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How to become a Chef

Posted: October 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Deciding to take the career path of a chef is one which will offer you the combination of a fast-paced working environment, the opportunity to gain fantastic skills which will accompany you in many areas of your life, a great deal of promotional possibilities and a way to explore your passion for food and ingredients with other like-minded professionals.

To become a chef means starting with some qualifications alongside an industry work placement or entering the ranks of a kitchen as a trainee and studying as you work.

Where to start

The absolute minimum qualification you’ll need to work in a kitchen is your Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate. This is a legal requirement and you can take the course at your local college, adult education centre or with online interactive e-learning. It’s usually a one day course where you’ll learn about basic hygiene and safety rules and regulations with a short multiple choice exam at the end. Once you have this under your belt you can look for jobs in the catering industry. The certificate lasts for 2 years and you’ll then need to retake to remain fully up to speed with current laws.

Further qualifications

Being a chef means an initial interest in food and cooking, but to get onto the career ladder you’ll need some professionally recognised qualifications. You can study full or part time at college and combine this with a work placement which will be part of the syllabus. There’s also the opportunity offered by some employers to hire someone keen who isn’t qualified and whilst working fulltime in the kitchen as a trainee, there will be a one-day release to attend college to study.

If you’re looking to gain some qualifications before approaching employers, there is a range available for you to choose from and will give you a mix of classroom theory and practical experience:

  • Level 1 Diploma in Introduction to Professional Cookery
  • Level 2 Certificate in Hospitality and Catering Principles (Professional Cookery – Food Preparation and Cooking)
  • Level 2 Certificate in Professional Patisserie and Confectionery
  • Level 2 Diploma in Professional Cookery

Contact your local FE college to find out which courses are on offer along with the start dates and times.


If you’re aged 16-24, you can work as an Apprentice Chef, learn the skills of the job as you work as well as undertaking a work-based NVQ qualification. If needed, you can also enhance your Maths and English skills if you didn’t achieve a grade A-C at school by taking free courses which will lead you to Level 2 qualifications in the subjects – the industry recognised equivalent of a GCSE.

Once you’re qualified and working

After you’ve gained your initial qualifications or you’ve completed your Apprenticeship, talk to your employer regarding further training opportunities. The next step in your learning – and the path to a higher level chef position – is a Level 3 Award or Diploma depending on the area which interests you the most:

  • Level 3 (NVQ) Diploma in Professional Cookery
  • Level 3 Award in Supervising Food Safety in Catering
  • Level 3 Diploma in Advanced Professional Cookery
  • Level 3 Diploma in Professional Patisserie and Confectionery
  • Level 3 (NVQ) Diploma in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership

Life as a chef

Taking the career decision to work as a chef can mean a great deal of work across often unsociable hours. However, this is combined with a world of opportunities opening up for you after you have gained some experience as being a chef and truly is a globally portable skill. Not many people have the chance to mix their hobby or passion with their job and so if you spend your time reading recipe books and combining ingredients in the kitchen at home to present delicious meals to your friends and family, being a chef is the key to a rewarding and exciting profession where no two days are ever the same.