An older, more experienced chef supervises a traineeThere are many culinary schools offering a huge variety of courses. If you think you might like to become a chef then you should ask yourself a few serious questions first so you can choose the course that’s right for you.

What Are Chefs’ Working Conditions Like?

First of all you should know that becoming a chef can be very tough. Not only is the training very hard, it’s also quite an anti-social profession. You will usually be required to work when everyone else is on holiday or taking time off to relax. You may be asked to work on Christmas Day, other holidays, plus evenings and weekends. If your partner has a 9-5 job, then you may end up hardly ever seeing them. (That seems to work quite well for some people!)

It can also be a very aggressive environment. You only need to watch Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen on television to realize that. It’s not always the case, but some kitchens can foster a culture of bullying and nastiness. Ramsay has probably done much to further this type of behavior for those who aspire to be like him and perceive him as being a role-model.

So, before you start, ask yourself very carefully if you have the kind of personality who could put up with this kind of job. A love of cooking is not enough, you must have the passion to put up with all kinds of things and the determination to achieve your goals.

If you’re sure it’s for you, then next you need to decide what type of course would suit you.

Do I Need a Culinary School Qualification?

Most chefs get an all-round training at culinary school before going on to specialize in anything. And these days most good establishments do require some formal training and basic certificates. These are not necessary if you’re going to flip burgers at McDonalds, and there are many establishments who don’t require any formal qualifications from their line-cooks. But if you want to rise up the ranks and make a career of being a chef, it’s usually best to start off with a year or two at culinary school, followed by a period of training in a top quality place.

What Does a Culinary School Qualification Lead To?

Once you have your qualification you might feel proud that now you’re a chef, but in a commercial kitchen you are just the newest rookie, so be prepared for that. Also be prepared for low pay, because you’ll be lucky to get more than the minimum wage.

Once you have your basic qualifications and training, the next step in your career as a chef is to decide if you want to specialize in anything in particular. Some chefs enjoy patisserie, others choose fish and seafood. There are also many different cuisines to consider: French, Japanese, Italian, Thai, etc so there are many options and possibilities available for you.

In later postings on our Courses Guide, we’ll be looking at the variety of courses available to you. Meanwhile, it’s best if you think hard about whether being a chef is really the right choice for you.

Of course, not everyone who attends culinary school wants to be a chef. Some people do it for their own pleasure, just as a hobby. Again, there are lots of suitable courses for this kind of learning, and we’ll be looking at some of them here too. Bon app├ętit!