Some people think the words “chef” and “cook” mean the same thing, but in the restaurant world, there’s a big difference. Chefs are more highly skilled and better trained than most cooks, and have more responsibility for designing the meals that make a restaurant’s reputation. But it’s not just about the food. This job requires good organizational and management skills. Sometimes called a head cook, the chef supervises the entire kitchen staff and keeps track of supplies and schedules. A chef should have a highly refined and inventive sense of taste. He or she creates the menu items and often prices them too. Advancing in this field may depend as much on limiting food costs and supervising less-skilled workers, as it does on creating a memorable menu. To keep things running smoothly in a hot, noisy kitchen, chefs need to be expert multi-taskers. The work is fast-paced and a missed detail can result in time lost and wasted food, not to mention an unhappy customer. Chefs are on their feet for hours at a time, often working evenings, weekends and holidays. While many cooks learn skills on the job, chefs and head cooks usually hold degrees in the culinary arts from a recognized cooking school. Many employers look for safe food handling certificates as well. Chefs advance by moving to new jobs and learning new skills, sometimes opening their own restaurants. And while only a few ever get their own cooking show, they’re always delighted to accept your compliments.
Related Careers: Bakers, Institution and Cafeteria Cooks, Private Household Cooks, Restaurant Cooks, Fast Food Cooks, Short Order Cooks, Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers & Food Scientists
Typical Work Tasks
People who work in this career often:
- Train food preparation or food service personnel.
- Create new recipes or food presentations.
- Plan menu options.
- Determine prices for menu items.
- Estimate supplies, ingredients, or staff requirements for food preparation activities.
- Plan special events.
- Coordinate activities of food service staff.
- Coordinate timing of food production activities.
- Manage food service operations or parts of operations.
- Order materials, supplies, or equipment.Typical Working Conditions
- Having face-to-face discussions.
- Meeting strict deadlines.
- Working with a group or team.
- Frequent decision-making.
- Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings.
- Responsibility for others’ health and safety.
- Close physical proximity with other people.
- Working in very hot or cold temperatures.
- High levels of competition.
- The importance of being accurate or exact.
- Wearing common protective or safety equipment such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, hard hats, or life jackets.
- Dealing with unpleasant or angry people.
Source: Minnesota CAREERwise
Most Important Skills for Chefs
- Coordinating with Others—Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
- Monitoring Performance—Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Speaking—Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Thinking Critically—Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
- Being Aware of Others—Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Managing People—Motivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
- Managing Time—Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
- Learning New Things—Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Listening—Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Negotiating—Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
Most Important Knowledge Areas for Chefs
- Food Production—Knowledge of techniques and equipment for planting, growing, and harvesting food products (both plant and animal) for consumption, including storage/handling techniques.
- Production and Processing—Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
- Education and Training—Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
- Administration and Management—Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
- Customer and Personal Service—Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
- Mathematics—Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
- Personnel and Human Resources—Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
- English Language—Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- Public Safety and Security—Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
- Sales and Marketing—Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
Different careers may be a good fit for your personality or interests. This career is:
- Enterprising—Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.
- Realistic—Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
Source: Minnesota CAREERwise
|Wages Per Hour For Chefs (Northwest MN)|
Low indicates 25% of workers earn less and 75% earn more. Median indicates 50% of workers earn less and 50% earn more. High indicates 75% of workers earn less and 25% earn more.
This career is seeing moderate growth compared to other careers. There will be a 1.8% growth for Chefs to meet market demand between 2018-2028. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.
Source: Minnesota CAREERwise
This career requires at least a high school degree, and most professionals have some college. This career does not require a license but there are certifications are helpful for growth.
View the local post-secondary education options for this career from Central Lakes College.
Spotlight on Central Lakes College
- Why consider CLC?
- Virtual Campus Tours: Brainerd Campus, Staples Campus
- Learn more about the CLC Honors Program.
- Attend CLC, and you may never need to buy a textbook.
If you have a physical, mental, developmental, or cognitive condition that requires educational support, learn about support options at CLC.
Helpful High School Courses
Examples of helpful classes that help you prepare for this career:
- Business Management
- Culinary Arts
- Foods and Nutrition
- Health and Wellness
- Public Speaking
- Team Sports
- World Geography
- World Language
Source: Minnesota CAREERwise
Explore this 360 degree view of a typical commercial kitchen (Grand View Lodge‘s main dining room kitchen).
American Culinary Federation Resources Video Library
- Basic Biscuit Scones (7:30 min)
- Braided Egg Bread (8 min)
- Butter Spritz Cookies (6:15 min)
- American Buttercream (4 min)
- Swiss Buttercream (3:30 min)
- Cheese Soufflé (7 min)
- Chiffon Cake (5:20 min)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (4:45 min)
- Combination Doughnut (6:45 min)
- Cream Puff Dough (15 min)
- Croissant Dough (15 min)