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Chef Cook

Chefs prepare, cook and present food.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £13,000 to £50,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 40 to 45 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements, but GCSEs in English and maths may help.

You could do on-the-job training, starting as a kitchen assistant or trainee chef. Another option is to take a full-time college course.

You could also get into this job through an apprenticeship.

The Hospitality Guild has more information about training.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • organisational and time management skills
  • excellent communication and number skills
  • the ability to stay calm under pressure

3. What you'll do

You could work in hotels, restaurants, pubs, schools, colleges, cruise ships, the NHS or the armed forces.

In a small kitchen you may be a general chef. In a large kitchen you may be a specialist chef, in charge of one area like pastry, fish or vegetables, working under a head chef.

Your day-to-day tasks will vary with your role, but may include:

  • preparing attractive menus to nutritional standards
  • controlling and ordering stock and inspecting it on delivery
  • gutting and preparing animals and fish for cooking
  • scraping and washing large quantities of vegetables and salads
  • cooking and presenting food creatively
  • monitoring production to maintain quality and consistent portion sizes
  • working under pressure to make sure food is served on time
  • keeping to hygiene, health and safety and licensing rules

You’ll need knowledge of allergens, nutrition and diets.

4. Salary

Starter: £13,000 (trainee chef)

Experienced: £18,000 to £25,000 (section chef)

Highly Experienced: £30,000 to £50,000 (head chef)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your working day may start in the early morning or continue late at night. You may work weekends and public holidays. You could get seasonal work.

Kitchens are hot, humid and busy and the job is physically demanding.

You'll usually wear chef whites and a hat.

You may need a driving licence if you work unsocial hours or in a remote location.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could progress to section chef (station chef) and look after a particular area like desserts. The next step is sous chef, running an entire kitchen when the head chef is busy.

As head chef (also known as chef de cuisine), you'll run a kitchen, create menus and manage the budget.

You could move into the business side by taking a foundation degree or degree in hospitality management.

Very large establishments have executive chefs, usually in charge of multiple outlets. This is a management role and you would do very little cooking.

Another option is to train as a teacher or assessor working for a college or training provider.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017