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The Career Path of a Chef: A Journey Full of Opportunities

by | CAREER TIPS

More than any other career path in hospitality, becoming a chef can give you prestige. 

You may not know the name of the manager or owner of the hottest restaurant in town but you can probably name the most successful chefs in your city. If you sharpen your kitchen skills and learn how to innovate in the culinary world, that could be you. 

Whether you want to travel the world cooking on a private yacht, work for a legendary Michelin-starred restaurant, or start your own venture in gastronomy, anything is possible with the right skills and experience in the kitchen.

However, the freedom to choose your own style of job only comes after a lot of hard work and sweat. Every celebrity chef spent years in the kitchen learning from more experienced chefs and honing their cooking techniques. 

Before appearing on our televisions to tell other chefs how terrible their food is, even Gordon Ramsay began his career chopping vegetables as a commis chef in France.

The Three Level Career Path for a Chef

The career path for a chef is divided into three distinct levels: junior, mid, and senior.

The salaries for each level of the career path will vary depending on where you work, your experience level, and what type of restaurant you work in. For instance, the contract terms for a fine dining establishment will differ greatly from what you will find at a chain restaurant.

Junior Level (Average Salary – €10,000 – €20,000)

The first step in the career path of every culinary professional is as a commis chef.

The role of commis chef is far from glamorous, but this is where you will learn the fundamental soft and hard skills to succeed in a professional kitchen. You won’t spend your shift searing expensive steaks or preparing fancy desserts but you will have the chance to watch, listen, and learn from the more experienced chefs around you. 

You will be responsible for kitchen prep work like chopping vegetables, sharpening knives, and cleaning up messes. When you are doing these tasks, you can build the soft skills to prove you are a good team member who communicates clearly and quickly while working under pressure.

You can expect to spend the first 1-3 years of your career at this level before moving up in the kitchen brigade.

Mid Level (Average Salary – €22,000 – €58,000)

Once you learn the ins and outs of the kitchen and have all the skills needed to succeed as a commis chef, you will be ready to move up to the mid level of the kitchen hierarchy.

This is where you will really start to develop your cooking skills and put them into practice as a chef de partie. 

You will constantly acquire new skills as you move from one station of the kitchen to another, mastering the techniques needed for each role. Depending on the size and type of restaurant you work in, the kitchen stations might include:

  • Sauté
  • Fish
  • Roast
  • Grill
  • Fry
  • Pantry
  • Butcher
  • Pastry

Working in the mid level of a kitchen will also give you the chance to develop your management skills. You will have to train junior cooks, delegate tasks to the commis chefs, and communicate directly with the front of house staff. Doing this will help you learn how to organize and manage personnel, an extremely important part of succeeding in the higher levels of the career path.

Senior Level (Average Salary – €30,000 – €80,000)

After spending 2-3 years as a chef de partie, if you show that you’ve perfected every new technique they threw your way, mastered all the stations, and demonstrate strong leadership potential, you will be ready to move up to a senior level position. 

The senior level of the kitchen usually consists of two to three roles: sous, head, and executive chef. Depending on the size or style of the restaurant, the head and executive jobs may be combined into a single position.

As a sous chef you will take on more leadership responsibilities and begin to make your mark on the kitchen. You will be second in command to the head chef and help them plan menus, create new dishes, make schedules, and communicate with vendors. 

A sous chef’s main job is to oversee the kitchen on a daily basis and ensure that everything is running smoothly. You must also train and develop junior chefs or even prepare and plate dishes if the situation calls for it. 

If you dedicate a few years to this job, innovating culinarily and becoming a master at running an efficient kitchen, you will be ready for a head/executive chef position. 

The head/executive chef is in charge of the entire kitchen and is responsible for hiring staff, creating and executing innovative menus, ensuring quality, responding to media requests and much more. 

They must collaborate with the restaurant manager and owners to establish budgets that deliver consistent profits.  An effective head/executive chef spends far more time planning and leading than they do cooking.

Ready to Take The First Step in Your Hospitality Career Path?

Once you have a high level of experience and skills, you can choose to pursue many different types of well-paid chef positions. You could work for hotels, cruise ships, private yachts, in private homes–you could even start your own restaurant or food truck. Once you’ve worked hard to establish yourself as a professional chef, the world is your oyster.

Excellent chefs will always be in demand. If you are passionate about cooking, love seeing satisfied smiles behind empty plates, and want a dynamic career with prestige then take the first step toward your dream chef job today.

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