If you have a passion for food, a good sense of taste and smell, and want to work in a field where you often receive immediate appreciation, consider becoming a chef. But, don't be fooled by celebrity chefs and Food Network shows. As with most careers, education, training and working your way up by starting at the bottom are necessary ingredients to this profession.
Working in a restaurant, whether in actual food preparation or in a non-cooking position, is a good first step toward exploring your interest in becoming a chef. It will give you a real feel for the environment and working conditions of this profession. Working long hours over a hot stove, often on weekends and on your feet, isn't for everyone.
Classes in culinary schools and institutes offer everything from kitchen basics and food safety to portion size and the latest specialty food trends. While being creative with ingredients and artistic in presentation certainly adds to the appeal of a dish, a true chef must also know how to adjust a recipe to a particular taste or diet, and know how various ingredients interact.
You can pursue a culinary education through a variety of vocational programs, specialty classes that range from several months to several years, and college degree programs. If you are serious about a career as a chef, the best option is an accredited school that offers a degree in culinary arts.
In addition to culinary skills, the head chef (or executive chef) of a restaurant needs to work well in high pressure situations, be able to effectively multi-task and have good managerial skills. The head chef is responsible for all kitchen operations, from supervision of the kitchen staff to menu planning, budgeting and purchasing. Larger restaurants and more upscale establishments will likely have more than one chef, including a sous chef (assistant chef), and specialty chefs, including a sauce chef, roast cook and pastry chefs.
Salary largely depends on location. Chefs who work for finer restaurants, in big cities and at hotels and resorts will earn more, but positions like these are highly competitive and the more additional and specialized training you have, the better your chances. Bon Appetit.