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Dream Career: Chef
by Tag Goulet

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Dream Career: Chef
Published with permission from FabJob.

Does everyone want to have Thanksgiving dinner at your place? Are you often asked to cook for social events? Do family members frequently drop by at meal time?

If people can't get enough of your cooking, you may be suited to a career as a chef or personal chef.

What They Do

As a chef or personal chef, you will use your culinary talents to develop menu items, prepare dishes and oversee preparation at a dining facility or private household.

Chefs are responsible for the smooth functioning of a kitchen, from developing menus and new recipes to supervising staff, to inventory and cost control, and ordering supplies. They are responsible for creating the best dishes possible within the budget of their employer. They need to be aware of their kitchen's inventory at all times, and choose and order supplies.

Some chefs may own their own restaurant, or report to the manager or owner of the restaurant that employs them. They may also work for a hotel, catering company, or private club. "Personal chefs" work independently for private clients.

The executive chef is the top chef in a restaurant. He or she supervises the other staff, which might include a sous-chef who is responsible for the daily operations of the kitchen, and a pastry chef who prepares desserts and baked goods. In a small kitchen, there may be only one or two chefs to perform all of the above roles. In each case, chefs are likely to:

  • Design menu items using seasonally available or specialty ingredients
  • Prepare food for diners
  • Prepare soups, stocks, sauces and other food items needed regularly
  • Educate and advise servers about the foods being served
  • Hire and supervise kitchen staff
  • Keep track of all meals ordered and ensure they are made quickly and properly
  • Meet with the restaurant manager or owner to discuss inventory and cost

Who is Likely to Succeed

You probably love giving dinner parties, preparing huge family meals, or painstakingly preparing and decorating baked goods for special occasions.

You have a keen sense of taste, and an appreciation for subtleties of flavor and varieties of food -- in fact, you're probably passionate about food in general. You're probably already known to friends and family as a good cook, you have a creative flair with food preparation and presentation, and love to invent new ways of serving foods.

How to Learn It

There are numerous culinary courses you can take, from cooking lessons offered through kitchen stores and community centers to extended culinary training programs offered by colleges and cooking schools. If you have access to any of these, they will put you in good standing for future employment, but they are by no means a requirement.

You can work as a chef with no formal credentials whatsoever, as long as you have a solid background of experience in cooking. You can teach yourself to be a chef by reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows and videos, and, above all, hands-on practice and experimentation in your own kitchen.

Make every interesting recipe you come across. Experiment with ingredients, and try new methods of preparation and presentation. Study the photographs in illustrated cookbooks, and subscribe to magazines like Cook's Illustrated. Stock your kitchen with the right equipment and supplies to do your job well.

Taste everything critically. Record your successes, and your failures. Keep track of the recipes you make, and the ones you master. Plan ways to improve even your successful recipes.

Certain volunteer work is another excellent way to gain experience that may land you a higher position in a kitchen. Offer to help prepare meals at a local soup kitchen, community center or seniors' center -- this will give you a sense of what it's like to work in a kitchen, and an ability to feel confident cooking large quantities of food.

If you want to become a personal chef, check out the FabJob Guide to Become a Caterer or Personal Chef for step-by-step advice to help you get started in this career.

Fab Fact: Chef Rachael Ray is the enthusiastic, entertaining, and down-to-earth star of four shows on TV's Food Network, including her breakout show 30-Minute Meals. She started her career in New York City working at Macy's, first at the candy counter, then later as the manager of fresh foods. She worked in many different food industry environments, including pubs, restaurants and gourmet markets. Although she is now a celebrity chef, Rachael has never had formal training as a cook.

The FabJob Guide to Become a Caterer or Personal Chef author Lex Thomas started a successful catering and personal chef business which served clients in the United States for six years. In this guide she shares with you her own experiences as well as insider tips and expert advice from other successful caterers and personal chefs.

Become a Caterer or Personal Chef Become a Restaurant Owner

by Tag Goulet
Tag Goulet is co-Chief Executive Officer of FabJob Inc. and author of the FabJob Guide to Become a Motivational Speaker. She is also a newspaper columnist and speaker on workplace issues.

"The FabJob Guide to Become a Caterer or Personal Chef gives you the information you need to get started and succeed in this fun and profitable career. And you'll learn some 'tricks of the trade' from top caterers and chefs."
- Lex Thomas is featured in Woman's World Magazine ("Land Your Dream Job" article, April 2007).

FabJob Guides have been featured in stories at The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur Magazine sites.

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