How to become a successful chef

Your culinary career starts here

If you can’t be dragged out of the kitchen and can handle the heat of a high-pressure environment (pun intended), becoming a chef might be the perfect career choice for you.

A chef is the highest qualified position in a commercial kitchen (a cook is experienced but not qualified) and an average day involves food preparation, managing kitchen staff and calculating food supplies.

Expect long hours, working on weekends and holidays, and a fast-paced lifestyle that is high pressure yet highly rewarding. To become a chef there are some key ingredients you’ll need such as passion, a technical qualification and experience.

Here are the four steps you’ll need to take to become a fully qualified chef.

Step 1. Get qualified

One of the best ways to get qualified as a chef is through a vocational TAFE course – a course you can pursue immediately after completely Year 10. These courses are mostly hands-on, giving you real kitchen experience under the guidance of an experienced professional.

If you have some already-established kitchen skills, culinary schools offer more advanced and specialised training. These courses are often highly regarded by prestigious restaurants, offer better networking opportunities and are great if you want to specialise in particular fields of cooking such as pastry and cakes, molecular gastronomy and classic French cooking. Entry requirements, cost and length of study vary between the different culinary schools, so ensure you shop around before making a final decision on what the best option is for you.

Step 2. Get experience

When you start out, chances are you’ll be employed in an entry-level position as a chef. The key to a lot of chef careers is longevity, so be patient. It will take time to move up the career ladder.

Starting at an entry-level position gives you the opportunity to learn how a kitchen and restaurant works, from the ground up, as well as working under more-experienced and inspiring chefs.

Step 3. Get into the job market

In terms of securing a culinary job, Australia’s hospitality industry is diverse and offers a variety of different job opportunities. From high-end restaurants and hotels to catering companies and food trucks, the opportunities are limitless. The industry itself is expanding, with an IBIS world report highlighting how ‘busier lifestyles and time-poor consumers’ are fuelling demand for restaurants.

When it comes to starting out in the industry, you’ll first work as a kitchen chef, which has in Australian means you’ll earn an average annual salary of $44,000. From there, you can progress to higher positions in the kitchen like sous chef, head chef, or executive chef. You may also choose to specialise in different areas such as desserts and work as a pastry chef.

Step 4. Climb up the ladder

Once you’ve done your ‘due diligence’ and put in the hard yards at the beginning of your career you can start moving your way up.

Working as a sous chef is usually the next natural step for a kitchen chef. Sous chefs second-in-command and are responsible for ensuring food preparation is of the highest quality, and have an average salary of $53,000.

A head chef earns an average of $56,000 and is in charge of kitchen staff management, budgeting and menu planning. This position carries a lot of responsibility as a head chef oversees the entire operations of a kitchen.

An executive chef earns an average of $74,000 and takes full responsibility of more than one kitchen and can oversee up to hundreds of restaurants. They make sure that restaurants are of the highest quality and any issues that arise are quickly resolved.

So what are you waiting for? If you’re passionate about food and think you can handle the heat, there’s never been a better time to pursue your food dreams.

Get qualified today with our range of online hospitality courses.