Career in Focus: Chef

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What does it take to become a Chef? Here at Postgrad.ie, we break down the skills and qualifications you need to take on a career in this area.

With the catering, entertainment and hospitality industry experiencing a period of concerted growth, the demand for skilled chef’s has reached very high levels. Recent data from the Restaurant Association of Ireland shows that 5,000 new professional chefs will be needed in the market by 2020.

The Role of a Chef

There are over 25,000 chefs (approximately) employed in Ireland and the majority of the jobs in the hospitality sector relate directly to the food services sector. So what does it take to become a successful chef? It’s part vocation and it’s part dedication to learning an ever-evolving craft. This role is arguably one the most important cultural and social jobs in the world. The reality of working as a chef is, to quote a chef in a recent interview “reaches much further than creating picture-ready, aesthetic looking food masterpieces that rocket their way through social media channels. All chefs need a high degree of training and professional experience before they are able to manage their own operations.”

Qualifications Required

At present, the professional qualifications required for a career in this area are mostly in going down the academic route by gaining a culinary arts degree. There are private colleges, such as the School of Food who seek to provide more industry-based, hands-on training to make sure that graduates are ready for the realities of the business.

As a chef, you must have the desire to keep learning, improving and persevering. You need to blend a passion for food with the focus to specialise on a particular type of cuisine. It’s vital that a chef entering the business receives practical and solid training. This must be based on the realities of life in the industry. Much of what you will learn, in fact, the vast majority, will be on the job, through experience and mentoring. But be prepared! It can certainly be a pressurised environment and you will need to hit the ground running. The kitchen still needs to deliver for customers during the course of your training, so you’d want to be quick on your feet!

What to Expect

A good chef will be quickly in-demand and you’ll need to choose between following your own passion in terms of a particular cuisine. It’s important you focus on developing your industry skills by working in the area that particular restaurants specialise in. A chef is expected to be an all-rounder with a solid basis in what makes good food work and the mechanics of good presentation and delivery. They are also expected to be good learners and ultimately leaders, manage a team of waiters, sous chefs and others in the efficient and consistent running of a kitchen. Consistency and consistent improvement is key to a good kitchen, as any deterioration is keenly observed and noticed instantly. You can’t have a ‘bad day’ as a chef, you need to push through and deliver for either yourself (if self-employed),  or your employer when it comes to creating a good experience for the customer.

Career Opportunities

In terms of career development, it will likely depend on natural talent and hard work and also the ability to network and get a name for being someone that people want to work with. The ‘celebrity chef’ status is a relatively recent phenomenon and does not apply to 99.99% of those working in the industry. Although if you have your own flair, an area of excellence, a hard work ethic and a winning personality, you will find a career that is well rewarded, continually stimulating and constantly changing.

For more information on the industry, visit the Restaurant Association of Ireland website at www.rai.ie.


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