected freelance writer who contributes to a number of careers websites and blogs. He specialises in the catering and hospitality industry, working with a number of catering recruitment agencies to research the market.


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