Do you want to become a chef but you have neither experience nor money to go to culinary school? If YES, here is a complete guide on how to become a chef at home.
If you are someone who loves food and cooking, then the thought of becoming a chef may have crossed your mind. After all, making food is such a rewarding and enjoyable part of your daily life, so why not make a career out of it?
There are two pathways to follow when you want to become a chef. You can either go the way of formal training or in the direction of personal training. However, you should be aware of the advantages of getting formal training to become a chef.
If you plan to be self-employed all through your career life, meaning that you would have your own restaurant and be your own boss, then you can shove the idea of getting formal training but if you plan to be employed; work for 5-star hotels and restaurants, then you really do not have a choice but to get trained professionally because most of these organizations generally have some basic educational requirements which they expect chefs to meet up with before they hire them.
Before we go into that, i think it’s important that you know the different types of chef, skills and general requirements of becoming a chef.
6 Types of Chefs
- Executive chef-: An executive chef is like the most senior chef. If you are climbing the ladder in this profession, your aim would be to become an executive chef eventually. An executive chef is very involved in cooking the food. He also plans and directs how the ingredients should be handled and methods of cooking the food.
The executive chef is the boss in the kitchen. He is in charge of running the kitchen and ensuring that the food turns out nicely and meets up with the required quality and standards. When other chefs are to be hired in an organization, the executive chef plays a major role in the decision making process.
- Sous chef-: As a Sous chef, you are the executive chef’s direct subordinate-his assistant. You would also be involved in cooking and serving meals. All other chefs would be under your supervision.
- Saucier-: You would be responsible for preparing sauces that dishes would be cooked in especially French cuisines.
- Pastry chef-: Cakes, confections and all desserts are in your care. You would be responsible for ordering ingredients to be used, preparing the confections and recording the costs.
- Garde manger-: The Garde manger specializes in cold food preparation and presentation. He makes salads and salad dressings, cold sauces, canapés, pates and other dishes that do not require cooking over the fire.
- Commis chef-: The Commis chef is like a trainee and is literarily at the bottom of the food chain. He is positioned in different departments of the kitchen for different lengths of time so that he can learn and gain more experience.
General Requirements and Skills You Need to Become a Chef
- The ability to survive a fast-paced and stressful work environment.
- Creative flair and innovation.
- Ability to create interesting menus.
- Food presentation skills.
- Ability to put in long working hours.
- Excellent memory to be able to remember recipes. It would look unprofessional if you have to use a written recipe each time you need to prepare a dish.
- Team player.
- Ability to delegate responsibilities.
- An excellent sense of taste and smell.
- Passion for food.
- Innovative and experimental skills and of course, the knowledge of how and ability to prepare good food from start to finish.
Educational Requirements to Become a Chef
- High School Diploma-: This is the first basic requirement as it would prepare you for higher education. Most culinary institutes and colleges require that you have a high school diploma before you can be admitted. So, if you want to become a professional chef, the first step is to go to high school.
- Community College-: When you are done with high school, you can now register for a degree program at a community college. These programs usually take between three to four years to complete and at the end of those years, you would be awarded with a degree which you can use to practice as a chef. Some chefs stop at this point but if you want to become an executive chef eventually, you can’t stop here. You need to get further education and accreditations.
- Culinary School degree-: Culinary institutes offer varying lengths of programs that better prepare you to become a professional chef. Culinary schools are more practical in nature compared to community colleges. They train you on how to cook, how to purchase ingredients and equipment, cooking measurements, stock keeping, how to take inventory, time management and how to cope with stress.
- Apprenticeship program-: This prepares you for the real life experiences of becoming a chef. Most culinary schools have apprenticeship programs that help you start out your career as a professional chef and help you gain the experience required for you to be hired.
- Baking/Pastry School-: This is for people who want to become pastry chefs. You would obtain extensive knowledge on baking, decoration and preparation of pastries.
- Trade Certification-: If you want to rub shoulders with the creme de la creme of this profession, then you have to register for training and take examinations to qualify for professional trade certification as a chef. There are different organizations that issue out trade certifications.
- Chef training courses-: There are regular short courses for chefs that you can take to expand your knowledge and cope with trends in the business. You could travel to other countries or continents to learn how to prepare their dishes.
- Continuing education programs-: If you have a professional certification as a chef, the professional body that issued you the certificate might require you to complete specific hours of coursework and study as a condition for renewal of your license.
- University degree-: If you have enough funds, you can consider going to the university to qualify for a Bachelor of Arts degree. This would usually take about four to five years.
- Personal training-: Well, you may be asking, why am i including this? This is definitely not an educational requirement but it is just as important as all the aforementioned requirements. No matter how many culinary schools you attend and how many certificates you wield, the key to success is in you. You have to be able to perform excellently and be the best at what you do to succeed as a professional chef.
How Much Do Chefs Make Monthly / Annually?
Chefs make as much as $35,000-$150,000 yearly; so you will be able to recoup every penny you spend on educational training eventually.
Is It Possible to Become a Chef Without Going to Culinary School?
A lot of people believe that in order to become a chef, they need to go through years of culinary school in order to get the title, however, it is quite possible to become a chef without having to go through a culinary school.
One of the major challenges an aspiring chef has to face is the unavailability of funds to enroll for a degree or take a course to become qualified as a chef. For chefs, education doesn’t come cheap. Tuition could be as high as $150, 000 annually depending on the culinary institute you choose and this is rather high and unaffordable for a lot of people.
But inability to afford the educational requirements for Chefs shouldn’t be reason enough to bury your ambitions and passion to become a chef. The truth still remains that even though you can break into the world of fine dining without a background in culinary school, but it will take you a much longer period and will also become more difficult, but still, it is very possible.
Famous chefs like Gordan Ramsay, Mario Batali, and Santi Santamari did not attend culinary schools, yet they are quite successful in their career. No matter how talented you think you are in the kitchen, it’s going to take perseverance and resiliency to become the one calling all the shots.
Your pathway toward becoming a chef the unconventional way should be quite similar to finding a school, however, in your case, you will have to find a kitchen instead of a culinary school. So how do you become a chef without a culinary degree? Here are a few things you should do.
How to Become a Chef at Home Without Culinary School
To become a professional chef at home, you should;
1. Be passionate about food
You just have to love food to become a professional chef and i don’t mean you must be a glutton. What i mean is that you have to enjoy cooking. Being a professional chef means spending hours on end in the kitchen preparing food and if you don’t have a passion for cooking, you will drop the idea of being a chef within a short period.
So your first assignment when you want to become a professional caterer is to fall in love with food. Cook different meals for your family and friends. Host parties regularly and prepare meals for your guests. You can even offer to be in charge of cooking at gatherings of your friends and family members. If you want to become a professional chef at home, then eating at restaurants or ordering take-outs should not be a regular practice in your home.
2. Experiment with food regularly-: You see, as a professional chef, food is your art. You need to experiment with food constantly. Cook different meals, try something new daily even if it doesn’t taste nice. Constant practice would help you improve on your skills eventually.
3. Understand the concept of food substitution
There are no rules set in stone when it comes to cooking. If a particular ingredient doesn’t work quite well for you, who says you cannot substitute with another ingredient? The key lies with knowing what works for you and doing accordingly. If a recipe says ‘fry‘ who says you cannot grill if that is how you prefer to cook your chicken?
But the key to substitution is to understand the whole concept behind it in the first place. For instance, if the recipe says you should fry the chicken, you need to understand why you were asked to fry the chicken because that is when you will be able to say ‘oh, grilling the kitchen would also work and the food would turn out the same way whether i grill or i fry’
4. Cook often
Yes, I am going to reiterate this very important point again. To become a professional chef at home, you must cook at home regularly and this does not mean cooking regular family meals; you must cook like a professional regularly. You can choose a day of the week, preferably weekends to do your thing.
Pick out one recipe per week and prepare the dish and serve it professionally. You don’t have to cook for a whole large crowd. If you have a large family, you don’t even have to cook for everyone. Just make sure you cook and serve a new meal every week and before you know it, you will become extremely good at your chosen professional.
5. Organize food tastings
To become a successful professional chef at home, you must be ready to listen to criticisms and make necessary adjustments. This would help you to be a better chef. Pick out someone or a group of people that you trust to give an unbiased opinion of your skills and invite them over to your house for food tastings.
6. Develop your own recipes
Another thing that would help you on your journey to becoming a professional chef is to develop recipes of your own. I saw a popular movie series sometime ago, desperate housewives and in one of the seasons, one of the characters loved cooking so much and she started developing her own recipes. Her recipes became so popular that her friends would usually come to her to borrow or even ‘steal’ some of the recipes. Eventually, she was able to launch her own professional catering business just from developing recipes.
You too can take a step in that direction and develop recipes. You can create a blog where you can share those recipes or publish them in magazines regularly. You can even do that on social network. This would make your business very popular and increase your chances of becoming a professional chef.
7. It a long term route: If you aren’t going to take the traditional route of establishing yourself in a cooking program, you’ll need to work your way up the ladder in any kitchen you enter. Irrespective of if you choose to be a pastry chef, work in a hotel or even a restaurant, you will have to work your way up from the bottom.
Take a job doing anything you can, even if it’s washing dishes. With enough time and hard work, you may be able to advance into a minor position in the kitchen. It won’t be glamorous, but it’s the path to becoming a chef. You’re in for the long haul here, but the experiences you gain could be worth the time.
You also have to realize that becoming a chef is not easy and as such, you have to be extra prepared. Ask yourself some very important questions such as: Are you ready for long hours in hot kitchens? Do you have commitments in your life that are going to make your work difficult? Will your family understand the hours that you are working? If you have children, will you be able to balance your evening and weekend schedule with their needs?
In addition you should consider the length of time that it will take you to advance to working as a chef. Many years from now, will you still be passionate about being a chef? Are you financially able to support yourself through the years of low-level work it will take you to become a chef? Does working under pressure excite you? How well do you function as a leader? Do you have the endurance to stand on your feet for hours?
8. Find the right kitchen: You need to find a kitchen that you can become employed to work in. The best way to learn is to get experience. Even though you may be a very good cook, without any form of employment history to complete that, people will not take you too seriously. You can start by looking at local restaurants. Even if you are just the dishwasher – working in a restaurant is the best way for you to get your foot in the door.
9. You must be Energetic: in order to become a chef the unconventional way, you must possess both physical and emotional energy. Working in restaurant can be quite tedious and the hours you need to work can be often long. A typical shift could be 10-17 hours.
So it’s essential that you aren’t just prepared to endure these conditions, but that cooking food gets you fired up to the point that they actually excite you. If you don’t already, spend some time working in a restaurant kitchen. Get a feeling for the rhythm of putting out meals in a rush, cooking the same thing night-after-night, and pulling long hours in sometimes tough conditions.
10. Strong work Ethic: due to the fact that the general public will consume and critic your food, you must strive for perfection. You cannot afford to have a bad day.
11. Practice makes perfect: the adage, practice makes perfects holds true if you want to become a chef without attending culinary school. That’s no guarantee you’ll become a chef, but it increases your odds considerably. Most kitchen workers work long hours in an environment that is usually packed into tight spaces and hot without even enough time.
These shifts may not allow you time to experiment and grow your skills, so you will also need to be prepared to constantly practice new cooking techniques outside of work. When you’re not working, you should be studying. There are a million online avenues that you can take to improve your knowledge of the culinary industry. The more you know, the more marketable you are.
Take online courses on food safety and handling, tips and techniques, learn your knife cuts, learn French, and learn everything you possibly can from the wealth of the web, library and current chefs. You are going to need to put in the hours to reap the benefits. Working in restaurants can be grueling with long shifts, cranky customers, and no breaks in a hot and cramped kitchen.
You need to be willing to endure the elements to become the best chef you can be. Keep a good attitude and keep your goals in focus. Sometimes working as a prep cook in a mediocre kitchen may not seem like the golden ticket, but every day and every challenge you overcome gets you one step closer to realizing your dream.
12. Find a mentor: you should find someone to mentor you or alternatively, you can work as a dishwasher at the best restaurant in town in order to get the mentorship from a more skilled chef. The benefits of having a mentor may seem obvious as many talented chefs began their careers much lower on the culinary ladder.
You can map out a small space in your home and use it as a restaurant. Inform your family and friends and encourage them to patronize you and refer others. You could entice them with freebies and discounts. You can create a kind of romantic atmosphere with scented candles, soft music and good food so that lovers can come and have a private moment at your home based restaurant. You will be surprised at how fast your business would grow just by doing this.
Advertising is the sole of business. That sounds very cliché though. You already know that so why not start advertising your business vigorously at this point? Let your Facebook friends know that you are now a professional chef and you have a restaurant at home, inform your twitter followers, put it on your LinkedIn profile, create a business website, Just do whatever it takes to increase awareness of your services and boost patronage.
15. Send out your CVs
When you have gained enough experience and you are sure that you can handle being a professional chef, you should start applying for jobs as a professional chef, so that you can gain professional hands-on experience required to boost your career profile.
16. Get trained and certified
Yes, you are now a professional chef, hurray! That doesn’t mean that you should totally forget all about training and certification. When you have made enough money, go to school and learn more; so that you can compete with the best professional chefs’ anywhere in the world.
In conclusion, the cost that is involved in getting a degree in culinary arts can be quite cumbersome and as such it is not surprising that some people would be desirous of becoming a chef without actually having to attend culinary school. To make matters more dicey, such programs are often full-time, which makes working and earning a salary that could defray the cost of attending difficult.
If completing a culinary arts degree program is your preferred path to entering the profession, weigh the cost of each program by the range of courses and career support offered to students. Generally speaking, culinary schools with a good track record of internship and job placement could be worth the cost. However, if you should choose not to go to a culinary school, you can still become a chef.