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Everyone loves going out for meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all meals that we enjoy having in a restaurant. If the food we don't make ourselves tastes and looks better, there is a reason -- the chef preparing each dish is highly trained and dedicated to making each meal a masterpiece.

Chefs plan, direct and participate in food preparation and cooking activities in restaurants, hotels, cafes, bars, institutions and other food establishments. More highly trained than regular cooks, their duties include not just cooking but also budgeting, purchasing supplies, hiring staff and generally making sure that things run smoothly in the kitchen.

"Chef" is only a general term. In small kitchens, the chef may work alone, but in larger kitchens, the chef's duties may be split between an executive chef, (this chef takes care of the ordering and manages the budget and staff), the sous-chef, (this chef plans menus, trains new staff and helps supervise the kitchen), the specialty chefs, (these chefs are responsible for either desserts, soups, sauces, or salads), and the cooks, who do most of the actual cleaning, chopping and cooking.

Regardless of how many or few of these tasks they are responsible for, all chefs must ensure that their food meets high standards of taste, appearance and hygiene during preparation. They are responsible for creating new recipes or dishes, perfecting classic dishes, and ensuring safety and sanitation are high priorities for each and every preparatory step.
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Institute of Culinary Education - Los Angeles
  • Named a Culinary School of Excellence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in 2015.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs Offered:
  • Health-Supportive Culinary Arts
  • Culinary Arts
  • Pastry & Baking Arts
  • And more...



  Interests and Skills  
Chefs need a good sense of taste and flavor, as well as an artistic flair. Creativity, good health, and excellent hygiene are essential skills for chefs. As are a good memory, and excellent communication and organizational skills. Chefs should also be able to work well under stressful situations. They must work well in a team environment, enjoy supervising others, and most importantly, they should be interested in cooking and creating new dishes.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare and cook meals of all types
  • Create decorative food displays
  • Hire and supervise other kitchen staff in the preparation, cooking and presentation of food
  • Order food and kitchen supplies based on best price and budget
  • Check the orders received for quantity and quality of product
  • Create new recipes
  • Plan menus and advise other chefs on size of portions or servings and standards of quality
  • Meet with customers regarding menus for special occasions
  • Arrange for equipment purchases and repairs
  • Ensure that sanitation standards are maintained
  • Meet with other managers in the organization
  • The typical day for a chef is full of food. They take care of everything from ordering colored pasta to creating new salad dressings. They may work in a small kitchen where they prepare each dish themselves, or they may work in a huge kitchen where they order food, oversee staff, but do very little cooking. Chefs don't ever work outdoors, unless they are barbeque chefs, and they may travel for training or to meet with other chefs, or if they are with a catering company.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Chefs are employed by restaurant owners, hotels, resorts, cruise ships and retirement homes. Some work for hospitals and some work for wealthy individuals. Some are self-employed, or work with a catering business.
  • Chefs work in hot, humid, busy and hectic kitchens full of sous-chefs, apprentices, assistants, prep cooks, dishwashers and servers. Chefs do not have a regular 9-to-5 daily schedule, as most work lunch and/or dinner shifts. They may only work one shift, for five or six hours, but they may work all day, and be cooking for 12 hours in a row. They work both evenings and weekends, unless they work for a hospital, school or other environment that is open for regular business hours only.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Chefs can become professors in cooking schools, work as food or restaurant consultants, develop recipes with test kitchens or become cookbook writers. Some advance to head chef positions within a restaurant, while others choose to open their own restaurant or start up their own catering company.

  Educational Paths  
Chefs receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory to become a chef, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50% less than what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the chef a certificate of completion.

Another possibility is attending chef schools abroad to learn a particular cooking style, like French. Specialty chefs often take this route. There are training programs in the US, however, outside of the apprenticeship route. Courses at colleges in Culinary Arts and Chef Training, Professional Cook and Kitchen Assistant, Culinary Management, and Hotel and Restaurant Management are some possible programs to consider.

As well as the technical training, chefs usually work for three to 12 years in commercial food preparation (the longer one works, the more prestigious their title), before they can be fully certified. Applicants must have at least eight years of industry experience including journeyman Cook certification or equivalent and two years of experience in a supervisory position.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Institute of Culinary Education - Los Angeles
  • Named a Culinary School of Excellence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in 2015.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs Offered:
  • Health-Supportive Culinary Arts
  • Culinary Arts
  • Pastry & Baking Arts
  • And more...

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