The professional kitchen is unquestionably one of the most difficult workplaces. They are the domain of hard-working people dedicated to a culinary craft who have no time to spare, or even waste, on those who do not share the same commitment. Apart from the physical conditions—extreme heat and cramped quarters—they are also known for their intense heat and small spaces.
Here are some key characteristics a professional chef needs to have in order to succeed so you can decide if the chef’s field is right for you.
Table of Contents
Hallmarks Of A Successful Chef
Cooking is frequently described as the fusion of science and art. Even if a chef has a great education and excellent cooking abilities, creating stunning dishes also requires developed creativity. It involves an ongoing struggle with the accepted norms, an attempt to go beyond the customary boundaries, a craving for culinary exploration, and an urge to surprise. Even the most basic dishes are given an author’s touch by the masters of the trade, who infuse them with a bit of their individuality and creativity.
A true chef, like a good artist, must be inspired by creative freedom and not be afraid to venture outside of his comfort zone. In the food industry, serving ware plays a significant role, so initial creative focus should be placed there.
A chef’s workday does not resemble an enjoyable Gordon Ramsay show in any way. It is arduous, exhausting work that calls for extreme endurance and perseverance. In comparison to many other professions, it is not unnecessary to keep in mind that the average workday is longer. Someone who is willing to put up with it and able to handle all the challenges of work with ease must be motivated by something. The main motivator is passion.
The best assurance that there won’t be any stagnation or standing still is a chef’s burning eyes. A chef will only spend years honing their abilities, learning and implementing new techniques and recipes if they are passionate about what they do. A chef’s chances of success in the industry will decrease if they lack passion, as it will be harder for them to keep up with the times.
3. Ability To Work As Part Of A Team
Every member of a working kitchen team has a unique value and significance, just like every member of a sports team. If every team member gives their absolute best effort, synergy effects will eventually take hold and the team will succeed. This achievement is the fruit of shared merit and respect. It will be challenging to manage such a team and, in the case of a heavy kitchen load, it may even fail if individualism and separatist sentiments flourish.
Understanding this will help the chef play his part in the process with even greater responsibility. A chef shouldn’t be a loner by definition; instead, they should be sociable individuals who understand how to work well with others.
4. Stress Tolerance
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s happening in a restaurant kitchen during busy times. It’s difficult to think of anything more wackier and chaotic. Here is where it really pays off to be able to maintain composure under pressure.
The ability to control your emotions is essential despite the fact that everyone around you will be attempting to upset the chef. A chef should practice speed cooking techniques without a doubt because it helps to save many nerve cells.
5. The Ability To Accept Criticism
Even the best chefs are constantly learning new skills through handling criticism. Any chef should be ready for the possibility that not all of the thousands of reviews they receive will be favorable. This is not something that should be resented in any way; rather, it should be viewed as a chance for advancement, which will serve as a strong impetus for modifying the recipe or cooking techniques.
6. Attention To Detail
The entire cooking process, from chopping the ingredients to plating the food, depends heavily on attention to detail. Accuracy is key in cooking, just like it is in any science. A loss of control over the outcome is possible if measurements, cooking times, and other guidelines are not followed as directed in recipes. A significant amount of the chef’s perfectionism is also needed during the serving phase.
Any minor flaws, such as missing grill marks on meat and vegetables, or an unintentional hair entangled in a dish, can negatively affect a customer’s perception of the restaurant. Every meal that is produced in the kitchen should be prepared as though it were a test or a competition. The ideal state for a chef to be in while cooking is not one of relaxation. The best focus and concentration.
The chef is on his feet all day long, from early in the morning until late at night. Even physically fit individuals may find this difficult. In crowded eateries, it’s not unusual for a chef to work more than 12 hours straight preparing food for customers. It takes a lot of time to constantly move between the stove and tables, mix ingredients, and work with kitchen tools. Such a rapid pace of work will benefit from dexterity and agility.
The constant need to manage and inspire other staff members is a key component of a chef’s job. A good chef should always be able to make time to impart important knowledge to aspiring workers or to lift team spirits during particularly trying times.
8. Being A Leader
For the purpose of equipping aspiring chefs with the necessary leadership skills to fully take charge of the kitchen management process, large restaurant chains hold leadership development sessions.
9. Have Refined Taste
To be able to easily distinguish even the tiniest notes, a chef must have developed taste and smell buds. A skilled chef only needs to detect a spreading aroma to determine what is baking in the oven.
There is only one thing left to do if a chef lacks the ability to distinguish between flavors and ingredients, and that is to practice and develop that talent in every way possible. Blind tastings, which take away all outside influences and give you complete focus on the flavors and tones of the ingredients, are among the best ways to achieve this.
10. A Commitment To Quality
Every chef wants the best for their dishes; whether it’s using the best ingredients or the most up-to-date tools, quality is paramount.
The chef’s primary duty is to ensure the quality of the food. The chef’s responsibility is to steer clear of this and come up with a reasonable compromise, even if financial restrictions require using lower-quality ingredients.
11. Understanding The Importance Of Training
While many chefs pick up skills on the job and advance through the ranks of the kitchen, formal training in the culinary arts is crucial for a career as a professional chef. The key to mastering the necessary abilities to become a skilled chef is training. Without at least some kind of certification or degree-based training, it is frequently difficult to advance very far in the kitchen.
How do you feel now that you’ve read about all the characteristics and needs a good chef has? Do you have what it takes to handle a job that requires both physically demanding work and creative work? The answer is yes, and there are several ways to do so. You could, for instance, enroll in a number of culinary schools, such as the EHL in Switzerland. However, the ideal path is to land a job at a reputable restaurant, pick up all the necessary knowledge within a few years, and then enroll in a college or begin traveling to advance your career.