Glamour, creativity, indulging a passion for food—these are a few of the most often cited reasons for setting your sights on a career in the culinary arts. Enthusiasm and glamour aren't the whole story, though.
If the top kitchen spot is your goal, then it's critical to familiarize yourself with the kind of work environment you'll encounter as a culinary professional, the personality traits that will prime you for success, and other fundamental requirements to become a chef. Know these, and you just might find yourself in that posh career sooner than you think.
Adapting to the Work Environment
One of the most important requirements to become a chef is the ability to cope with a high-energy, high-stress work environment. Whether you work in a five-star restaurant or an institutional kitchen, behind the scenes it's going to be hot, crowded and hectic. You might find yourself having to work an irregular schedule, or work on weekends and holidays.
In such a fast-paced environment, hazards such as hot ovens and sharp kitchen implements may become a source of minor injuries, so safety is a critical factor. A chef must also make sure that food quality is consistent, orders are accurately prepared and cleanliness guidelines are followed.
Personality Traits of Successful Chefs
In order to cope with the unique demands of a chef job, it's helpful to have the right personality for it. Here are some common traits:
- Creativity: One of the most appealing of the requirements to become a chef is creativity. Creativity enables you to apply your culinary knowledge in new ways, as well as giving you the flexibility to cope with unexpected setbacks.
- Teamwork: In order to handle the stressful environment of a professional kitchen, everyone needs to work as a team, so it's important to be able to embrace and foster a collaborative environment.
- Determination and Stamina: Putting up with the long, irregular hours and fast pace takes a lot of stamina. New chefs, especially, may have to endure some repetitive grunt work before they can attain a role with more creativity and leadership.
- Organization: Executive chefs in particular need superior organizational skills in order to keep the kitchen running smoothly and keep stress to a minimum. Organization is critical in every part of the job, from menu planning to staff management.
- Customer Service: The value of courteous and attentive customer service cannot be overemphasized—because without customers, restaurants can't survive.
- Willingness to Learn: You might think you know all there is to know after attending culinary school, but you'll need to stay abreast of current and future culinary industry trends.