Are You Thinking About Becoming a Chef?

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If you are considering becoming a chef make sure that you have a serious love of foods.  There are many aspects of food preparation that are not as glamorous as the “Food Channel” may indicate. Also make sure that you know what is involved in your decision. There are always exceptions to every rule but typically you can expect to work very long hours for many, many years at fairly low pay before you will find yourself in a place where you are making any money.

There are two routes into the chef trade.  The route first is to go to some form of a culinary institute for some serious training. Depending on where you go the programs will vary from 2 to 4 years.  You will get a good grounding in all aspects of the cooking trade from all sides of the classical kitchen.  You will learn the theory along with the practice. A friend who went to C.I.A. (Culinary institute of America) tells the story of the 1 egg hollandaise sauce that they managed to build with 23 cups of butter before it broke. You will be exposed to sauces, soups, baking, decorative practices, hone your knife skills and catch glimpses of many aspects of the chef trade.

The other route is that of apprenticing yourself to a chef who would be willing to take you under his umbrella.  He will teach you the trade from his perspective. You will probably spend a long time doing seemingly monotonous things.  To hone your knife skills you will go through several thousands of pounds of vegetables. You will learn best food handling and cleanliness practices in a hurry when you are told that the health inspector is on the way into the kitchen. You will be assigned a task in the morning to produce a 1000 of this or that appetizer, then asked why you are not finished at 1:00.

After a while you will be sent to the cooking line to prepare meals for guests.  Now your time constraints are significantly increased.  Especially when someone forgets to place the order on time or a late customer joins the group.  Pay attention however at this point is the first opportunity for your creativity to shine forth; here you will learn the differences that make for quality and customer appreciation.  Never serve something that you are not very proud to eat yourself.

Either route that you choose you are guaranteed that time constraints and craziness will be a part of the whole mix.  Dealing with customers means that, in spite of your timing to bring all the parts of a meal together in one moment, it may not be their timing.  You cannot make a steak rare again or a puffed pastry “en croute” hold for very long in a steam table.  To make a long story short, in addition to making every effort to do your best, there are lots of circumstances that are beyond your control. The road to becoming a chef can be very stressful.

At some point you will arrive at a space where you have learned enough, matured enough to be given the opportunity to put your own special touches on your own culinary creations.  That is a very satisfying time, when you are competent enough to bend the rules by adding your own creativity to the process.  The price you will pay will be countless years of 60 to 70 hour weeks, with occasional 15 hour days. That is the name of the game in the chef’s trade. Just a little something to think about, if you are dedicated to the art of food preparation then go for it, but beware of the pitfalls along the way.

Becoming a chef does not mean that you have to cook in a professional situation.  You could simply get the training you need to learn the basics and the subtle nuances of creating fine dishes with out going through the agony of several years of apprenticeship.  It is possible to learn how to become a professional chef for your family and friends by taking some online cooking classes.   An online cooking class can give you the opportunity to learn from the comfort of your home at a pace that you set.   The best course that I have seen is offered by Chef Todd Mohr at WebCookingClass.com .  Chef Todd has a comfortable presentation style and he will teach you how to cook with out needing to use a recipe by learning the basics of food chemistry and how to use herbs and spices to achieve the special ethnic flavor you may be looking for.


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