Whether you’re a great home cook or currently looking for a new profession, in this article we go over what you should know if you’re interested in what it might take to walk down the path of a great chef.
To start, here are 5 basic attributes of being a great cook:
- Knowing where to source high-quality ingredients.
- Technically proficient with kitchen utensils—to the point where cutting and slicing are second nature to you.
- Well versed in Kitchen Safety & Hygiene.
- Mastered the task of planning, prepping and organising your meals and workspace.
- Able to handle multi-tasking and have a keen attention to detail.
Formal education is a great way to start.
If those boxes above are all checked, enrolling in formal education and obtaining a Certificate or Bachelors Degree in Cookery is a great option in becoming a professional Chef. With a packed industry, future employers are always looking for talented chefs with both experience tertiary education, to get an idea of your skills in the kitchen.
Getting a degree in Cookery will also help you to realise a specific area of the profession you might like to peruse, there are a of range courses that may suit your passions with everything from general cookery to food science and technology.
Location can sometimes make a difference.
If you have the choice, Melbourne is a great place to learn and is often referred to as the food capital of Australia. A certificate or degree from a quality educator is sure to stand out on your resume and is the best opportunity place to network with some of the best cooks Australia’s industry has to offer.
Got a lot of passion, but no education? No worries.
The cooking industry is one of those rare fields where passion alone can take someone to the top of the profession—as long as you’re willing to put in the work! If the path of an apprentice is your sole way into the industry, networking and training under some great chefs should be your greatest goal and in doing so there’s a good chance for you to grow your skills immensely faster than a formal education might. A prime example of this can be seen in arguably one of histories greatest chefs, Marco Pierre White.
With no formal education, Marco Pierre White’s experience as an apprentice is priceless. Here’s a brief list of chefs Marco had studied and worked with during his career:
- Albert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche
- The first chefs/restaurant in the UK to gain three Michelin Stars.
- Mario Batali
- Regarded as an expert on history and culture of Italian Cuisine
- Three-star restaurant award from New York Times (the first Italian restaurant to do so in 40 years)
- One of six restaurants to be awarded a four-star review by New York Times.
From there, Marco Pierre White’s career led him to become the youngest chef (33) to win a Michelin Star and go on to become the teacher of another coveted chef, Gordon Ramsey.
With all this in mind, if the skills are there, what other traits make a great chef?
A great chef is not only a great cook but also a great teacher and leader. If you’ve ever worked in the food service sector of the hospitality industry you’ll know that there’s no way to get through a hectic night shift, unless, you have all the bases covered. When those dockets stack up and everyone slowly starts to lose their minds, leading your crew steadily through storms of dockets is just one essential skill of a great chef.
There’s no denying that at a professional level, the cooking industry is a cut throat business. Everyone’s is a critic and you’ll rarely get acknowledgement for your work if it’s anything less than perfect. For this reason, it’s not surprising that great chefs are often perfectionists, paying attention to every detail, not only of their food but also the restaurant in general. The delegation of every task must be taken into account and at the highest levels, there are no cutting corners on prep or presentation. If you’ve got the time, here’s a short documentary on Gordon Ramsey’s path to gaining his third Michelin Star.
OK! Where to from here?
Enrolling in formal education or obtaining an apprenticeship may take some time to work up to doing. Until then a good move is to further hone your skills in the kitchen and continue exploring the vast range of influences cultures and countries can have on your cooking!