The term chef is most commonly used to refer to an individual who has received specialized culinary arts training, and who typically works in mid-tier to fine dining eating establishments with table service and where food is "cooked to order". Training, especially for chefs employed in high-end restaurants, can be quite extensive in comparison to the on-the-job training of most cooks.
Culinary and Cooking Schools
Shorter term culinary arts programs may be found at technical education schools, as well as culinary and cooking schools. Completion of these programs helps culinary professionals obtain entry-level positions in the field where they can work their way up to becoming a chef. Here are a list of 3 culinary and cooking schools that confer certificates, diplomas and associate degrees. All are accredited by the American Culinary Federation.
- Bishop State Community College: This community college in Mobile, Alabama offers an associate degree in commercial food service.
- Cascade Culinary Institute: This culinary institute in Bend, Oregon offers a specialized associate degree in baking and pastry.
- Paul Smith's College: Located in the Adirondacks of New York, this college offers students an associate degree in the culinary arts.
Chefs, especially those who intend to work in table-service restaurants and fine dining establishments, can in some cases work their way up to the role with an associate degree and several years of work experience under their belt. Alternatively, many choose to attend four-year culinary programs that lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree. The following three schools offer a bachelor's in the culinary arts and are accredited by the American Culinary Federation.
- The Art Institute of California-Sacramento: This campus of Argosy University offers a Bachelor of Science degree in culinary management.
- The International Culinary School: Located in Texas within the Art Institute of Houston, this school offers a Bachelor of Science in food and beverage management.
- Johnson and Wales University: Culinary arts students at this university are given the opportunity to perform internships at university-owned or affiliated hotels and restaurants. The school offers a bachelor's degree in culinary nutrition.
Culinary Education Requirements
Chef training schools prepare you to meet the relevant culinary education requirements. You'll develop your expertise in the kitchen as well as the classroom, learning culinary techniques and restaurant management skills.
Most culinary programs require a high school degree and some selective culinary institutes prefer candidates with some industry experience. The curriculum covers general academic knowledge, applied cooking skills, and culinary business fundamentals. Courses cover:
- Recipe and menu planning
- Food preparation and cooking techniques
- Regional cuisines
- Supervising and training kitchen assistants
- Kitchen management, including resource and supplies planning
- Food presentation
- Sanitation and food safety regulations
- Culinary business skills (accounting, marketing, budgeting and finance, etc.)
In addition, chef training programs may provide instruction in nutrition, purchasing and inventory software, and specialized chef techniques. Specialized elective courses include wine and sommelier training, pastry chef training, bread baking, sous vide cooking, flavor dynamics, buffet presentation, and more.
Culinary Certification and Training
Though certification is not required, it can help demonstrate proficiency in the field. The International Association of Culinary Professionals also offers the Certified Culinary Professional (CCP) credential. In addition, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) offers the following certifications:
- ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification
- Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) Certification
Most culinary arts programs include a significant amount of hands-on training. Internships/externships, or working in school run restaurants is also frequently part of culinary arts programs. The American Culinary Federation also operates apprenticeship programs lasting two or three years that combine on-the-job training with technical classroom instruction.
Working side by side with an established chef, you'll have the opportunity to apply your formal training in practice. The mentorship and professional contacts you gain from this apprenticeship can have a major impact on your career prospects. As you review chef training schools, take into account their networking and apprenticeship programs.
Chef Certifications and Training
Chefs in training can expect to spend substantial amounts of their training in a lab kitchens gaining valuable hands-on expertise. While food services establishments must obtain and maintain many different types of licenses such as department of health licensing and certification, it is not necessary for chefs to be licensed. Many may have to attend sanitation and safe food handling courses designated by the department of health as a requirement for a restaurant's licensing, however.
Certification can, hoewver, add an important credential for those individuals trying to obtain top-tier jobs where the competition can be very keen. The American Culinary Federation offers the following certification credentials for chefs:
- Certified Culinarian (CC)
- Certified Sous Chef (CSC)
- Certified Chef de Cuisine (CCC)
- Certified Executive Chef (CEC)
- Certified Master Chef (CMC)
- Personal Certified Chef (PCC)
- Personal Certified Executive Chef (PCEC)
Resources for Chefs and Culinary Professionals
- American Culinary Federation (ACF)
- "Chefs and Head Cooks", Virginia Career VIEW
- The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF)
- International Association of Culinary Professionals
- Service Employees International Union
- UNITE HERE
- American Culinary Federation, http://www.acfchefs.org/ACFSource/Education/Postsecondary.aspx
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chefs and Head Cooks, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Cooks, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/cooks.htm
- Johnson and Wales, https://academics.jwu.edu/college-of-culinary-arts/