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Hollywood movies may have sold you a perception of what being a chef is all about. They probably made it look overly desirable with the serene environment in a French restaurant located in the heart of Paris with a group of cooks in white aprons working in sync while handling ingredients and kitchen tools for the perfect outcome: a meal that leaves you drooling on your screen.
While these elements make for a great box office project, the truth is that life as a chef is nothing compared to what we have grown accustomed to seeing in movies.
If you're dreaming of becoming a chef in the near future, this article will give you the right perspectives in realizing your ambition.
Who is a Chef?
Most folks tend to confuse chefs and cooks. Both play a significant role in the restaurant; however, they function in different areas to ensure top-notch meals are offered to customers daily.
A chef is a highly trained professional cook with an elaborate skill set in conjuring delicacies of a specific cuisine. Chefs often tend to be specialists with higher authority and command of kitchen activities compared to cooks.
On the contrary, cooks have less knowledge and proficiency in making recipes yet function effectively in a team and under the close supervision of a chef. However, a cook can graduate to becoming a chef after years of mastering the rudiments of a particular recipe.
They can become experts through knowledge, learning, and practice. Having established these differences, let us analyze what it means to be a chef in the real sense of the profession in the real world. Let's get right into it.
Long Working Hours
If you love to have all your time to yourself and the freedom to engage in other activities, then forget it - it would be near impossible to become a successful chef in any restaurant.
Movies may water down the realities of a chef to be all about the flashy life, but a chef is always busy or engaged from the start of the day till the signpost reads “closed”.
Right before the doors swing open for business, a chef has already kickstarted operations in the early morning. The preparations involve cooking recipes and facilitating smooth operations throughout the day to ensure customer satisfaction.
All of these processes are time-consuming and quite demanding for the average human being. Best believe chefs are built differently as they are accustomed to long hours of standing in the kitchen; supervising cooks, delivering top-notch recipes, and managing kitchen operations.
There is almost no time for relationships. This is because it tends to take all your time. It is so bad that even holidays are work days for chefs.
The average chef works on their feet for at least 16 hours per day with an hour break to cool off.
Strenuous Work Environment
There is a popular saying, "Have the most fun doing what you love." While this is true for many professions out there, the average chef probably disagrees with that statement.
The kitchen, whether it's a restaurant or hotel, can be likened to a factory with the risk of occupational hazards.
For the ordinary person, working as a chef would be an unbelievable nightmare. As a customer in a five-star restaurant, it is easy to see past the painstaking efforts required to bring an irresistible dish to life.
The chef is exposed to the kitchen stove, the heat from the oven, the smoke from frying, the risks from boiling water and hot oil, not to mention the accidental cuts and bruises.
The pressure to deliver is way up there on the scale; with every member of the team on high alert, tensions are often high to avoid mistakes and protect the organization's image.
It is a joy to behold when chefs are recognized both on the local and international stage for their consistent efforts in delivering quality recipes or meals.
This recognition may be a consequence of improving the ratings of a restaurant or an upshoot in financial revenue. Despite the rewarding prospects for a chef, society views the profession under a rather critical lens.
For instance, most parents in parts of Asia have a hard time believing it is a viable career path.
Without a doubt, succeeding as a chef is quite difficult, but skill and persistence could be all you need to reach the very top of the ladder.
Financial Costs and Implications
Becoming a chef is expensive. Of course, it is an advantage if you are naturally skilled and interested in cooking, but it takes a lot more to become a top chef.
The stress and demand of culinary school is a different ball game altogether. With that in mind, only strong-willed and persistent individuals make it through that ring of fire to become professionals.
After culinary school, while you may have gained the necessary skills as a certified chef, getting to practice what you have learned presents another hurdle to overcome.
At this stage, your heart and passion for the profession would test your resolve. But if you manage to land an entry position at a restaurant and work your way up, then there is a huge possibility you can achieve your dreams as a top chef in the industry.
Growth in any profession is often a painful yet rewarding experience. And the career path of a chef is no different. Unlike any other profession, being a chef is not for the weak nor does it appeal to mere mortals. Sarcasm? maybe, but the statement is very close to being true.
In your progression to becoming a top chef, it is often not a matter of if you deserve the promotion, but when you are ready to take on bigger responsibilities.
Since other professionals are as skilled, qualified, and may be experienced as you are, the competition is always high.
Promotions usually come as a result of your commitment to pushing the limits, breaking barriers, and consistently pushing yourself to scale new heights and be better at what you do.
While the wait may seem frustrating and make you feel like you deserve more than your current state, staying the course has proven to be one of the effective strategies to make career advancement as a chef.
However, you mustn't undervalue yourself when life nudges you in the direction of an opportunity. Do not be afraid to fail and use every stage as a learning curve to become more experienced and valuable as a chef.
Whether you decide to pursue your dreams as a chef or build your cooking skills within the comfort of your home until you're ready, knives will always remain relevant in recipe preparations.
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