Working as a chef is an exciting career choice. There are several ways you can go about becoming a professional chef, each with its own benefits. If you're interested in becoming a chef, starting off as an apprentice may help you achieve your career goals. In this article, we discuss how chef apprenticeships work along with how to become one.
What are chef apprenticeships?
A chef apprenticeship is a combination of education and on-the-job training in which students learn how to prepare food and manage a professional kitchen. Many culinary apprenticeships require no previous experience, so they're ideal for beginners. In a chef apprenticeship program, a program manager typically assigns students to sponsor kitchens. This kitchen could be at a restaurant, adult living community or some other foodservice operation. It's in this kitchen that the student receives their on-the-job training. In addition to this training, the student also receives formal classroom instruction.
Chef apprenticeship programs can vary in length but typically provide between 4,000 and 6,000 hours of on-the-job training and over 400 hours of educational instruction. Students commonly complete these hours over two to three years. In many of these programs, students receive a salary along with their education.
Related: Learn About Being a Chef
What can I learn as an apprentice chef?
While working as an apprentice chef, you can expect to learn about a wide range of topics related to operating a professional kitchen. Some common topics of instruction include:
- Basic principles of nutrition
- Correct handling and storage of food
- Proper hygiene protocols
- Fundamental culinary skills, such as food preparation and presentation
- Key strategies for kitchen or restaurant management
Types of chef apprenticeships
When you become an apprentice chef, you can decide to work for a specific type of chef. Doing so allows you to gain more knowledge about a particular area of culinary studies. Here are some types of chef apprenticeships:
Food preparation: In this type of apprenticeship, you can learn to prepare a wide variety of different foods, including meat, pasta, vegetables, fish and soups.
Baking and pastry: As a baking and pastry apprentice, you may learn to create foods such as cakes, muffins, cookies and other desserts.
Hospitality and catering: In this type of apprenticeship, chef apprentices typically focus on preparing meals and buffets for different events.
Food and drink: As a food and drink apprentice, you may prepare drinks such as alcoholic beverages or coffees.
Butchery and meat processing: As a butchery and meat processing apprentice, you may concentrate on preparing and cutting different types of meat.
How to become a chef apprentice
Those interested in joining a chef apprenticeship program can follow the four steps below:
1. Graduate from high school
Most chef apprenticeship positions require applicants to be at least 17 years old and a high school graduate. An equivalent degree such as the GED is also typically acceptable. While apprentice programs may not require candidates to take specific courses during high school, chefs often recommend that aspiring apprentices take courses related to cooking.
2. Find an apprenticeship program
Many organizations in the U.S. offer chef apprenticeship programs, including the American Culinary Foundation. On this organization's website, you can search for programs located in your state. The website also provides a list of programs along with the person to contact for that particular program. To find a program that's right for you, consider checking which programs are available in your area and try to learn more about each one.
3. Apply to become an apprentice
After choosing a program, you can submit an application. The application requirements vary from program to program. Most programs require that you submit a resume, which typically includes your previous work experience and any experiences you have that are related to working as a chef. During the application process, you may also need to meet with the program coordinator for an interview.
4. Start work at your apprenticeship location
Upon acceptance into an apprenticeship program, apprentices typically begin working on-site with a mentor. Your program coordinator may direct you to your apprenticeship location and may introduce you to the chef under which you work. Then the chef provides you with training over the next several years.
Related: How To Become a Chef
Chef apprenticeship skills
Programs often expect students to develop the following skills over the course of their apprenticeship:
Successful professional chefs frequently prepare food in a timely manner. They often must create several dishes or other items simultaneously. As a chef's apprentice, you can learn how to keep track of everything that's occurring in the kitchen and how to complete multiple tasks within a short time frame. In addition, chef's apprentices may learn to manage their schedules so that they have enough time to complete tasks at work and attend culinary classes.
Chefs and their apprentices frequently interact with customers. They strive to deliver food that meets the customer's desires. If there are any issues with the food, the chef addresses them and works to provide the customer with an improved dish. Chef apprentices often learn how to listen to customers' needs and work to ensure they're satisfied.
Attention to detail
Employers expect chefs to produce high-quality food consistently. This requires that chefs pay attention to the details of each dish they create. Chef's apprentices often practice following recipes in a precise manner. In addition, apprentices may learn how to comply with company rules and national laws about how to prepare and store food safely.
Ability to work under pressure
Many professional kitchens are fast-paced environments. Chefs often prepare several dishes in a short amount of time, so it's helpful for them to be skilled in multitasking. While working in a kitchen, you may receive new orders while you're preparing others. It's therefore important to develop the ability to work well under pressure in order to work effectively in a busy environment.
Communication is essential among the staff members of any kitchen. Servers typically inform chefs about new orders, then cooks communicate with one another about the status of orders. Then they tell servers when they've finished preparing the dish. Instead of creating a complete dish, kitchen staff members may perform specific tasks at a particular station. To ensure they finish each food at the same time, it's helpful for kitchen staff members to communicate effectively.
For example, as a chef's apprentice, you may be responsible for preparing a salad that takes less time to prepare than another part of the meal. You can communicate this to the other stations and receive updates on their parts of the meal. By communicating with the other stations, you can learn exactly when to start preparing your salad. This can help you and your team complete each part of the meal at the same time, which can improve customer satisfaction.
Jobs similar to chefs
If you're interested in becoming a chef or working in a related field, there are several options you might consider. Here's a list of 10 jobs similar to chefs:
2. Private chef
4. Pastry cook
7. Food writer
10. Line cook
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.