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Food & drink

Chef

Chefs prepare, cook and present food in hotels, bars and restaurants.

Annual Salary

£13,000 to £50,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

40 to 45 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; on shifts

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

Your day-to-day tasks will depend on your role, but may include:

  • preparing attractive menus to nutritional standards
  • controlling and ordering stock and inspecting it on delivery
  • gutting and preparing animals and fish for cooking
  • scraping and washing large quantities of vegetables and salads
  • cooking and presenting food creatively
  • monitoring production to maintain quality and consistent portion sizes
  • working under pressure to make sure food is served on time
  • keeping to hygiene, health and safety and licensing rules

Working environment

You may need to wear a uniform.

You could work at a restaurant, in an NHS or private hospital, at a school, at a college or on a cruise ship.

Your working environment may be hot, physically demanding and humid.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
University

You could study for a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • culinary arts
  • professional cookery

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
For more information
College

One way into the job is to take a college course, like a Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery or Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 1 or 2 A levels, a level 3 diploma or relevant experience for a level 4 or level 5 course
For more information
Apprenticeship

You can learn while you work by doing an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship as a chef.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
For more information
Work

You could start work as a kitchen assistant or trainee 'commis' chef and work your way up while learning on the job. You could apply for work with restaurants or catering companies.

Volunteering and work experience

If you have no experience, you could volunteer in a community kitchen before applying for a job.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about how to become a chef from the Hospitality Guild and CareerScope.

With experience, you could progress to section chef (station chef) and look after a particular area like desserts. The next step is sous chef, running an entire kitchen when the head chef is busy.

As head chef (also known as chef de cuisine), you'll run a kitchen, create menus and manage the budget.

You could move into the business side by taking a foundation degree or degree in hospitality management.

Very large establishments have executive chefs, usually in charge of multiple outlets. This is a management role and you would do very little cooking.

Another option is to train as a teacher or assessor working for a college or training provider.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of food production methods
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • maths knowledge
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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