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If you’re an enthusiastic foodie who impersonates the likes of Nigella within the comfort of your own home, then it may be time to consider pursuing a culinary career in the kitchen. 

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Jokes aside, it takes more than a love for food and obsession with television icons to succeed in the culinary industry. Read on to find out what it takes to break into the culinary industry, and progress as a professional chef.

Breaking into the industry

Given the shortage of chefs within the UK, it is relatively easy to land an entry level position in a restaurant kitchen. Many successful chefs start their careers at commis level, with no formal qualifications or experience beforehand. However, it’s important to remember that although the industry is easy to break into, keeping pace with the pressurised environment and demands of the kitchen will be a daily challenge.

In terms of qualifications, becomingachef.co.uk recommends that as part of the food safety requirements in any food handling workplace, a food hygiene certificate (such as the CIEH Foundation Certificate in Food Hygiene) will be ideal to fulfil your training.

Meanwhile, the professional chef qualifications - NVQ level 2 in cookery is the route taken by many chefs who wish to continue studying their craft alongside their current roles. Many of the units covered in the NVQ Level 2 in cookery will also be covered in the VRQ route and Other Chef Diplomas.

The NVQ Level 3 Professional Cookery Diploma provides more advanced, sophisticated techniques. These skills help those aiming to become a chef in the UK to market their skills to high-end establishments.

Climbing the ladder

Think of the kitchen brigade system as a four-step ladder for career progression. You can enter the industry as a commis chef, and progress to chef de partie, to sous chef and eventually to head chef. Provided that you land a role as a commis chef in a reputable restaurant or hotel, you will find thatyou have the opportunity to learn and practice all the basic fundamentals of working in a kitchen. Chefs who have attended college will have a big advantage at this stage, given how they will have already learned and practised the basic skills.

The next position is the chef de partie. As a chef de partie you will be expected to run a section in the kitchen. The next step for the career chef will be to move into the first real management position – sous chef. The sous chef is the right-hand person of the head chef. The head chef is the boss in the kitchen.

The skills needed to progress in the industry

In order to be a kitchen ninja, you need to cultivate and develop a certain set of skills to progress. As such, we recommend the following:

1. Organisation and attention to detail

Although culinary experimentation can be an exciting aspect of working in the kitchen, any seasoned chef knows that there is more to cooking then simply slapping ingredients together and hoping for the best. Cooking is a science, which means that precision and accuracy is crucial to consistently producing dishes of an optimal standard.

Furthermore, precision should be an ongoing process rather than a switch to flip on at the beginning of service. Whether ordering food products or figuring out what time to cook certain items, a chef needs to have a keen eye for detail.

2. Business sense

Restaurants go under as a result of poor business management, and as the chief stewards of  the product(s) being sold to consumers, good chefs have to be business-minded. Gordon Ramsey isn’t a household name simply because he can cook great food, but because he understands that chefs need to create good dishes which are also cost effective and appeal to the tastes of local customers and patrons.

3. Cleanliness

This should go without saying, but great chefs are also clean freaks! Chefs need to know how to keep the kitchen sanitary. This is very important in a restaurant, where unhygienic conditions can affect the quality of the food, and can even force a restaurant to shut down.

4. Creativity

Stagnation in the kitchen is one of the quickest ways to kill a restaurant’s success. In order to succeed as a chef, you need to be open to incorporating new food items into menus whilst improving existing recipes. Creativity and innovation will keep customers coming back for more!

5. Fast-paced decision-making and multi-tasking

The kitchen is a highly pressurised environment, and chefs are often required to making numerous decisions all at once. As such you need to have the ability and confidence to make decisions swiftly and efficiently, whilst still maintaining a high standard and attention to detail. Furthermore, you will also be required to perform multiple tasks simultaneously and efficiently, such as addressing staff issues while also working on several elements of a meal.

6. Team player

A chef is part of a team, and must be able to work well with others. Not only must he or she work with the cooks in the kitchen, but they must also be able to work effectively with staff and management. This means that the ability to collaborate and work well within a team is essential to propel your career in the kitchen.

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