The Food Network raised the bar for chefs around the world. Foodie shows have made being a chef even more chic and fashionable. If you’re an aspiring cook who wants to have a career in the food industry, you need a good education to refine your palate, learn the business side of the industry, and take your passion for food to the next level.
Do you have the skills needed to be a chef? Here are 10 skills that you’ll need to become a great chef.
1. Passion for Culinary Arts
Being a chef is hard work. Often, you’ll work holidays and parties when everyone else is having fun. You need passion for cooking and food to make your way through the industry. Cooking has a lot of science and math involved, but presentation and recipe development is like music and painting. You’ll have to bring passion to your craft.
2. Love of Learning
Even the greatest chefs keep honing their craft and learning once they’ve reached the peak of their career. The food industry keeps changing. You will have to keep up with trends and new techniques that change how people approach food. Even though you might be the instructor, you’ll need to be a good student.
A professional kitchen is a busy place with long hours. You’re going to spend a lot of hours on your feet, working hard preparing food for patrons. A hot kitchen on a hot summer day isn’t a place for the faint of heart. Lifting heavy boxes of produce takes muscles. It’s important to consider the physicality of the work.
4. Willingness to Practice
As a chef, you’ll need to practice your craft to get things right when you’re under pressure. You may fail the first few times you combine sauces, sides, proteins and seasoning to create that plate of greatness. Failures often teach more than perfection. Practice is what takes you from a mediocre chef to a great one.
5. Business Savvy
The best chefs understand that running a kitchen isn’t just about the food. You have to have to understand how to keep inventory, how to balance your bank account and how to market your business. To make a profit, you have to budget and know how to price an item on the menu. You might be able to hire people to do the actual work, but you should have a sense of how things need to get done. If you don’t watch your bottom line, you won’t be successful.
6. Good Communication
You’re going to be part of a team, whether you’re first starting out or at the pinnacle of your career. The best chefs know what makes a good chef is the people you have on your team helping you get food out to the masses. Being able to communicate effectively makes a big difference in the tone of your kitchen and business.
7. Ability to Take Criticism
You won’t be able to please every palate. You have to be able to listen to your customers and accept criticism, even though some of it may not be constructive. The best chefs know that they might not always get a dish right. What will you do when someone spits out your food and tells you it sucks?
8. Great Leadership
One of the qualities of a good head chef is that of being a leader. You can’t simply be a boss. You have to be someone who can motivate others, no matter what is happening in their own lives. When you’re working in a kitchen, you can’t be a lone wolf who tries to do it all. If you can’t lead a team, it’s going to be hard to run a restaurant.
9. Attention to Detail
Recipes aren’t exact science, but when you run a kitchen that caters to the public, you have to pay attention to the details. Consistency in the food keeps people coming back to your restaurant. You can’t afford to have hair in the food, unseasoned sauces or missed garnishes. Every plate has to be precise and taste the same as the plate from last week.
10. Grace Under Fire
Cooking in your own kitchen requires a lot of concentration to avoid a fire, spills and injuries. Imagine a busy restaurant with dozens of people all trying to perform their own tasks. Being a chef is quite stressful at times. Keeping a cool head when everything around you is chaotic is a great skill for a chef. You’ll earn the respect of your colleagues and customers.
Do You Have the Qualities of a Good Chef?
If you think you have some of these qualities or are interested in cultivating them, contact the Oregon Culinary Institute about enrolling in a culinary arts program. Take your love of cooking to new heights, and build a solid foundation for your future culinary career.