How to Become a Gourmet Chef

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by Sarah_Ackerman

The growing popularity of celebrity TV chefs has made many people think about a career in hospitality. Inspired by what they see on TV, people take to their own kitchens in an attempt to recreate the gourmet food produced by the world’s leading chefs. However, the difference between cooking at home and in a professional kitchen could not be more stark. The path to becoming a gourmet chef is a long and arduous one and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. 

Some form of formal learning is essential for every aspiring chef. Some of the world’s leading restaurants will not even entertain job applicants for dish-washing jobs unless they can provide proof of recognised culinary training. The best advice for anyone considering paying expensive tuition fees is to get some practical experience first. Busy restaurants are used to giving people experience in this way so are often very open to the suggestion. Professional kitchens are hot, sweaty and stressful environments in which to work and not everyone will be able to suffer the constant pressure; only by sampling that pressure can a person be sure.

Head chefs are particularly protective of their kitchens and will scrutinise the work of new recruits until they can be fully trusted. A source of great frustration for established cooks is the attitude of new workers they see walking into their kitchens. Many people believe that just a few months of training makes them suitable for highly-paid chef positions; this couldn’t be further from the truth. After successfully completing a catering course and achieving an industry-recognised qualification, aspiring chefs will start on the bottom rung of the career ladder.

Qualifying as a chef in a recognised college or university is only the first stage on the way to becoming a gourmet chef. Most people will continue to learn new methods and tricks for several years afterwards. The majority of newly-qualified culinary professionals will enter the industry as a commis chef. This is a position that entails building speed and dexterity while following strict instructions. Depending on the size of the kitchen, a commis will also be expected to clean down after service and help with dish-washing. It is during this time that chefs perfect the basic skills of the kitchen and begin to form a culinary identity of their own.

After several years as a reliable and talented commis chef, head chefs will begin to consider them for chef de partie roles. Also referred to as a line or station cook, a chef de partie has responsibility for a particular section of the kitchen. Among the possible sections will be fish, meat, sides and desserts. On occasions, a chef de partie will have a number of subordinate chefs and assistants to supervise, all working within the same section. 

The ability to manage a section of a kitchen and be accountable for the quality of food coming from it is a sign that a chef is ready for the next stage of career advancement. A sous chef is usually the second in command of a kitchen. The responsibilities of this position mirror those of the head or executive chef. The sous will be responsible for the kitchen in the absence head chef and will be proactive in delivering standards, tight controls and excellent food quality. Experienced sous chefs in gourmet restaurants are excellent candidates for head chef positions, but must first create their own portfolio of original and impressive dishes.

A head chef in a gourmet eatery does not cook the dishes of others. The most exclusive menus in the world’s leading restaurants are the creations of the resident head chef. Creating a complete menu takes years of experience, learning and experimentation. It does not automatically follow that a great sous chef will make a successful leap into the top job. Head chefs are constantly exposing themselves to the criticism of food critics, peers and customers. However, those who have the courage, skill and creative flair required can make a lot of money and win many culinary awards during their careers.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chef
http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/becoming_a_chef.htm
http://www.culinaryschools.org/international/united-kingdom-cooking-schools/

The Connaught, a luxury hotel in Mayfair London, has a wealth of experience in offering the the best restaurant experiences.

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