A Chef is every bit as important as any other professional. Imagine a world without “item 7” or a gathering/party/celebration without the products of a chef served, and that right there is the very plot for a horror movie.
The path to becoming a chef is not “beans”, whether your heart is set on opening the biggest restaurant chain in Africa or starting a small food vending business in your locality, training to be a chef involves long hours, physical labour, and heavy competition — but the reward is well worth it: You get the opportunity to design creative dishes, run a kitchen, or even manage a restaurant, and of course bring joy to many people.
Here are the steps you need to take to become a chef and work your way up the food chain:
- Get Work Experience In A Kitchen: You’ll deliberately be exposing yourself to the environment you’re choosing to work in. Working in the hospitality industry means long hours, working on most if not all weekends and even public holidays. You’ll essentially become the hub around which every other person’s holiday revolves, so it’s important to get a feel of how that sort of deep engagement might impact your work/life balance. Your first restaurant job doesn’t have to be prestigious. And it most likely won’t be. You may start as a kitchen hand and then grow your skills, relevance and experience from there.
- Practice Cooking At Home: At home learn to become more confident with a knife and other kitchen equipment. Learn everything about the food you love. When you’re a chef, food will no longer just be about what you love to eat. You become an expert at it. Food becomes your job. As you practice at home, think about what type of cooking best suits you. Do you see yourself working with a specific line of cuisine? Do you enjoy making desserts more than main courses? Your interests will determine where you seek education and experience down the line. Practice cooking for other people too (not just your family and friends). Chefs are often under a lot of pressure to be at their best. If people’s expectations are not met, they send dishes back, withdraw patronage and give negative reviews. Find out early if you’ll be able to function effectively under such close scrutiny of your work.
- Enroll In A Culinary Arts Program: Going to a culinary school isn’t a necessity for becoming a chef, but it can give you an edge when it comes to getting hired at good restaurants. Programs are offered at trade or vocational schools, colleges and culinary institutes. Most programs offer a broad education in nutrition, sanitary food preparation techniques, butchery, pastry making, and other basic cooking sciences. If you plan to eventually start your own restaurant, find a program that offers classes in business, management, human resources, and other areas of knowledge that will come into play. It also pays to get certified by a reputable culinary association.
- Never Stop Learning: As you’re climbing the ladder, keep abreast of the latest food trends. You have to, because on any given day, someone from the extreme end of the world could show up at your restaurant hoping to find familiar food. Eat at great restaurants, network with other people in the business, travel as much as you can, and keep your culinary skills sharp. Start thinking creatively and with an eye toward things that will help your food business grow.
If this piece has awakened or strengthened your interest, then you’re in great luck. The GTBank Food and Drink Fair is just around the corner, and it is the best place to start your food journey. It will afford you the rare opportunity of encountering all the people relevant to your proposed field of work in one location; from the ensemble of world-class chefs that will be your teachers (and then colleagues), to the business operators who will seek to hire or that you will join and, ultimately, to the consumers and food lovers who will pay for your craft. You will certainly be clear on your next moves after the Fair.
The GTBank Food and Drink Fair comes up on the 30th of April and 1st of May (Workers’ Holiday) between 10am and 8pm each day. The venue is No 1, Water Corporate Drive, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Will you be there?