Career of the Month Chef
World Vegan Month which takes place in November is a big month for The Vegan Society (TVS), the world’s oldest vegan charity. TVS started in November 1944 when founding members coined the word ‘vegan’ meaning a person who does not eat any food derived from animals or use animal-based products. With veganism suggested by animal rights organisations such as PETA to be one measure that could support efforts to slow climate change, it is increasing in popularity as people are more conscious about their impact on the environment. Where eating out used to present a challenge for those practising veganism, the rise in popularity has led to the hospitality industry responding, creating vegan dishes and restaurants to tempt even those not yet fully on board. Those exploring culinary careers can get creative with plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy in order to stand out in their field. This month we are exploring the career of ‘chef’, and how someone interested in creating vegan food could explore this pathway.
Salary Range £15,000-£50,000
The job of a chef can be quite demanding with hours expected weekly ranging from 40-48 due to the nature of the opening hours and pre-opening food prep required., but for those passionate about food it can be a great way to harness your creativity. Chefs prepare, cook and present food in hotels, bars and restaurants with those moving on to become ‘Head Chef’ also taking responsibility for staffing and managing budgets. The size of the establishment, years of service and level of responsibility you take all contribute to salary progression in this industry. Receiving awards or accolades such as rosettes or Michelin stars can also help to progress your career.
Chefs not only create eye-catching and delicious dishes, but they must ensure the preparation of food meets hygiene, health and safety and licensing standards. Having a good grasp of maths is essential in the kitchen as you will need to carefully weigh and measure ingredients and understand the costs of recipes versus profit for your restaurant. You will need a keen eye for detail and to be highly organised as you will be responsible for stock control and working under pressure to ensure food dishes are served on time to customers. Leadership skills are essential for cheffing, as you will need those working alongside you in the kitchen to follow your lead.
Chefs work in a variety of settings such as a restaurant, in an NHS or private hospital, at a school, at a college or on a cruise ship. Chef’s kitchens are often hot and require you to wear a full catering uniform and hat for hygiene reasons, so as they say ‘if you can’t stand the heat’ you might not enjoy a career in the kitchen.
The best route to becoming a chef is a combination of working your way up via kitchen-related work experience and gaining relevant qualifications. College courses are a good entry route into the industry and to hone your cookery skills. Look out for courses like a Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery, T Level in Catering or Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts. You could progress on to university qualifications such as a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in culinary arts or professional cookery.
What you can be doing now
You could start as a kitchen assistant or trainee chef, known as a commis chef. You could then work your way up while learning on the job. Restaurants and catering companies often advertise for kitchen assistants and commis chefs.
Practicing your cooking skills at home is a great starting point for getting creative in the kitchen. To put yourself ahead of the competition, you could take up voluntary work, perhaps looking for community kitchen projects.