Cooking is quite possibly one of the most challenging jobs going. If, like myself, you take criticism quite poorly (with an argument and quite often ending in tears), then please switch to another of our fantastic articles and thank you for your time.
Word: Toni Hart, Subeditor: Denisa Rosca
As a chef you can expect to been sworn at on a daily basis, be attacked with pans, have sauce thrown over you and work from 8am to 12:30 the following morning. For an incredible wage starting at £13,000 a year! Although this sounds like some outrageous initiation ceremony for a frat house in America, this is the life of a chef. And with over a quarter of a million chefs working in the UK as of 2010, you need to stand out to not get squashed.
Starting out in any new career venture is hard enough. Particularly when you are asked for years of experience before you can even get through the door. Getting into the kitchen is no different and getting your first job as a chef can be immensely difficult, but equally as rewarding.
London is the most competitive city in the UK for cooking with over 800 restaurants being represented on the Michelin Guide. More often that not it is a matter of who you know, so its probably a good idea to get chatting to that chef you friended on Facebook back in 2009.
If you haven’t managed to come across any chefs on wild nights out, you can start hunting now or just follow our guide below…
- Decide how serious you are about cooking. If you want to specialise in a particular field such as British cuisine, then university will definitely be an option to consider. There are a range of degrees to go for so decide what it is you want to do.
- If you are open to options then put yourself out there and jump in the deep end, get some valuable experience and learn your trade straight from the kitchen. Apply for every job available and chance your luck, someone may see the potential.
- If you are thinking about skipping university, skip college too. You will gain more experience from a professional kitchen than you would through a three year NVQ at college.
- It is highly unlikely that you are going to walk into the kitchen and instantly become Gordon Ramsay’s protégé. Be prepared to work from the bottom. Apply for jobs as a Kitchen Porter, you will get to learn from the side lines and see how the kitchen operates.
- Sign up to plenty of agencies and subscribe to jobs sites. Blue Arrow and caterer.com are very helpful. Another option is Jamie Oliver’s catering school. These agencies and websites will send out daily updates of new jobs available in the city and are a great way to learn new techniques and skills.
- Working for free is quite unimaginable for a lot of people, and living in London – who can blame us? But one of the best ways to get experience in a kitchen is to ‘stage’, pronounced ‘stahzje’ (long a, soft g). A chef life involves working 60+ hours a week, having pans thrown at you, and quite often accepting the fact you wont see daylight ever again – staging means doing this for free. Not ideal for everyone, but it works! Michelin star restaurants are likely to take on at least two stage chefs per week
- Once you finally get in the kitchen, become the teacher’s pet like you’ve never been before. Outdo the Year 7 you, and suck up to the head chef like your career depends on it. Speed is vitally important, if you can’t speed up then start looking for another job.
- One final tip: go in with some basic knowledge. Learn what a julienne is, learn what a béchamel sauce contains, what a yellow chopping board is used for, which knives are used for which foods. There is nothing worse than walking into a job with no background knowledge of what you are doing
If you are still undeterred and feel ready to take on the challenge; good luck! Make the most of the daylight.