How to Become a Chef
If you love to cook or have a passion for food, a career as a chef could be right for you. You’ll have the opportunity to engage in what you love on a day-to-day basis in a field that’s exciting, creative, and ever-changing.
This article explores how to become a professional chef—from chef education requirements to schools for culinary arts, and more. So, let’s get cooking!
Part of the research process for how to become a chef includes understanding the job outlook in the industry. Good news. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for chefs and head cooks is expected to rise 15.4% through 2031. With that in mind, chef training is a promising course of study in terms of future job opportunities. There are many career paths in the culinary world, including:
- Restaurant Chef
- Personal Chef
- Sous Chef
- Pastry Chef
- Short Order Cook
- Food Service or Restaurant Manager
- Beverage Manager, and more
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Chef?
A passion for cooking doesn’t necessarily mean you would enjoy being a chef. In addition to practical knowledge like sautéing, searing, and knife skills, chefs typically need to possess a certain set of personality characteristics along with an openness to a non-traditional work schedule.
Some common soft skills for prospective chefs include:
- Ability to multitask and shift gears frequently
- Business sense
- Attention to detail
- A commitment to excellence
- Stress management, and more
Chef Education Requirements
Those interested in how to become a chef or how to become a cook must first understand the education requirements. The minimum education requirements of a professional chef for an entry-level position are a high school diploma and hands-on work experience in the field.
To secure a non-entry-level job or command a higher salary, it is beneficial to attend a program at a community college to earn an associates degree in culinary arts. From there, you can either enter the field and work your way up or continue your education by transferring to a four-year college.
In other words, if you’re wondering: “How long does it take to become a chef?” Or what are the “qualifications needed to become a chef?” It really varies according to your individual goals, learning style, desired salary, and more. While there are no strict training requirements or certifications for how to become a chef, earning a culinary degree or certification will make you much more marketable.
Schools for Culinary Arts
If you’re looking into how to become a professional chef, chances are you’ve been researching things like “schools for culinary arts” or “course for chef in college.”
For prospective culinary arts students in the Finger Lakes region of New York, the culinary arts program at Tompkins Cortland Community College is an excellent option. Hospitality and food-related employment is among the strongest sectors of the regional economy, with a large need for professional, highly trained workers. Unique to TC3 is its innovative Farm to Bistro concept, which utilizes products from the College’s own organic farm.
Wondering what to study to become a chef? Here’s just a sampling of what you will learn about in culinary school when you pursue an associates degree in culinary arts at TC3:
- Local agriculture and culinary practices
- Sustainable food systems and ethics
- Food sanitation and safety
- Food and labor cost control
- Safe alcohol handling
You’ll also receive hands-on professional training in the College’s downtown Ithaca culinary center Coltivare, complete with teaching kitchens, fully functional professional restaurant, and large-group serving capability.