When it comes to finding a job as a chef, experience is typically the most important factor in securing those upper-level positions. The skills and qualifications needed to become a chef can be attained through a combination of educational courses and programs and real-world experience in the restaurant kitchen.
Holding a culinary arts degree is not required to become a chef in most cases. However, according to the AllCulinarySchools website, it will give most chefs an edge over their competitors when it comes to finding a job. Most accredited culinary institutes offer two- and four-year programs for chefs.
From a one-time course on food and wine pairing to a six-month course on seasonal cooking, many institutes and colleges offer a variety of opportunities for budding chefs to practice their trade. While any certificates earned should be included on the chef's resume, the most important factor with these smaller courses is the experience and skills they provide the chef.
Experience with creating dishes and working in a kitchen is usually the most important factor in securing a job as a chef. Nearly all chefs begin as line cooks, working as part of an assembly line in creating the dishes. The chef de partie is a step up, overseeing his own small team of cooks and taking charge of one specific section of the kitchen. A sous chef will manage the other cooks, working under the executive chef, who is the head of the kitchen. Promotion through these levels requires experience cooking, tasting and developing dishes.
Higher-level chefs often have business qualifications as well as cooking skills. Chefs who do earn a degree will often study business management, because running a kitchen includes administrative duties and strong organisational skills.
According to the American Culinary Federation, important qualities in a chef include "the ability to work as part of a team, a keen sense of taste and smell, and personal cleanliness." In the United States, it is typically required that chefs have a health certificate proving they are free of all communicable diseases.