The top culinary schools have a lot of clout in the food world and can open many doors. Getting a formal training provides you with the technical tools and mental discipline needed to perform at your best in this competitive and, at times, brutal industry.
But these schools can also be very expensive and pay in the first few years after graduation is generally poor. So before you commit yourself to a career in the restaurant industry, be sure it is something you really want.
Named after the world-famous Auguste Escoffier, the school follows a farm-to-table philosophy that teaches students where food comes from and encourages them to respect local resources and sustainable practices.
Located in the US with campuses in Boulder, Colorado, and Austin, Texas, the accredited school specializes in culinary and pastry arts education offering diploma and degree programs. Students receive career services assistance while in school and after graduation.
One of the most respected culinary institutions in the world, the Culinary Arts Academy prepares students for their future career, focusing on entrepreneurship as well as kitchen skills. With an approach to culinary traditions that reflects modern trends, trainees will become expert in international cuisine from traditional culinary basics to international fine-dining methods.
Located in Switzerland, this a highly selective school with just 300 students is based in two campuses, Lucerne and Le Bouveret.
Students will enjoy the unique internship opportunities available through industry juggernauts such as the Ritz Paris and Ritz Escoffier.
The Culinary Institute of America spans coast to coast and even has an international campus in Singapore. All three of the US campuses offer associate degrees and a variety of other programs for food and wine enthusiasts. Only the institute’s main campus in New York offers a bachelor’s degree.
The Napa Valley, California Campus hosts a one-of-a-kind Food Business School teaching what’s needed to deal with the challenges of running a foodservice, while the Hudson Valley, New York campus operates four public restaurants specializing in Italian cuisine, French cuisine, American cuisine, and café foods where students get real life experience.
The institution has a long list of notable alumni, including the famous Anthony Bourdain, whom the Institute honored with a scholarship in his name.
Le Cordon Bleu is one of the most illustrious institutions for culinary education, and considered the guardian of French techniques. The first woman in her class, Julia Child, graduated in 1949 and the school includes a popular demo on boeuf bourguignon in her honor.
With 40 campuses spread over five continents, Le Cordon Bleu is the largest culinary and hospitality school in the world.
Their one- to four-day courses and workshops are considered the passport to a world of career opportunities. Le Grand Diplôme® is an intensive and comprehensive program in classic French culinary techniques that combines Diplôme de Pâtisserie and Diplôme de Cuisine.
The award winning Institute of Culinary Education located in Manhattan, New York offers several programs covering every interest and skill level, including recreational cooking and continuing educating courses.
The New York campus provides opportunities for advanced creativity in its bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab, an indoor hydroponic herb garden and vegetable farm, a Culinary Technology Lab fitted with a tandoor oven, vertical rotisserie, and dedicated spaces for mixology and wine studies.
Notable alumni include Vivian Howard, Ed Behr, Rachel Yang, Marc Murphy, Mashama Bailey, Elisa Strauss, Zac Young, Denisse Oller, and many more.
Founded in 1997, Apicius International School of Hospitality is now a thriving center of learning for cuisine, wine, and hospitality. Set in the beautiful city of Florence, the school provides lectures, workshops, and seminars across its three locations in the city.
It has state of the art facilities including three learning labs that link students with the local community for experience in hospitality, catering, and management, and its very own pastry shop, Fedora, that showcases student work.
Their Certificate Career Programs are unique for their combination of in-class learning and practice in the field.
Based in the heart of London, Westminster Kingsway College operates across four campuses and has an excellent reputation in Culinary Arts and Hospitality.
The programs are designed to fit those from the very young but passionate to adults taking a turn into a new career. The range of courses starts with the Young Chef Academy, going up to the Grand Escoffier Diploma, offering six kitchen-based modules
Business and Hotel Management School, one of the world’s leading hospitality schools offers programs for specializing in the culinary arts.
Students acquire all the fundamental skills needed to work in a real kitchen, from food preparation and presentation to kitchen management, all through hands-on training and classroom learning.
The BHMS offers a full range of qualifications over three years, each year building on their acquired skills, providing students with the specialized knowledge necessary to open their own culinary or catering business.
10. New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, USA
Combining tradition with innovation, the New England Culinary Institute, located in the capital of Vermont, offers both degrees and certificates in culinary arts, hospitality and restaurant management.
To enhance their degree, students can choose a specialty such as sustainability, learning about sourcing local foods and being environmentally conscious, and wine and beverages. Culinary arts and baking options can also be combined or paired with management for a specific career focus.
Notable alumni include Alton Brown and Heather Terhune and the founders of Ben & Jerry. Chef David of Chefs-Resources also attended NECI.
11. Gastronomicom International Culinary Academy, France
Founded by Matine Lessault, this international culinary academy set in the charming town of Agde in the south of France enrolls students from all over the world.
Aimed at beginners and professionals, three basic courses in French cooking, pastry, and French language can be taken in a range of programs that involve hands-on classes and internships. There is also a Diploma in Gastronomic Cooking or Pastry
Both courses offer internships at luxury hotel-restaurants in France including room and board.
For lucky pastry students, Johanna Le Pape, 2014 world champion of sweet arts, provides a masterclass.
Here, in Barcelona, you will find cookery courses that nurture creativity and innovation. The school prides itself on its unique methodology, rejecting traditional teaching of following recipes, and instead focusing on product, technique and context. Their students become chefs able to innovate, to solve problems, and to adapt to whatever products in whichever circumstances.
Whether you want to become a chef, build on your experience, or want focus on management, the school has well-designed courses for all.
One of the most renowned culinary schools in Asia, the Hattori Nutrition College was established in 1939 by the Iron Chef, Yukio Hattori. As well as culinary courses, the College provides dietary education based on “Shokuiku”, the Japanese term for “food education”.
The school president says it is “acquisition of knowledge about food and nutrition, and the ability to make appropriate decisions through practical experience with food, with the aim of developing life on a healthy diet.”
The school develops chefs able to bring joy to the table through focusing on technique, practical training, and a developed sense. The Nutrition Course teaches diet coordination for maintaining health.
The COVID-19 Trojan Horse – Coronavirus Impact on Restaurants
As the coronavirus spreads and I watch our collective reaction to it, I’ve got to wonder if our reaction is doing more harm than the virus itself. People are stock piling goods, toilet paper is almost a black market item, guns & ammunition have taken a surge in sales, and the stock market is a wild ride. The irresponsible media, in their blood-lust for ratings and hype, have been pushing fear and worse case scenarios without providing us with some of the most important information on stemming the tide, controlling fear, and avoiding crisis. What is the coronavirus impact on restaurants & the economy? How do we balance public safety and economic safety?
Until March 16th all we heard from the media on a daily basis was, “numbers of people infected” “number of people who died” “number of countries infected” “world wide pandemic” and worst of all “not enough test kits” “everyone who feels ill should get tested”.
Cities across the country have closed restaurants, bars, entertainment facilities, sporting events, and have limited community gatherings to as few as 50 people.
Now restaurant & hospitality workers, along with people from many other industries hit hard by these business closures, are going to have difficulty paying their bills because they have no income. Out of fear of catching COVID-19 (important note to remember: for most people it is similar to getting the flu, except that it is more contagious) people are now out of work and faced with financial hardship, unable to pay their mortgage or feed their families. Is economic hardship the Trojan Horse of the coronavirus? Is a financial/economic crisis the real terror of COVID-19?
Flatten the Curve
This week (March 16th) the media is finally telling us something responsible… “flatten the curve”. But they are still foolishly talking about test kits and the need for testing. The phrase to “flatten the curve” has two possible meanings: 1) reduce the number of people who catch COVID-19. 2) reduce the number of people who need access to healthcare providers for critical care. It essentially means doing what it takes to keep our healthcare system from getting overwhelmed.
If we want to “flatten the curve” then stop overwhelming our healthcare system. According to the excellent infographic below, 80% of people who get coronavirus experience only mild symptoms similar to the regular flu. This suggests to me that getting tested just to be tested is part of the problem which overwhelms the healthcare system. If you have mild flu-like symptoms then call your doctor (don’t automatically go to the doctor or hospital with mild symptoms), heed their advice, stay home, self-quarantine for 14 days, and get well. Don’t push for getting tested! Getting tested will change nothing, you will still be sick, they can’t give you a pill to cure it. Only get tested if your doctor advises it.
Getting tested simply to know if you have coronavirus puts an undo burden on healthcare workers for no good reason. Save testing for the smaller percentage of people who are experiencing severe symptoms. These are the people who are probably already health compromised. These are the people who are most at risk, who need access to healthcare. The rest of us should just call our doctor and stay home until our fever has broke and we are healthy for 2 weeks.
It is very true that COVID-19 is extremely contagious. That is clearly the biggest concern and steps need to be taken to control its spread. But putting a “Closed” sign on the world while we hide in our homes with no income and live on canned goods & ramen isn’t a great solution. And it isn’t sustainable…no money leads to much more drastic problems than a fever. The coronavirus impact on restaurants and the economy is of equal importance as the virus itself. The average American lives check to check. Missing 2 weeks of income will be extremely painful. Missing a month will be devastating.
Temporary shutdown of a city (or the country) only makes sense if the goal is to keep our healthcare facilities from being overwhelmed with an onslaught of patients beyond healthcare provider’s ability to effectively handle (which is one of the key concerns pointed out in the infographic below…hence, flatten the curve). But such a shutdown needs to work hand in hand with getting people back to work or getting them financial relief until they can return to work. The coronavirus impact on restaurants and the economy should not become worse than the virus itself. Let’s not go from thinking “everything is going to be fine” to thinking “everyone is going to die.”
COVID-19 is NOT the Black Plague!
So, let’s take a moment, take a deep breath, and really ask ourselves the most important question: is COVID-19 in the same terrifying category as the Black Plague? No, it’s not because about 96% of people who get coronavirus recover from it. The real danger is in overwhelming healthcare system (which will result in unnecessary deaths) and in economic distress.
Key takeaways from this purely data-based information:
96.3% of people recover!
80.9% only experience mild flu-like symptoms
Those most at risk of dying are 60+ years old
Those most at risk of dying are 60+ and have other health conditions, especially respiratory or compromised immune conditions. (note: these people are unfortunately most at risk regardless of the virus concern)
Only 0.9% of healthy people w/ no existing conditions have died
The greatest health risk to everyone as a whole appears to be when the existing healthcare systems are overwhelmed and critically ill patients therefore cannot receive effective treatment
The majority of people who die from it are already at risk regardless of whether they have COVID-19, the regular flu, pneumonia, or any of the other common illnesses which cause the death of immune compromised people. This is not a disease which kills thousands or millions of normally healthy people. But it does definitely kill at risk people.
HOW COVID-19 KILLS
Here is a fantastic video explaining how COVID-19 attacks the lungs and is therefore a very serious concern for the elderly (who commonly die from pneumonia) and/or at risk people.
Common Sense – Protect Yourself, those Around You, and the Economy
Speaking for myself, I would much rather experience symptoms similar to the flu, be sick for a few days, self-quarantine as recommended, and then be able to go back to work. I don’t want to be out of work for weeks on end. That financial hardship would be worse than a fever and some body aches.
Please listen carefully to what I am trying to communicate… I am not saying that the coronavirus is no big deal and that it’s not something to be concerned about. We need to take recommended precautions, practice hand washing and social distancing along with the other recommended precautions. But we don’t need to kill the economy! The coronavirus is not the black plague. Yes, it is more contagious than the regular flu. Yes if you are health-compromised, or have regular contact with someone who is health-compromised, it is especially a concern for you and you would be wise to take every precaution necessary to avoid getting COVID-19.
But look at the stats… 96% of the people who get the virus get better! 96%! This is not something to be terrified of. It is just something to be cautious about. Should we decimate our economy just so we don’t get a fever? Right now it appears to me that the havoc the coronavirus is having on the economy could be far worse than the coronavirus itself.
Let’s not destroy the entire economy out of fear of something that won’t hurt 96% of us for more than a short time. Be safe, be prudent, protect those around you, look to a brighter future, and eat at restaurants after this cloud passes! Life goes on!
The “Burn Everything” Approach is Foolish!
Closing every restaurant and social contact business in an entire state is a knee jerk reaction which causes more harm than good. Just because Seattle has a lot of illnesses and should be shut down doesn’t mean that the same response applies to Smalltown USA! There are tons of small towns which have no COVID-19 cases and yet the State is mandating that they close shot, stop business, loose money, and perhaps loose their small business when no one in their area even has the virus.
A more prudent solution would be to contain cities which have the virus, restrict travel to/from other cities/towns, and let businesses continue to run if no one in their area has the virus. As of March 23rd only 1.2% of US cases have resulted in death…1.2%! Lets not destroy our economy and drive ourselves into the Great Depression to prevent 1% of the population from dying! FEAR of COVID-19 has become the real Bogeyman .
Businesses need to stay open unless there is a local virus threat. Don’t cause/force small-town American businesses to die because of a virus in big-town America.
Coronavirus Impact on Restaurants Additional Resources:
Not every culinary student out there dreams of becoming a prestigious executive chef in a world-famous restaurant. Many people go to culinary school with the sole purpose of becoming an independent personal chef. So, what is the personal chef job description?
Personal chefs are self-employed entrepreneurs who help people with planning and preparing meals; they also help prepare one-off menus, cook at parties and other special events, help to do grocery shopping, develop special meal plans based on specific dietary needs, and more. The job varies from client to client depending on their different needs and preferences.
Hiring a personal chef may have been considered a luxury in the past, but that’s certainly not the case now. In today’s busy world, it’s quite common for an individual or a family to hire a personal chef to come in once a week and prepare a week’s worth of meals.
As a personal chef, you have the freedom to choose your hours, clients, and salary. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, either. Like with any other job, this profession also has its drawbacks.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of this exciting profession. By the end of this article, you should be able to decide whether or not being a personal chef is a good fit for you.
Personal Chef Job Description -vs- Private Chef
Before we dive any deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of being a personal chef, we have to address a widespread misconception: a personal chef is NOT the same as a private chef.
A private chef works as an employee with only one person or family as a full-time chef. It’s normal for a private chef to live in the same household as the people employing them. They usually prepare up to three meals per day, among other things.
On the other hand, personal chefs work with several clients as independent freelancers. This means that they’re in charge of marketing themselves, covering operational costs, sending out invoices, and all the other “fun stuff” that comes with running your own business. Not to mention, personal chefs rely entirely on themselves to build a steady income.
Most personal chefs work with one client per day. They often get hired to prepare and “flash freeze” a week’s worth of meals, but they may also be in charge of shopping for groceries, creating menus, as well as keeping their clients’ kitchens clean.
A personal chef could be contracted to cover a special event such as a party or a wedding, sometimes with short notice. People with special dietary needs may also hire a personal chef to create menus and prepare meal plans that either they, or other cooks, prepare. In short, a personal chef puts his or her professional expertise at the service of anyone who may be in need of it.
Personal and private chefs have very different roles. Being a personal chef can be an amazing gig, but it is not for everyone. Why is that, and what are the best and worst aspects of being a personal chef? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of being a personal chef! After all, that is what you came to find out, isn’t it?
Pros of Being a Personal Chef
You Get To Be Your Own Boss
Personal chefs may work with several clients to make their monthly income, and they’re usually in charge of marketing and business administration for themselves. They are entrepreneurs, with all the perks and drawbacks that involves.
Business owners get to decide who they work with, how much they’ll charge, the number of hours they’re willing to work each week, and their days off. At least in theory, because often small business owners spend much more time on their business than employees.
However, these are luxuries that are unavailable to the traditional executive chef. They are employees, with scheduling set by a boss and must be available during the hours required by their employment.
Like all freelancers, personal chefs control their potential income by setting their own rates, upsells, and offers. They can choose to do hourly work, or sell packages that bundle services for a lower rate but more consistent work, find retainer clients, or do any combination.
A well-established personal chef in the U.S. can easily charge anywhere between $30-$40 per hour. Of course, if you’re starting out, you’ll have to start with a lower rate to gain traction.
The amount of money you can earn as a personal chef depends on your experience, references, and how well you market your services. Other factors that play into what you can charge are your niche and the location you operate in.
Chefs who work at restaurants don’t usually get the chance to build meaningful relationships with the people who eat their food. On the contrary, a personal chef knows their clients. They must, to create fully customized menus based on their particular preferences and needs.
As a personal chef, you will likely get more reaction to your creations than a restaurant chef would. It’s not uncommon for individuals and families to show a lot of appreciation and love for the person in charge of preparing their daily meals. That’s a serious plus.
Yes, personal chefs need to adapt their cooking to their clients’ preferences and requirements, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be creative. A lot of people want your suggestions and expert advice. Some don’t, and those clients will be very regimented in what they want you to prepare.
If you’re the type of chef who likes to experiment and let their creativity and intuition run free, seek clients who are looking for that. Not only does this job allow you to create unique dishes and combinations (while using your clients’ well-equipped kitchens), but it also provides an excellent opportunity to increase your repertoire of recipes to a whole new level.
Autonomy and Variability
Does the idea of a busy kitchen with many chefs of varying hierarchies, kitchen staffers, and waiters annoy or bore you?
If working in an enclosed space with people running around all over the place and yelling out instructions for hours makes you twitch, you should probably consider becoming a personal chef.
A personal chef can enjoy the tranquility and quietude of a home kitchen, usually with little-to-no people around. You certainly don’t have anyone yelling out instructions at you, and you get to decide the processes and techniques to be used when preparing meals.
Travel & Exclusivity
It’s common for personal chefs who work with wealthy people to get invited to travel with them. A lot of celebrities and wealthy people hire personal chefs to cook for them all the time.
Personal chefs who work in high-end markets and who keep their clients happy are often presented with opportunities to work at exclusive events, travel to different parts of the world, and meet interesting and famous people.
All of this while doing something they love. More often than not, personal chefs get to work in dreamy kitchens. Sometimes, they even get to harvest high-quality ingredients and herbal teas or ingredients from their clients’ organic gardens.
Cons of Being a Personal Chef
You’ll Need Liability Insurance
Photo by Siavash Ghanbari from Unsplash
There are a lot of things that can go wrong while you’re cooking and storing meals in someone else’s home or workplace. If you damage a house, someone’s equipment, or if your clients fall ill as a result of eating your food, you’ll be an easy target for lawsuits and claims against you.
If you don’t have public liability insurance to help you resolve such claims, your reputation, and future work opportunities will be at risk.
Public liability insurance is a crucial business expense that every professional personal chef should cover.
It’s Physically Demanding
A chef is a chef, and everyone knows that chefs have to be on their feet for long periods of time. It’s just one of those things that can’t be avoided.
The personal chef job description is, by no means, an exception to this rule. The physical activity that comes with the job can be just as intense as traditional restaurant kitchen work. However, most private kitchens do not have anti-fatigue matting like many restaurants do.
If you’re thinking about starting a personal chef business, make sure to buy non-slip shoes and anti-fatigue matting to reduce the strain on your back and feet as much as possible.
Clients Can Be Tough
Yes, you’ll get to learn lots of diets and cooking styles as a personal chef, but that only comes as a result of overcoming tough challenges. Personal interaction with your clients comes with a downside… negative reactions.
You have to remember that there are all kinds of people in the world, from extremely delicate allergies and other health conditions to very unusual and hard-to-decipher tastes, as well as people who are simply difficult to work with.
Like any other job, personal chefs don’t always have it easy, and they have to get out of their comfort zone to further develop their professional skills.
After analyzing these pros and cons, you should be able to get a broader view of what the personal chef job description is really like.
Sure, you get to run your own business and have a lot of control over who you work with and how much you earn, but you also have to take care of everything that comes with running a business and learn a lot about food safety and special diets.
What do you think? Do you feel that being a personal chef is the right thing for you? Let us know in the comments!
Author’s Bio – Megan J. Howard
After she had to quit her job as a teacher in 2016 due to osteoarthritis, Megan started her freelance writing career specialising in online learning copy. As she was researching many topics around arthritis, she decided to partner up with a long-time friend and built Find my Footwear. She spends her days writing, binging reality fashion series and hunting down the best stinky cheeses in town. FindMyFootwear.com
Restaurant POS Software: 11 Must-Have Features for Chefs
October 23, 2019
With all the hustle and bustle of a dinner rush, your restaurant staff can get overwhelmed, especially your chefs.
Many restaurants purchase their POS software based on the needs of their customers and their employees who interact with customers, like cashiers and servers. However, few recognize the importance of considering system usability for their chefs, as well.
Your cooks are one of your business’s most important assets, if not the most important asset. They drive your customers’ experiences, so they shouldn’t have to waste their time with a clunky or unintuitive POS system that prevents them from doing their job.
Picking the right software can be difficult, so be aware of helpful features that can improve your business. When shopping for the best point-of-sale software for your restaurant, look out for the following necessary features for chefs:
Detailed Product Reports
Accessible Online Sales
Customer Order History
Reliable, Customizable Hardware
Stock Transfers Between Stores
Quality Customer Service
Without your chefs, your restaurant couldn’t operate. Cooks are your restaurant’s leaders and need all the help they can get to run an efficient kitchen. Focus on making their experience just as good as your customers’ experiences, and your kitchen staff will be thankful!
If you need a quick refresher on the basics of restaurant POS systems and how they differ from retail platforms, check out this guide.
1. Speedy Interface
An intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate and use quickly is arguably the best feature in a point-of-sale system. When you have a Friday night dinner rush, a laggy system is your worst nightmare. Many of these systems rely on your internet bandwidth speed, so if you have slow internet, you’ll have a slow POS system, too.
Oftentimes, if your system isn’t processing properly (e.g. running slowly), there’s likely a network problem. To resolve this, try resetting your router. If the issue persists, it may be a problem with your POS system. Start by regularly updating your system, and if the problem continues, it may be time to upgrade to a new POS system provider.
All systems should be designed with efficiency in mind, but not all systems are. Your system should save time, not interrupt your workflow. When deciding on a new system, find out if it’s a local hardwired type, wifi-based, or both. From there, pick the type that will easily integrate in your restaurant’s daily operations.
2. Easy Management
Your point-of-sale system should work with you, not against you. There are hundreds of features out there, but if you choose software that offers features that you don’t really need, your workspace will be cluttered. A cluttered system makes it more challenging to find the features you do need, which is especially true when you’re on a time crunch.
Your system should allow you to complete basic tasks, like:
Send tickets to the kitchen
Limit which tickets/items the kitchen, bar, etc. need to receive
Update the menu
When your system is easy to use, your chefs can see exactly what they need when they need it. They won’t have to deal with excessive amounts of paper orders and can have all the information condensed onto one device.
Tip: To test a specific system, most software offers a free trial. That way you can test its functionality with your own staff and see if it’s a good fit.
3. Inventory Control
If your software offers inventory management, there’s no excuse not to use it. Chefs can update inventory as they go, so servers won’t have to step away from customers to check on the remaining stock in the kitchen.
When you have low-stock notifications, your cooks can save time by not needing to reiterate the low inventory to multiple servers when they place customers’ orders for unavailable dishes. This increases efficiency and improves the relationship between your cooks and servers.
Your kitchen should keep track of ingredients and raw goods, and doing it via a POS system is much quicker than by hand. Some systems even have the ability to give nutritional analysis and provide current ingredient pricing, allowing for smoother recipe and menu management.
Having the option to update menu items is also beneficial for your cooks, but some software requires all workstations to be restarted to see these changes, slowing down your staff. Look for an intuitive system that immediately shows these updates.
4. Detailed Product Reports
When you’re revamping your menu or creating a seasonal menu, you’ll want quick access to the best- and worst-selling menu items at specific times of the day, week, and year. A sales report does exactly this and helps you determine which ingredients the kitchen should stock up on or cut back on.
Choose a system that allows for custom reporting. That way, you can cut back on additional features you don’t need and zone in on your desired statistics. Some systems even allow you to toggle between numerical data and visual data like charts.
When you have a system that offers customizable, in-depth sales reports, your kitchen can find areas of improvement in their menu. You’ll boost sales and customer satisfaction.
5. Secure Mobility
You want sleek, mobile registers for seamless transactions, but what about mobility for your kitchen? Your kitchen staff will want to be able to pick up and go as they fill orders. You don’t want them wasting time going back and forth between a stationary list of orders and their workstation.
For instance, if you can use mobile devices like tablets, your chefs can quickly reference order tickets and move to different workstations with ease. They’ll also be able to instantly reference and update inventory counts as they go! Your entire restaurant should run seamlessly, which means having a mobile kitchen instead of once that’s slowed down by fixed terminals.
Restaurants often run into the issue of synchronizing their online sales with their day-to-day operations. Instead of being greeted by angry customers whose online orders haven’t been fulfilled, you should have a POS that directly notifies your kitchen of incoming online orders.
Your software should integrate your online orders and in-person orders. Orders should correctly pull up based on a customer’s pickup time. On the customer’s end, you want a positive user experience, so make sure your system’s reliable and that no orders fall through the cracks.
All too often, customers get frustrated with making a purchase online and end up canceling their orders because of poor user experience. Swoop’s article on shopping cart abandonment highlights how these issues can be better addressed with the right approach to user experience on your website.
7. Customer Order History
When you have quick access to specific customers’ order histories in a customer database, you know who’s buying what and when. This allows you to better market your products and allows your cooks to prepare the right items at the right time.
By comparing customers’ order history and your detailed product reports, your chefs will know what they’re doing right and which dishes they can improve on or eliminate.
8. Reliable, Customizable Hardware
If your chefs are in the middle of preparing meals for dozens of hungry customers, the last thing you want is for your hardware to shut down on them. Some POS companies offer devices, like tablets, you can use with your system while others allow you to use your own devices.
Whichever route you take, make sure it’s reliable. Choose a system that allows users to customize their view and allows you to restrict employees’ access based on their position. That way, your chefs won’t be stuck staring at payment information while they’re trying to serve up meals.
9. Stock Transfers Between Stores
If you have multiple stores, inventory transfers can be a pain to keep up with. If you have a system that’s integrated between multiple locations, it should allow you to control inventory and view which inventory is located at which location.
With a POS system that offers inventory management, your chef will be able to evaluate current inventory and decide whether transferring a product to another store is feasible. With an online system, your kitchen staff will be able to read these stats in real-time, instead of having to set aside time to assess inventory or having to guess as to how much stock can be transferred without hurting their own restaurant’s operation.
It can be frustrating for chefs to get halfway through preparing a meal, only to realize the ingredients they need aren’t even there. Your waiters will then have to inform customers that their order can’t be fulfilled, leaving servers embarrassed and customers angry. Don’t put your cooks, servers, and customers in this position.
10. Comprehensive Training
When you’re properly trained on your system, you get the most bang for your buck. Not all systems come with training, so ask before purchasing. While some POS companies offer a trainer that works with you remotely or onsite, others have basic training videos posted online.
When you have adequate training that suits your staff, your chefs won’t have to waste time teaching new kitchen staff on how to use your sales system. This will give your chefs more time to serve customers and properly manage their kitchen.
11. Quality Customer Support
If your system malfunctions, you’ll want an effective customer support team for your system on your side. Otherwise, you’ll be facing the backlash of dozens of angry customers and an overwhelmed kitchen staff trying to fulfill unorganized handwritten orders.
Every system has its hiccups, so make sure your POS software provider has helpful, efficient customer support. Verify that they have 24/7 support, so your staff can contact them whenever something goes wrong.
Tip: When researching POS systems, don’t call the sales number first; call the support number first. That way, you can gauge how they’ll respond in the event your POS shuts down on you.
When choosing a restaurant POS system, there are several features you’ll want to consider to keep things running smoothly and quickly.
Remember you want a speedy, easy-to-manage system that can connect with reliable devices. Make sure your software offers online sales, order history, and stock transfers between stores.
Inventory control and sales reports can help you identify your best- and worst-selling menu items, so chefs can adjust accordingly. To run a seamless kitchen, choose a system that offers comprehensive training and 24/7 support, too!
Keep your chefs in mind when choosing your new system, because they’re one of your strongest assets and drive your business!
Digital Tools that allow Chefs to spend more time in the Kitchen
A chef’s role and responsibilities are increasingly diverse. A chef is largely responsible for the success a restaurant experiences. It’s a tough job and often a frantic one.
Chefs get into the business for the thrill of the fast paced environment and ideas conception, of course. Let’s not forget that a chef also gets into the business because they love to cook and prepare a variety of cuisines. The bigger the restaurant operation grows, the less time a chef gets to spend in their kitchen.
Developing and planning new menus
Train and manage the kitchen staff
Monitoring safety standards
With this in mind, let’s explore the digital tools available to chefs to alleviate some of the workload.
What’s a restaurant without diners? One of the key areas in which all restaurants will need to continue to thrive in, is customer retention and loyalty. The goal of course is to increase the number of visits a diner makes.
Social media is a fantastic tool to build brand awareness and drive direct bookings. Instagram has one of the largest ‘foodie’ communities. Investing time in social media will improve not only awareness, but loyalty. This is a free platform to tell your story.
Communicate new dishes and menus, menus of the day and the personality of your restaurant. Social media allows you to add a fun factor to your online personality.
There are a number of ways to harness the powers of social media. Invest in competitions to encourage engagement and growth, tell your story through beautiful imagery and allow your diners to do the talking for you. It is a fantastic platform for feedback and word of mouth.
There are a number of reservation software platforms to choose from in the marketplace right now. Which one you choose will largely depend on budget, demographic of your customer and the technology you have available to you in your restaurant.
Consider the impact that fees will have on your margins and the level of marketing investment an online booking platform will make to support your business.
Most reservations software will also allow you to store important information including allergens and dietary requirements, special occasions and requests, as well as repeat bookings.
We briefly touched upon it, but the right reservation software will also double up as a marketing platform. Each online booking tool comes with its own vast database of regular diners. Another important opportunity to drive further business to your restaurant.
Inventory Management Software
Inventory management software allows very little room for errors. The system allows the chef to manage and monitor the food inventory, as well as track sales and cash flow. A great management software will also help to simplify the arduous task of bookkeeping.
Chefs can manage budget planning for food costs, as well as for new menus through the software – and identify most and least profitable items.
From both a margins perspective and ethical standpoint, the tool also has the ability to identify the level of food waste on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. Chef will be able to see just how much stock is left and what needs to be reordered.
Investing in this software will give chef the opportunity to upskill team members and hand over responsibility with little to no risk to the business. If that isn’t enough, you’re also able to run reports in minutes – without the hours of data entry.
Restaurants continue to move towards digital investment, as the rewards become more prevalent. What we must remember however, is that technology will not take away the need for the time invested in checks and balances.
A great chef has an inspired and skilled team, an innovative menu that is ahead of the curve and a full restaurant. These tools are designed to help with this process. Utilizing all that they have to offer will ultimately alleviate time. Time that can be reinvested in people, customer service and future innovation.
Gear for Chefs now available at our new online store Chefs Resources Merch!
Chef’s Resources gear for chefs is finally available at our new online store! Over the past few years we have had requests for us to turn some of our MEMEs and kitchen charts into posters to hang in your kitchens. It’s been a long time coming but we have finally found a company which will produce our gear on an order by order basis, meaning we do not have stock inventory, they will simply make it as soon as it is ordered. Check-out our new store at Chefs-Resources-Merch.com!
Chef gear includes a variety of mise en place posters to motivate your staff including “mise en place…ethos of the professional kitchen” and “mise en place…being able to tell that bitch Murphy’s Law to sit the #$!%@ down!” Posters are a available in a variety of sizes both in simple pin up versions and in higher quality framed versions.
Popular useful kitchen charts include “Wild Mushroom Foraging Seasons”, “Wild Foraged Produce Seasons“, “Disher Scoop Sizes & Volumes”, “Steamtable Pan Sizes & Capacities”, “Restaurant Can Sizes” and more. These are perfect to hang on the wall for reference for your crew, or in your office to help with planning menus according to the season.
And of course we have the obligatory coffee cups, water bottles, t-shirts, and utility bags for the small gear for chefs such as tweezers, peelers, oyster knives, sharpie markers, etc.
Tell me some of your favorite kitchen phrases which you would like to see on a T-shirt or poster. Some of my favorites include “Go cry in the walk-in”, “Don’t touch my mise”, and “Six stitches to go home early.”
If there is gear that you would like to see us carry, or a favorite kitchen phrase you’d like to see put on a T-shirt or poster, leave a comment below!
Pricing a menu is tricky business: price dishes too high, and you’ll turn off patrons. Price it too low and you’ll cut deep into your profit margins. It’s a skill to find that delicate balance, but here are some tips to help you with your restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy.
Start By Understanding Your Food Costs
Your foundation begins by determining food costs. Each ingredient you purchase for your menu has a per-dish cost, which may vary depending on supply and demand or season. Pull your recipe apart, ingredient by ingredient. And don’t overlook anything, including a tablespoon of olive oil or a sprinkling of salt. These may seem insignificant costs, but they add up across all dishes.
Watermelon doesn’t come cheap in the winter…if it can be found at all. As you’re building your menu, realize that some ingredients are seasonal. You have a decision here: offer the dish only when the produce is in season or replace that ingredient with another (risotto is a great platform for whatever is in season).
You can also factor the seasonal fluctuations in price for that ingredient into the price you set for the menu year ‘round. Rather than raising the price of that tomato salad in the winter by $1, you can offset the expected price increase for the dish throughout the year.
Check Out Local Competitors’ Pricing
There’s nothing wrong with doing a little research: find out what nearby restaurants are charging for similar dishes. If you can match or beat the price, you’ll be assured of plenty of business. Charge too much above the competition, and you’ll risk losing customers based on price.
Understand Each Dish’s Potential Profit
One key component of your restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy is to understand margin. Not every dish will have the same profit margin. High-end cuts of meat like steak can be marked up 50% above cost, but salads, appetizers, and desserts can be marked up as much as 80% or more. The strategy here is to sell the items with more margin. Even though your salads & desserts may have a better food cost percentage than your steaks, you will make more more from the steaks, albeit at a higher food cost percentage.
Factor in Other Costs
Beyond food costs, you also have to cover your staff’s payroll, overhead, marketing, utilities, et cetera. Factor in a little extra to help cover these costs when pricing dishes for your menu on top of your profit margin to ensure that not only can you pay your expenses, but you also have enough to cover your other expenses.
Get a Pricing Strategy
Now that you’ve got a general idea of what to set prices at for dishes on your menu, it’s time to employ a little psychology. Don’t end your prices with .99. Patrons prefer whole dollars. If you run a higher-end restaurant business, don’t use the $ sign. It’s understood.
Feature dishes that you struggle to sell by highlighting them on the menu or having your wait staff list them as the daily special. This is a great way to get rid of ingredients that will go to waste in a few days if they aren’t used.
Be Cautious When Raising Prices
Once you’ve set menu prices, pause before raising them again soon. People become used to your prices and may balk at paying even $1 more. If you do plan to raise prices, let customers know, especially if something like an egg shortage in your area has impacted what you pay for ingredients. You can always lower prices if you aren’t seeing sales as high of a particular dish as you’d like, or put it on special for a week to test out a lower price first.
Be aware of pricing “ceilings”. Most guests won’t notice a price increase from $26 to $27, but increasing it from $29 to $30 will be more noticeable psychologically. Price ceilings are typically crossing the increments of 10 (10, 20, 30 etc).
Pay Attention to Your Menu Sales Mix
Your menu’s sales mix is something that will change over time, but tracking sales of each menu item can help you better strategize your profitability.
Naturally, you want to maximize the Stars on your menu — those items that are in high demand and that have high profitability. Dogs, however, have low profitability and demand, so you should consider removing them from the menu.
Include a mix of Plowhorses, which have low profitability but high demand (they may drive business into your restaurant, but you’ll attract diners to other menu items while they’re there).
When it comes to Puzzles, those menu items with high profitability but low demand, do some experimenting to see if you can increase sales of them. Lowering the price or featuring these menu items as daily specials can boost sales.
Pricing your menu items isn’t a simple process. But having a solid restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy is key to being successful. Take your time to ensure you find the perfect price that will help you sell many dishes and still make a profit. restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy
Love to Cook? 6 Science Careers That Could be a Recipe for Success
Food science is a rapidly growing industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The duties you perform depend on the position you accept. Everyone needs to eat! If you love cooking and food but also want to enjoy a career in the scientific sphere, have a look at these six awesome and rewarding career alternatives for chefs.
1. Meat scientist
As a meat scientist, you must understand the principles of biology, physiology and nutrition that make animals grow and be able to relate this to meat quality.
Meat scientists are well-versed in science, but they also have a great deal of practical experience. It is not a science entirely based in the laboratory. Research in meat science ranges from animal growth and development through fresh meats and processed and manufactured meat products.
Being familiar with factors from livestock management and welfare through to understanding how meat is processed and branded is essential to this role.
Meat scientists are involved in researching a wide variety of projects to increase production or to bring about new products. Some meat scientists study artificial meat grown in cultures, and you may be working with protein hydrolysis and how you can use enzymes to increase meat flavor and quality.
Most employers require a degree in meat science.
2. Bakery scientist
Baking has been around for centuries. Baked products vary in complexity from very simple pastries to cakes with a long list of ingredients and techniques involved in their creation.
As a bakery scientist, you will need to know about all the chemistry that goes into our baked goods–what role each ingredient has, how they work and what methods are involved.
There has been a rapid progression in the baking industry, and consumers have shown a preference for natural products. This has led to an increase in the use of enzymes within this sector. We now use enzymes to replace chemicals, and you will need to know how they can best benefit your business.
Bakery science involves the study of grains and cereals and how we can manipulate them to our advantage, so you will become familiar with the different production processes.
You will also hone your baking skills and work on some amazing new products and may be involved in modifying existing product lines. Business management is also essential to a bakery scientist because you must learn how economic trends might impact this business. Knowledge and implementation of government regulations and production guidelines will represent another aspect of your job.
A broad range of degrees is accepted in this field from bakery science and management to fermentation studies. There are a variety of jobs this role encompasses, such as a food chemistry researcher to work in a food processing plant.
3. Technical brewer
Do you enjoy a beer or two? Well, this is the ideal career alternative for chefs who love beer! You will have a hands-on role in the brewing process but will also be involved in the technical formulation of beers and possibly play a management role as well. Brewing is similar to baking in that it has been around for centuries, and we enjoy beer all around the world. It also starts with cereal grains and science, just like baking.
Your work as a technical brewer will mean you manage the entire beer-making process from grain through to the finished and bottled product, working with your team to produce high quality and consistent product.
Thorough knowledge of the science underlying the brewing process and the ability to make improvements to it is required. An example of this would be that in recent years the use of enzymes in breweries and craft distilleries has increased to address issues such as low extract yields and flavor. You would be the person responsible for implementing their use and charting progress.
What will the role involve?
Manage the staff who work on the production of beer, including the technicians.
Responsible for the raw materials that go into the beer, including wheat and hops.
Safety and smooth running of the brewing plant.
Thinking up new products, recipes, and flavors.
If a large brewery employs you, it is more likely you will only be involved in one smaller aspect of the entire process. In a microbrewery, you might be overseeing the entire operation.
Your day-to-day responsibilities will depend on the type of brewery you work for and how specialized your role is, but it will include the following range of tasks:
Ensure the beer is brewing correctly and all parameters are routinely recorded–e.g., temperature. Adjust the process as needed.
Design and formulate new products for specific markets or seasonal beers such as for the holidays.
Understand new technology and procedures and how to implement them.
Work with suppliers to ensure good relationships. Find new suppliers as necessary.
Manage resources and the workforce.
Maintenance and cleaning of all the brewery equipment.
Budget and stock control.
Keeping accurate inventories.
A typical degree for this role might be applied to chemistry, food science or biological science. Oregon State University offers a degree in the science of fermentation, and there are one-year certificate programs and shorter twenty-week master brewer programs at around 10 universities, including Central Michigan, San Diego State University and Auburn University.
As you progress in your career, you might be able to gain chartered scientist (CHsi) status. You will need to have worked in the field for around four years and have successfully completed ongoing continuing professional development (CPD).
4. Food technologist
Your job is to ensure the food products that end up on the plates of the consumers are produced within safety and legal guidelines. Keeping abreast of the vast number of ever-changing guidelines and regulations is key to this job.
Discovering new recipes and food concepts is also part of your job. Perhaps rethinking manufacturing processes to make them fit around new products or to make them more efficient might be part of your duties.
You might be working as part of the research and development (R&D) developing new items. Food technologists need to modify existing foods to create new versions such as low-fat or gluten-free versions.
Depending on the sector you work in, you may be dealing with customer complaints to determine what issues there are with the food products and how you can rectify these problems.
A sensory scientist plays the role of a connection between the research and development department and the consumer. It is their job to find out exactly what the consumers are looking for in their food purchases. They can give technical recommendations because of their extensive knowledge of food chemistry. It is important they keep abreast of current advancements in the field and network with other colleagues and experts.
Sensory science has become more cutting-edge than the free samples they used to offer in malls. Generally, the sensory scientist works in partnership with product development and is responsible for conceiving, completing, analyzing and reporting a plethora of tests involved in consumer research. They can make the difference between the R&D department launching a successful product or a flop.
To become a sensory scientist, you will likely need a PhD in Food Science. You will also need a strong background in statistics, communications skills and business acumen. You might also need some good persuasion techniques to win over company executives!
6. Cereal scientist
Plants, including wheat, rice and corn, are classified as cereals. The grains that cereals produce is the foundation for the global food supply. This makes cereals a hugely important food for both humans and for animals, which are also part of our food chain. The availability of food worldwide would be drastically affected without cereal.
As a cereal scientist, you will study everything cereal! You will study how they grow, what their composition is, how their growth affects nutrition, their structure and how they transform under different conditions.
This field of study and research is continually expanding because cereals are so vital to our lives. This discipline encompasses a range of careers.
Your job may be testing cereals to determine their biochemistry. This would be their levels of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and enzymes. Alternatively, you could be involved in food production such as the manufacture of pasta or beer brewing.
A deep understanding of cereals and their make-up is necessary because the cereal scientist may be involved in product development or quality assurance.
Universities and the government undertake a great deal of research on cereal grains due to its massive importance. This research might involve developing new types and strains of cereal plants while working with the agricultural sector. It might be working to increase the nutritional yield of cereals that we already grow with success.
Not many universities offer education as a cereal scientist. Most scientists in this field qualify as food scientists or have qualifications in chemistry, biochemistry or agriculture.
There are many options for chefs who wish to turn their food passion into a science career. As technology grows and evolves so will the career alternatives for chefs.
Foraged Foods Becoming Commonplace in US Restaurants
Food trends are some of the fastest-changing in the world. In 2018 alone chefs have had to contend with everything from pickling, fermenting and veganism to nootropics, booze-free beverages and homemade condiments. Another trend that is becoming more commonplace across the globe is foraging which may sound suspiciously similar to hunting-gathering but does not entail giving up your day job to live in the wilderness.
Although it is true that a few chefs have been using foraged produce for decades, it has now become a food trend rather than a rarity. In fact, an increasing number of chefs in the USA are making regular use of foraged ingredients to set their menus apart from their competitors’. In order to have a better understanding of the role of foraging within the restaurant industry, it is important to take a closer look at how and why to include foraged ingredients on a menu as well as examining the increasing popularity of the trend.
Reasons to include foraged food on your menu
By searching for fruit, vegetables, herbs, and roots in the wild yourself (or by making use of a professional foraging service) you will be able to offer your patrons a unique dining experience and simultaneously contribute towards the well-being of the environment. Not only are indigenous crops generally more drought-resistant but your carbon footprint will also be significantly reduced due to there being a very short traveling distance between the farm and the restaurant. Foraged produce also contain significantly more nutrients as they tend to be less exposed to harmful chemicals than their commercially-farmed counterparts.
Cooking with foraged food
There are countless ways in which you can prepare your foraged foods and present them to your diners. On a colder day, you can prepare a fragrant slow-cooked dish or gather your pots and pans and make a delicious wintery broth filled with freshly-foraged vegetables and herbs. As a chef you are more than qualified to create tantalizing dishes using an array of foraged ingredients including wild mushrooms, nettles, sorrel, squash blossoms, and goosetongue. Don’t limit yourself to conventional cooking either as you can create delicious syrups, sauces, pickles, and condiments such as fennel sauerkraut, elderberry syrup, green onion kimchi, and walnut ketchup from your foraged produce.
How popular has foraging become?
There are a number of restaurants across the USA that have actively incorporated foraged food into their offerings. Chef Eddy Leroux of Restaurant Daniel in New York works closely with a professional forager to acquire wild shoots, stems, leaves and petals to create mind-blowing dishes such as wild herb ravioli and dandelion flower tempura. Another chef who frequently makes use of foraged ingredients is Dan Barber from Blue Hill Stone Barns, also in New York, who went as far as to start his own seed company to ensure that he always has access to the freshest produce. He also has his team of chefs forage for ingredients and allows his geese to forage for figs, lupin bush seeds and acorns instead of force-feeding them.
And on Lummi Island in Washington Chef Blaine Wetzel at the Willows Inn has gained an impressive reputation for having his staff forage for local greens, berries, mushrooms, and seaweed as well as growing much of his produce.
Finding foraged products
As noble as it may be to forage for your own ingredients, it is not always practical. This is exactly why there are an increasing number of vendors offering their foraging services across the USA. While most states are home to a number of fresh produce markets that sell foraged produce, there are also numerous online stores that can be utilized for your convenience. Foraged & Found is an organization that supplies a number of the country’s most renowned restaurants as well as countless home cooks with foraged berries, wild greens, mushrooms and tea. Apart from having an online store, they also sell their produce at various markets in and around Seattle. If you find yourself on the East Coast, you can enlist the services of Regalis Foods who pride themselves on their exquisite variety of foraged ingredients.
One of the most important factors to consider when making use of foraged foods is their seasonality. While there are certain edibles such as mushrooms that are available year-round, others, including persimmons, chestnuts and asparagus are a lot more seasonal and are only available fresh during certain parts of the year. If you want to include foraged foods on your menu it is imperative to be very knowledgeable with regards to the seasonal availability of your local foraged produce. You can benefit greatly by printing out a foraging calendar or visiting a reputable online site that can supply you with accurate and relevant information.
Flavor profiles of foraged foods
While it has already been determined that foraged foods are more nutrient-dense than their store-bought counterparts, it is important to also understand the differences (and similarities) in flavor profiles. Wild watercress, for example, is known to have a lot more flavor than the supermarket variety while salmonberries can be most closely compared to gooseberries and raspberries. If you are looking for a foraged substitute to onion and garlic, you can make use of three-cornered leeks which has a very similar taste profile. Wild plantains look a lot like regular bananas but have a firmer texture that is quite starchy. When ripe they are sweet in flavor and can be prepared in a similar fashion as regular supermarket bananas. These are just a few examples of foraged foods and how they compare to commercially-purchased produce. The best way to draw similar comparisons is to either experiment yourself or to conduct further research on the topic.
Always remember to be safe while foraging. Don’t trespass on private property and make sure everything you bring back to the restaurant is, in fact, edible. If you can adhere to these basic guidelines your foraging can give you a nifty competitive advantage while presenting you with the opportunity to put your dish creativity skills to the test.
There are few, if any, professions that have stood the test of the time, unchanged and unaltered by modernity. The career path of a chef has more options today than in years past. Technology and cultural influences force all things to naturally evolve or become obsolete–think switchboard operators.
Fortunately for the culinary industry, food is at the heart of everything we do as human beings. The way we obsess, glorify and think about our meals has undoubtedly taken on a new dimension in the twenty-first century; fueling a desire for creativity, innovation and a demand for higher standards of food quality, presentation and overall dining experience.
If your ambition is to carve out a successful career as a chef, there are now more opportunities and avenues to pursue than ever before; however, while there are certainly many ways to claim the head chef title, there is consensus about one thing: you have to be prepared to eat a lot of humble pie on your way there.
Learning on the job
The temptation to bypass the academic approach of entering the cheffing profession is understandable and in some cases more gainful. Not everyone can afford to attend elite institutions or take time out from earning a salary to enter full-time education. Also, some individuals learn better through experience and observation in fast-paced environments than they would in a more academic set up.
Learning on the job exposes you to the real dynamics of a kitchen from the onset so that you can develop more robust skills while building your network and acquiring mentors from the early stages of your career.
There are three things to consider if you choose this approach:
There are no shortcuts – If you want to distinguish yourself as a chef, you will have to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of kitchen life. The only way to do that is to pay your dues. You will most likely start out as a commis chef or apprentice, chiefly concerned with food prep, cleaning and running errands. Showing that you are a dependable team player will go a long way to helping you work your way up from here.
Low pay – Depending on your location, the starting salaries at the bottom of the rung can be relatively low. The experience and qualifications you are able to gain on the job will determine how quickly you progress up the pay scale.
Sharp adjustment – For someone with no prior training or work experience, the long and demanding hours will undoubtedly take some getting used to. You need to ensure that you are a resilient and driven individual to keep motivated in this position.
Formal education is one of the best ways to enrich your knowledge of the industry, its requirements and most importantly, yourself in relation to all of these things. When you enroll on a catering course, you should expect to be provided with the tools, experiences and time to ruminate on your strengths and weaknesses – this is particularly helpful if you’d like to specialize in a specific cuisine or aspect of the profession. Many employers will value your achievements and experience, placing you in a better position to negotiate salary and progression.
On a culinary course, you will not only learn about food preparation, preservation, storage, science and hygiene; you will also explore elements of business management, marketing, leadership and research, making you a more well-rounded prospect for future employers.
Like everything else in life, you will get out what you put in. Some top chefs and restaurant owners have mixed opinions about the worth of a culinary degree or certification, but if you use your time wisely, make the most of the resources available to you and cultivate a determined work ethic, you will not only walk away with a degree or certificate, but also a well-developed resume or CV.
Something else worth considering when deliberating whether to get an official culinary qualification is whether you have ambitions to travel and work in different countries. Having accreditation will often be very useful when applying for certain overseas positions and, subsequently, the visas required to work in those countries.
Lastly, when choosing a culinary school, you need to make sure that you are making a worthwhile investment.
Here are three crucial things to look out for when choosing a culinary school:
What is the feedback from current and past students? Are their alumni working in similar roles and establishments to the ones you aspire to? If this information is scarce, outdated or mostly negative, this may not be the school for you.
Does the school have a good rapport with local restaurants and does it offer its students hands-on practical experience?
What is the experience and caliber of the faculty staff? Do they inspire creativity, encourage learning and what do they bring to the table in terms of know-how?
Assuming that you are striving for the highest post, you will have to carefully map out your journey to get there. However, you shouldn’t let being strategic overshadow the importance of fostering good relationships and building up an appropriate length of work experience in any given kitchen.
It can be tricky deciding on the best time to spread your wings and move on to a higher level position. Your next step will largely be determined by your abilities and experience.
Unless you have been taking on contract work, your resume or CV needs to demonstrate that you are, above all else, reliable.
In an industry that demands a lot of dedication, employers will not be keen to invest training hours into someone who flits from one establishment to another every year or couple of months. Particularly while you are in the beginning stages of your career – commis chef, chef de partie – don’t scrimp on the opportunity to hone your skills and master your craft.
As you assume more responsibility in roles such as sous chef and, eventually, executive chef, you will begin to seek out positions that offer either better pay and working conditions or more opportunities for creative expression. Either way, you will have to commit to at least two years in a new kitchen to establish yourself and make a worthwhile investment in your career progress.
With all of this in mind, it’s also crucial to recognize when you are being siloed and move on before your name becomes too synonymous with one kind of restaurant, cuisine or level of capability. Growth is key to self-fulfillment, and you will have to choose wisely when accepting new positions or preferring to stay where you are.
Camaraderie is a word that often bounces around in the culinary vernacular. That’s probably because jobs in this industry genuinely require a one for all and all for one mentality. All roles are usually interdependent and directly affect the stress levels of one another. Being able to communicate and anticipate the needs of everyone, from the kitchen to front of house staff is essential.
When you start your new role, tread carefully before beginning to enforce your ideas, opinions and suggestions on how you think things should be done. Study your co-workers and superiors; anticipate when they might need your help and establish yourself as an approachable, trustworthy member of the team. Every kitchen will have its own personality, idiosyncrasies and best practices – you don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way by harping on about how you did things at your previous job.
Ultimately, the best advice when taking on a new role is to remind yourself of your goals and where you’d like to be in the future; then, align your intentions with your actions and be willing and open to learning at every level.
It’s not just about the destination
When choosing to work in this business, you need to really know what drives and motivates you. Negativity and poor work ethic can really destroy a kitchen and, ultimately, the establishment that kitchen caters to.
If you are passionate about working with food, the best way to find the most effective starting point for you is to get experience. Whether it’s through volunteering, taking on a low-level kitchen job or a short course, getting a taste for the environment is key.
Knowing how you learn and what drives you will help you to determine whether advanced training or learning on the job will be a more productive option for you. What matters most is that you choose a path which will keep you inspired but also present you with the opportunities to grow.