Are you passionate about food? Would you like to take up cooking as your career? You may want to consider becoming an executive chef. However, before you start sharpening your knives and organizing your toolkit, you need to understand what this profession entails. Though working in the restaurant industry can be immensely rewarding in many ways, it can also be an arduous and demanding pursuit. In this post, we will tell you all about commercial kitchen management and how you can start your own journey to becoming an executive chef.
What is an Executive Chef?
Executive chefs are the first in command in hotels, bars, and restaurant kitchens. They may also be referred to as head chefs, chef managers, or as chef de cuisine. Typically, each kitchen is limited to one head chef.
Head chef responsibilities include:
- Creating Menus
- Taking an inventory of supplies
- Ordering provisions, ingredients, and kitchen equipment
- Keeping track of expenses
- Hiring and training new staff
- Managing existing staff
- Ensuring that orders are prepared in a timely manner
- Representing the kitchen as a whole
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HOW TO BECOME A HEAD CHEF
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate of chefs is expected to grow by 25% from 2020 to 2030. This is a much higher growth rate than many other occupations.
A chef manager’s occupation is often perceived as attractive, glamorous, and prestigious. While it can be all of the above, that position takes time, effort, and dedication to achieve.
Here are the steps you can take toward becoming a head chef:
1. GET A FORMAL EDUCATION
Not all executive chefs have attended culinary arts schools, but most of them acquired skills through their work experience.
Though most kitchens do not require formal schooling, many chefs choose to enroll in culinary arts programs, technical schools, or even 4-year colleges to give them a professional edge.
Data from The Department of Education and Census Bureau reveals that head chefs usually major in business. However, a considerable number also major in personal & culinary services.
Formal education will teach you the basics of cooking, how to handle a commercial kitchen, and how to navigate the business side of the restaurant industry.
2. GET EXPERIENCE
Earning a professional culinary certificate can be a helpful start, but education will not catapult you to a top-ranking position in a commercial kitchen. To do so, you will first need to gather real-world experience by working in a kitchen with other chefs.
Most head chefs start by working in lower positions, such as line cooks. They spend several years working in kitchens before being promoted to higher positions.
To help you navigate this process, you may want to look into apprenticeship or mentorship programs. Many of these programs are sponsored by accredited culinary institutes.
Apprenticeship programs combine education and paid hands-on training under a chef’s supervision. These courses cover the basics, including knife skills, food safety and sanitization, inventory management, and equipment operation.
The American Culinary Federation recognizes over 200 academic programs around the country.
No matter which path you choose, it will take several months to study all of the aspects of kitchen management.
3. GATHER THE NECESSARY SKILLS
Education and experience are just a small part of the bigger picture. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, head chefs need to possess many other skills in addition to their cooking abilities and business savvy. Some of the most important skills include the ability to monitor, coordinate, and communicate with others.
Per the Revealed Comparative Advantage (RCA), executive chefs also need an above-average ability to manage financial resources, material resources, and personnel resources. Other skills include organization, time management, leadership, multitasking, a clear vision, and the ability to listen.
If you want to lead a kitchen, you will have to work to develop the aforementioned skillset.
4. GAIN KNOWLEDGE OF THE BUSINESS
Restaurant management is a business, so executive chefs must handle all business-related matters.
In addition to the duties listed earlier, they may have to look into labor costs, decide how many employees to hire, and decide when to let them leave. In some cases, they may even have to figure out how to manage an understaffed kitchen.
Incidentally, some culinary institutes include culinary math and recipe costing as a part of their curriculum. It is also helpful to have basic computer literacy, as they may need to work with documents, spreadsheets, and accounting apps.
THE CULINARY SCHOOL OF FORT WORTH
Most schools can teach you the techniques of cooking and baking but The CSFTW excels at preparing you for the real-world kitchen. With our small class sizes and chef instructors who are intentional with every student, you will receive more one-on-one instruction and insight. Our school boasts in preparing students to exemplify excellence in their culinary community. We are a small, unique school that focuses on the student’s needs and we take great joy in seeing our students succeed in the culinary industry.