CHEF CAREER: MONEY & JOB (WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW)

Choosing a career has never been easy, let alone deciding to become a chef. As an aspiring chef; knowledge of the culinary industry and your career path are what will ensure your future success. That dream of working in award winning hotels and restaurants, or starting your own world-class eatery can only be achieved when your training is as great as your skill.

South Africa’s pool of culinary arts has grown drastically over the years and will continue to grow. If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in the culinary industry, knowing what you’ll do, how much you’ll earn and what are your career prospect’s will have make the decision easier and provide clarity.

What is a chef?

A chef works in the culinary industry as a specialist who cooks and creates meals and dishes for a restaurant or similar food establishment. Similar places to work may vary from resorts and spas, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, travel agencies, car rental firms, campgrounds, cruise lines, forest preserves and recreational facilities, hotels and motels, state and national parks, retirement homes, railroads, amusement parks/attractions, at tour companies, airlines, country clubs, convention centres, casinos, exposition centres, and schools.

What does a chef do?

  • plans menus
  • works out pricing
  • works out staff rosters/shifts/schedules
  • plans food preparations
  • orders supplies and keeps stock
  • trains other members of kitchen staff
  • enforces health and safety regulations
  • creates new dishes
  • stores food correctly

What is a culinary school?

A culinary school is an institution devoted to education in the art and science of cooking and food preparation. There are different types of cooking schools around the world, some devoted to training professional chefs, others aimed at amateur enthusiasts, with some being a mixture of the two

What are subjects you will need?

The following High School subjects are recommended;

  • Hospitality Studies
  • Physical Science
  • Mathematics
  • Consumer Studies

What skills do you need to become a chef?

You’ll need:

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

What are the different ranks of chefs?

 There are different ranks of Chefs:   

  • Commis Chef
    Usually works under a Chef de Partie – preparing food and learning basic cooking skills
  • Chef de Partie
    Is a junior Chef, usually in charge of one aspect of the kitchen like sauces, vegetables, soups, or salads etc.
  • Demi Chef
    Also known as a Line Chef – job can be varied – ranging from meal preparation to budgeting to training employees
  • Second Chef/Sous Chef
    Is usually second in command of the kitchen
  • Executive Chef
    Also known as Head Chef is in charge of the kitchen. They manage the kitchen staff, plan menus, work out budgets and pricing and are generally involved in the business side of the establishment as well as the cooking.

How much money will I make?

 Commis Chef / Jnr Chef de Partie/ Chef de Partie

  • 3 Star establishment – R  3 000 – R  7 000 p/m
  • 5 Star establishment – R  3 000 – R  8 000 p/m

Sous/ Exec Sous

  • 3 Star establishment – R  6 000 – R 16 000 p/m
  • 5 Star establishment – R  7 000 – R 20 000 p/m

Executive Chef  

  • 3 Star establishment – R 25 000 +p/m
  • 5 Star establishment – R 45 000 +p/m

What qualifications do I need

If you’re already  thinking of becoming an executive chef, you will be usually required to have 7-8 years of previous related experience. Ideally, executive chefs should have a bachelor’s degree in the culinary arts or in a related area, such as hospitality. A Grade 10 certificate or a National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite, depending on the chosen course of study. Many chefs have only a 2-year degree and rely on additional work experience to improve their career opportunities. Other chefs get their start through on-the-job training or apprenticeship programmes and work their way up without completing any formal education.

Educational Requirements

  • Senior National Certificate
  • Further Education and Training Colleges (FET) for programmes for specific trade or skills (each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements)

What culinary schools can I go to?

  • JHB Culinary & Pastry School
  • The 1000 Hills Chefs School
  • Prue Leith Chefs Academy
  • The Culinary Academy
  • Silwood School of Cookery
  • Institute of Culinary Arts
  • Christina Martin – School of Food & Wine
  • South African Chefs Academy
  • The Fusion Cooking School
  • Capsicum Culinary Studio

What can I study at a culinary school?

Food preparation

Course Outline

  • Prepare, cook and finish foods by baking, roasting and grilling
  • Introduction to basic kitchen procedures
  • Introduction to the hospitality and catering industry
  • Food safety in catering
  • Costing
  • Prepare, cook and finish foods by baking, roasting and grilling
  • Introduction to basic kitchen procedures
  • Introduction to the hospitality and catering industry
  • Food safety in catering
  • Costing

Requirements

  • Hands on Attitude
  • Interest in Food

What is the target audience?

  • This course is intended for anyone interested in learning to master his or her Food Preparation and Cooking
  • This course is aimed at beginners, so no previous experience with hand balancing skillets is necessary

Pastry

Course outline

  • Breakfast products
  • Classic cakes
  • Modern Cakes
  • Chocolate
  • Classic and traditional Petit Pastries
  • Ice cream and decorations
  • Examination

Requirements

  • Hands On Attitude
  • Interest in Food

What is the target audience?

This course is intended for anyone interested in learning to master his or her Patisserie

This course is aimed at beginners, so no previous experience with hand balancing skillets is necessary

  • Tools/smalls/Sponge- cake, shortbread, Puff pastry and cream puffs
  • Biscuits, Meringue, Dacquoise and creams
  • Mousse Bavarian creams, Brittle
  • Leavened bread dough and sour dough
  • Bakery Products

What natural skills and/or aptitudes do I need for this occupation?

The best career advice we have ever received about the natural skills will help you make the most of your culinary career is;

  • Have a flair for and interest in baking and preparing foodstuffs
  • Have creative and artistic talent
  • Have a keen sense of taste and smell
  • Have physical stamina to stand for hours at a time
  • Have a high regard for personal hygiene and cleanliness
  • Be able to use own initiative, with minimum supervision
  • Have organizational ability, but also be flexible
  • Be interested in learning and adapting to an ever changing market’s expectations
  • Work well with others
  • Work well under pressure
  • Have a good memory and eye-hand coordination

Top 10 Chefs in South Africa

  • Chef Luke Dale-Roberts
  • Reuben Riffel
  • Michelle Theron
  • Chef Peter John Vadas
  • Chef Jackie Cameron
  • Chef Adriaan Maree
  • Annemarie Robertson
  • Veronica Canha-Hibbert
  • Chef Jan van der Westhuizen
  • Lucas Ndlovu

So is a culinary career for you?

The culinary industry is in the midst of a period of exponential growth, with an outstanding number of new restaurants, food start-ups and service establishments. A career in culinary arts can be a rewarding one for people who are passionate about food and cooking. There are numerous culinary arts courses and diplomas available throughout South Africa. Most include technical classroom teachings and instructions, along with on-job-training facilities, to prepare the culinary arts students to become familiar with actual cooking environments. If you are serious about obtaining experience and furthering your career in culinary arts, you should also be prepared to work hard with devotion during the period of your training.

Chefs need good time management and speaking skills, strong leadership and teamwork. Aspiring chefs could develop their craft by taking courses in high school or through vocational school programs. Although the industry faces many challenges, there is little question that becoming a chef is truly something unique and special.

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