I’ll explain in 2 parts. What you need to study to become a Chef and the nature of work and the general work environment.
A high school diploma is not required for beginning jobs, but it is recommended for those planning a career as a cook or chef. Most fast-food or short-order cooks and food preparation workers require little education or training to start because most skills are learned on the job. Training generally starts with basic sanitation and workplace safety and continues with instruction on food handling, preparation, and cooking procedures. Training in food handling, sanitation, and health and safety procedures are mandatory in most jurisdictions for all workers. Those who become proficient and who show an interest in learning complicated cooking techniques may advance to more demanding cooking positions or into supervisory positions.
Some high school or vocational school programs offer courses in basic food safety and handling procedures, cooking, and general business and computer classes that can be helpful for those who might someday want to be a chef or to open their own restaurant. Many school districts, in cooperation with State departments of education, provide on-the-job training and summer workshops for cafeteria kitchen workers who aspire to become cooks. Food service management companies or hotel and restaurant chains, also offer paid internships and summer jobs to those starting out in the field. Internships provide valuable experience and can lead to placement in more formal chef training programs.
When hiring chefs and others in advanced cooking positions, however, employers usually prefer applicants who have training after high school. These training programs range from a few months to 2 years or more. Vocational or trade-school programs typically offer basic training in food handling and sanitation procedures, nutrition, slicing and dicing methods for various kinds of meats and vegetables, and basic cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, and grilling. Longer programs leading to a certificate or a 2- or 4-year degree train chefs for fine-dining or upscale restaurants. They offer a wider array of training specialties, such as advanced cooking techniques; cooking for banquets, buffets, or parties; and cuisines and cooking styles from around the world.
A growing number of chefs participate in these longer training programs through independent cooking schools, professional culinary institutes, 2- or 4-year college degree programs in hospitality or culinary arts, or in the armed forces. Some large hotels and restaurants also operate their own training and job-placement programs for chefs and cooks. Executive chefs and head cooks who work in fine-dining restaurants require many years of training and experience and an intense desire to cook.
Many restaurant and institutional kitchens have modern equipment, convenient work areas, and air conditioning, but kitchens in older and smaller eating places are often not as well designed. Kitchen staffs invariably work in small quarters against hot stoves and ovens. They are under constant pressure to prepare meals quickly, while ensuring quality is maintained and safety and sanitation guidelines are observed. Because the pace can be hectic during peak dining times, workers must be able to communicate clearly so that food orders are completed correctly.
Working conditions vary with the type and quantity of food prepared and the local laws governing food service operations. Workers usually must stand for hours at a time, lifting heavy pots and kettles, and working near hot ovens and grills. Job hazards include slips and falls, cuts, and burns, but injuries are seldom serious.
Work hours in restaurants may include early mornings, late evenings, holidays, and weekends. Work schedules of chefs, cooks and other kitchen workers in factory and school cafeterias may be more regular. In 2006, about 29 percent of cooks and 44 percent of food preparation workers had part-time schedules, compared to 15 percent of workers throughout the economy. Work schedules in fine-dining restaurants, however, tend to be longer because of the time required to prepare ingredients in advance. Many executive chefs regularly work 12-hour days because they oversee the delivery of foodstuffs early in the day, plan the menu, and prepare those menu items that take the most skill.
The wide range in dining hours and the need for fully-staffed kitchens during all open hours creates work opportunities for students, youth, and other individuals seeking supplemental income, flexible work hours, or variable schedules. Eighteen percent of cooks and food preparation workers were 16 to 19 years old in 2006; nineteen percent were age 20 to 24. Ten percent had variable schedules. Kitchen workers employed by schools may work during the school year only, usually for 9 or 10 months. Similarly, resort establishments usually only offer seasonal employment.
Answered By: Sarah P - 3/27/2009