If you were asking yourself how to become a chef I will tell you, one does not become a chef, one is born chef. And when I say chef I do not mean someone who gets the courtesy title “chef” just because he/she is in charge of a “greasy-spoon” kitchen, or someone who has the papers but doesn’t have the cojones. When I say Chef I mean someone who can make a symphony out of the mess, an artist whose canvas is the plate, someone who can cheer up the rest when the rush comes and is so confident that even if he puts himself on autopilot can still be the best. Every time you step into the kitchen you are being tested, your stamina is at test, your intelligence and integrity are at test and if you are afraid of failure you cannot possibly be a great chef. Those are qualities you can’t learn in college or by reading cooking books and watching Ramzi-Bamzi cooking shows.
You will know you are there when you stop having dreams at night about cooking, when your heartbeat doesn’t badge when the orders start slamming your kitchen printer, when you can make everything right in a heartbeat and every one of your senses is so refined that you can feel every molecule of the products reacting to the cooking. It is an art and creating art is not meant for everybody.
But before you ask the question how to become a chef, ask yourself do you have what it takes to do it. Many people would do almost anything to avoid 9 to 5 job, and here we are not even talking about a 9 to 5 job. Chef is a profession that requires long hours, often split shifts, weekends, holidays, late nights and often being on-call in your day off. If those things don’t bother you and also the fact that even the most ridiculous of waiters can make double the money you do during the first half of your career, that is a good start. Remember, waitstaff are often (and I hate to say it) useless dummies who will never feel the beautiful feeling of creating art, experience, love, madness and pleasure all in one dish. Of course not every chef have the gift to do it, but at least everybody can try. It is possible to paint even if you are not a Picasso.
However, if you are envisioning yourself as a glamorous executive chef concocting delicacies for the always hungry TV audience, than do yourself a favor and keep your dreams only for when you go to bed at night to help you fall asleep. Chef is often an overrated profession due to the blown-out-of-proportion guys who are playing "celebrity chefs" on TV. I wish I get the chance to cook their bums to another planet. The restaurant stage have lots of low-life cartoon heros and other burn-outs which you have to learn how to handle or otherwise you will end up eaten by the wolves. If you think you have the drive for a successful chef career, then the best time to start is 10 years ago and the second best time is today.
I started my career many years ago by going to college for cook and pastry-cook in my native country Bulgaria. To tell you honestly, I regarded my cooking diploma as simply a piece of paper, but a paper that could open doors for me. After you walk through that door it is totally up to you what you can do. Many years and many jobs around the world later, I immigrated to Canada and decided to challenge the Canadian Red Seal Interprovincial certification based on my experience. In order to do that one must prove at least 6000 hours of all-rounded kitchen experience. I had much more than that, of course, but in the first several years in Canada I doubted that having the Red Seal would be of any benefit to me. My international experience talks by itself, I thought. However, many good positions required Red Seal, so I finally decided to take on the test. The test itself is 150 multiple choice questions and every question has 4 possible answers, and must be completed in 3 hours.
The passing mark is 70%. In my opinion the test was of poor quality, nevertheless I passed it easily and comfortably without studying for it even 1 second, only based on my experience.
There must be many other ways to become a chef, but if you are determined and want to invest all your passion in this endeavor I am sure that you will succeed.
I wish you success.
Chef George Krumov
(P.S. If my article gives you some food for thought and arises some questions or doubts in your mind, I am more than willing to answer any questions you might have, just drop me a line. The link with my email address is below.)