Chefs deliver what we love most: food! The duties of a chef range from looking over the what is being served and where it is being made. So they are basically the boss at the kitchen. Most people think the work in this profession is limited to cooking. It is actually quite the contrary. They not only prepare food but also take care of diverse tasks such as deciding the menu, choosing the ingredients and inspecting that the ingredients are of desired quality. There are also administrative duties such as supervising the kitchen staff, hiring and firing staff, acquiring investors, ordering ingredients and managing cash flows.
Another regular misconception is that there is usually one chef in the kitchen whereas the kitchen staff is supervised by many chefs. This includes the executive chef (also known as the head chef, master chef or chef de cuisine), the sous chefs, chef de partie and commis.
The sous chefs usually implement what the executive chef directs. They can be seen as the second-in-command in the kitchen space. Chef de partie are in-charge of supervising a particular area in the kitchen. A commis has very little experience, is usually a fresh graduate of culinary school, and works directly under chef de partie.
While these are the main classifications, if you master the culinary art, you can also be the kind of chef who specializes in a particular kind of food like desserts. In addition to having the technical expertise, you will also have to project great communication skills if you want to pursue this career. You must be adept in verbal and written communication, have a calm demeanor, pay attention to details and give importance to organization. It is also important for you to have the ability to work in busy, stressful and fast-paced work environment for long hours.
As previously outlined, the responsibilities of a chef are diverse. They work for irregular hours, when compared to regular professions. They often work for 7 days per week and for about 12 to 14 hours per day. In fact, they are expected to work during weekends and holidays as well.
Below is a list of the regular of duties of a chef. Bear in mind that the nature of job varies immensely depending on the workplace and country on operation.
- Assess that the quantity and quality of food meet the standard
- Make sure that all employees abide by sanitation standards and practices
- Order the items required to maintain efficient operation
- Manage and coordinate all food preparation
- Decide how food items should be presented and create a visually-appealing end result
- Determine required amounts and total costs of supplies including ingredients
- Provide instructions to employees about food preparation, cooking, garnishing, and presentation
- Work with the kitchen staff to plan and create recipes
- Prepare menus
After graduating from culinary school, you can definitely secure work at a restaurant. Other places you can secure a position in are hotels, cafeterias, resorts, hospitals, private homes and cruise ships. You will be assigned at a specialized station to prepare certain kind of food if you work at larger establishments like big restaurants and hotels. If you get work at one of the smaller establishments, like at a private home, you can portray a wide array of your skills because you will have the liberty to prepare a variety of food items.
Those who cook at private homes are called personal chefs. They do grocery shopping, plan and prepare dishes or wash utensils. They either work for a private company or are self-employed.
Some expected traits of a chef are:
- Creativity: Your job will involve following recipes. You will also have to prepare food for large groups of people. So, it is a great quality to be able to formulate new food dishes. You should also be able to apply unique techniques of presentation.
- Strong work ethic: Becoming a chef entails long hours and a lot of practice. You may have to attend double shifts. You may have to sacrifice valuable family time in the process, especially because peak working hours for this career is during festivals and holidays. You will have to prioritize work at all times.
- Physical endurance: The nature of work demands you to work in the kitchen and operate different tools and machines. Sometimes, you might not even get any rest.
- Manual dexterity: You will have to mix, slice, assemble and perform many other tasks so being accurate and prompt is essential.
If you have interest in career in culinary arts and want to become a chef in Florida, there are some guidelines you must follow in terms of education, training and certifications. There are no traditional or standardized regulations but you have to select from the different ways of becoming a chef. Each career path is different and you have find one that suits you best. You can get formal education, opt for apprenticeship or learn from on-the-job training. You can either work your way up the job-ladder or select a combination of these techniques.
Depending on your qualifications and other factors, you can choose any path. None of these education and training paths are better than the others. Your decision should solely depend on what position you want to work in and what kind of work environment you want.
If you choose to start at a culinary school, you will get a solid foundation. The formal education will grant you skills and knowledge needed to work in different chef positions. A good school will teach you all the basic cooking techniques and how you can safely handle food. Courses will also cover rules of proper sanitation, nutrition and food preparation methods techniques. The culinary school curriculum often includes menu planning as well.
By enrolling in a well-recognized program at a local culinary school, you will prepare yourself for any entry-level job positions in the field. It will simply open the doors to culinary industry for you. You may apply for positions such as junior chef or a Commis Chef. Working in this position will give you ideal experience while assisting chef de partie at a specified station. Your initial responsibilities will include monotonous and mundane tasks such as dicing and peeling vegetables but this is a very good start. Over time, it will help to gather technical skills. You will also learn to maintain high standard required at a commercial kitchen.
Many chefs choose to participate in culinary degree programs. These are usually 2 to 4 years long and vary in terms of curriculum. A typical 2-year certificate degree would comprise of courses on principles of cooking, cost analysis, inventory control, restaurant operations and pastry art. In order to get enrollment in a good culinary school, you will need a high school diploma. The high school diploma or GED is often expected by the employer as well.
There are many culinary institutes, community colleges and technical schools in Florida which offer apprenticeship programs. By attending one of these programs, you will get the chance to gain valuable practical experience. It is true that these might extend the time needed to complete your degree but they are extremely beneficial. In addition to the experience, you will earn valuable connections that can benefit you after completion of studies.
On-the-job Culinary Training
If you choose to skip education and learn via on-the-job training, you will have to work your way up the multiple positions. The time taken to reach your goal may be longer in this route. This is the route of choice of most individuals who do not have any prior culinary training. If you too do not have previous kitchen experience, commonly known as the dish-pit, you can learn on-the-job. You may have to serve as the dishwasher for a while but there is nothing to be ashamed of. The time you spend washing dishes in the kitchen will give you a good idea what happens there. If you can prove that you are a hardworking employee, you can soon start assisting the commis chef. As you will gain more and more experience, you may get the opportunity to progress. You will gather knowledge and experience along the way and be able to work across the different kitchen stations as a Chef de Partie later.
It is not necessary to have any sort of certification in order to become a chef but it helps have one. Thousands of people are competing for the position you want and being certified will help you in your career. It will help get to the higher paying job positions and also enhance career advancement possibilities.
If you are a certificate holder, prospective employers will perceive that your unique set of knowledge and skills have reached the industry benchmark. The American Culinary Federation, ACF in short, is a professional organization for chefs and cooks which provides certification for personal chefs, pastry professionals, culinary educators and other kinds of chefs. The criteria of this is set mainly on formal training and work-related expertise. Duration of required work experience will vary based on what level of certification you seek. It ranges from 6 months to as long as 5 years of professional experience.
Apart from this, the organization also has a National Apprentice Program. Its website provides a helpful list of all the secondary and post-secondary schools that available in Florida and other parts of the country. Details about exemplary programs have also been provided. This suggests the best education standard as recognized by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission.
Getting certifications is a great way to market your cooking abilities. It also helps avail more opportunities for career advancement. Founded in 1929, ACF is the largest association of chefs and cooks residing in United States. At present, it offers 14 certification designations across 5 areas:
1. Cooking Professionals
2. Personal Cooking Professionals
3. Baking and Pastry Professionals
4. Culinary Administrators
5. Culinary Educators
Each of these designation can be obtained after fulfilling a few requirements such as candidate’s educational and years of work experience.
Expense of Pursuing Culinary Arts
Expense is often a big concern for those who wish to pursue a culinary arts degree. The tuition fee mainly depends on whether you will attend a private school of public school for training. Typically, an associate’s degree from a public school (a community college) might cost around $22,000. This includes expense for tuition, books and other supplies. Cost of the degree varies from $30,00 to $38,000 if obtained from a private institution.
Some additional expenses might include $50 application fee for certificate and $75 as written exam fee. The practical exam fee is $50 for ACF members and $100 for those who are non-members. There is a recertification cost but it varies depending on the level, and membership with ACF.
Irrespective of which path you choose, you have to commit to hard work if you want to succeed as a chef. You will only reach you desired position in the kitchen if you learn attentively and prepare yourself for long shifts.
Salary of Chefs in Florida
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average national yearly salary for chefs is $42,300. In Florida, this number is slightly higher as individuals get paid as much as $45,900 on average per year. Even then, the salary will vary largely depending on which city in Florida you will work in and what position you will assume in the kitchen.
Executive Chefs, understandably, have the highest annual income. They earn $67,230 in Miami, $65,734 in Jacksonville, $64,235 in Orlando, $64,704 in Tampa and $62,993 in Tallahassee. Sous chefs earn $41,086 in Jacksonville, $42,021 in Miami, $40,149 in Orlando, $40,442 in Tampa and $39,372 in Tallahassee. Chef de Partie makes $33,719 in Jacksonville, $34,486 in Miami, $32,950 in Orlando, $33,190 in Tampa and $32,312 in Tallahassee.