What Education Do You Need to Become a Master Chef?
A good number of chefs, according to U.S. Labor Statistics were either former dishwashers or cooks who developed their skills through years of experience and on-the-job training provided by their employer. Executive chef Anthony Bourdain of New York’s famous French restaurant “Brasserie Les Halles” for example, began his career as a dishwasher.
Practical Experience and On-the-Job Training
Since cooking is one of the few occupations where one can get most of his training on the job, it is often favorable for an aspiring chef to work as a kitchen staff and gain practical or actual experience in a real world commercial kitchen. Most successful chefs according to study, are always eager to learn about food, they love the kitchen, and take advantage of opportunities offered by the kitchen to develop the skills and personality of a great chef. For example, the ability to think clearly, stay focused, and make quick decisions at a fast pace, demanding, and noisy environment are characteristics of a great chef progressively developed in the kitchen.
Practical skills and experience are a tacit knowledge that is unique and difficult to imitate. It is the source of differentiation and competitive advantage that allows an individual to innovate, add value, ensure accuracy, and product quality. Expert chefs with significant tacit knowledge are capable of preparing any meal without consulting a cookbook because they have years of practical cooking experience. Moreover, expert chefs with sufficient practical experience are already accustomed to the taste, texture, color, and aroma of a particular meal and therefore able to mix ingredients without measuring devices and cook delicious meals without cooking timers.
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Formal Culinary Education
Some Master Chef’s cooking skills are not only developed through years of practical experience but formal culinary education. The reason is that most Certification Standards for chefs performing in the executive and master level are based on experience and formal education. An aspiring chef, therefore, regardless of years of practical experience must obtain formal culinary education before he or she can be certified and land a job in better restaurants or hotels with high hiring standards.
Some known advantage of having a degree or certificate from a professional and reputable culinary school is increased potential in landing a job, gaining knowledge of different cooking methods, learning theoretical cooking techniques from highly trained culinary school teachers, and getting certified in different areas of food education such as food preparation, food science, and food studies. Formal culinary education can also help aspiring chefs to experience and appreciate team building and develop a personal discipline that will set them apart from others. This discipline can help them keep everything in perspective; make them better employees and a great leader to other chefs.
It is important to remember that although advantageous, the need to go to formal culinary school depends entirely on the job you want to pursue. For instance, chef levels with relatively little responsibility do not need formal education as they can land a job in school, hospital, and other institutions that only require high school diploma and adequate restaurant experience.