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Aspiring Chefs: How to Become a Chef

If food is your passion, then you may have considered becoming a chef. If so, here are a few steps you can take to starting a career in the culinary industry. 

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If you have a genuine love for food and have considered a career as a chef, you may be wondering what are the qualities of a successful chef and the training that is required. Practising at home and experimenting with recipes are great ways to expand your culinary creativity, but you will also need to invest in quality cooking equipment and practice cooking and knife techniques. You may also wish to take culinary classes at a cookery school, so you can learn from professionals.

Whether you are wondering how to become a chef or simply looking to improve your cooking technique, the following guide offers advice on how to start a career as a chef. 

What Training Do I Need?

Formal qualifications are not needed when training as a chef, although they can help you secure a job as a chef at a higher level. Much like most careers, there are several pathways you can take to enter the field: starting from the bottom up, apprenticeships, taking one-off classes, etc. However, there are a few musts if you do wish to become a professional chef.

Firstly, you must have a love of food. Secondly, you need to be prepared to work in high-pressured situations - kitchens are notorious for being fast-paced and require organisational skills and superb adaptability. 

There???s a typical hierarchy when it comes to a professional kitchen. This is to ensure the whole operation runs as smoothly as possible, reducing the chance of mistakes from happening. Of course, the size of the kitchen staff depends on the size of the establishment. 

What is an Executive Chef?

The Executive Chef is not to be confused with the Head Chef, as the former role is primarily managerial. As an Executive Chef, you will oversee the workings of multiple restaurants and establishments all at once, rather than overseeing a singular kitchen. This means you will do very little cooking, if any at all.

What is a Head Chef?

The Head Chef, also known as the Chef de Cuisine, will focus on the managerial duties relating to a single kitchen. This typically involves them supervising and managing staff while also controlling the kitchen's costs, making purchases, liaising with suppliers, and creating new menus.

What is a Sous Chef?

The Sous Chef (sometimes referred to as the Deputy Chef) shares some of the responsibilities also delegated to the Head Chef, however, they are much more involved with the kitchen's day-to-day operations and may have more time to cook. The Sous Chef will take over the responsibilities of the Head Chef if they are not available.

What is a Chef de Partie?

There are typically numerous Chef de Parties in a single kitchen, as each Chef de Partie (or Station Chef) will have their own responsibilities and be in charge of a single station. Assigning each Chef de Partie their own tasks helps streamline operations and reduces the chances of chefs overstepping into other stations.

Specific Chef de Partie roles include:

  • Saute Chef/Saucier - Responsible for sauteing foods and making sauces that will accompany dishes.
  • Poissonnier - Also known as the Fish Chef, they prepare fish and seafood.
  • Boucher - The Butcher Chef prepares all meat and poultry before providing the meat to other stations for their respective dishes.
  • Rotisseur - Known as the Roast Chef, they will roast meats.
  • Friturier - Fry Chefs specialise in fried food items. They will fry an assortment of foods in a variety of ways.
  • Grillardin - Responsible for grilling ingredients for dishes.
  • Entremetier - The Vegetable Chef prepares all vegetables and will turn vegetables into starches and soups. They may also prepare the eggs for certain dishes.
  • Pattisier - Most commonly known as the Pastry Chef, they oversee pastry, baked goods, and desserts.
  • Chef de Tournant - The Chef de Tournant is also known as the Relief Cook, and as the name suggests, they do not have a specific job, but rather will lend a hand or fill in as and when it is needed at specific stations.

What is a Commis Chef?

Otherwise known as the Junior Chef, they are working under the Chef de Partie to learn the ins and outs of a specific station. A Junior Chef is typically still undergoing training, or they may have recently completed formal training.

What is a Kitchen Porter?

A Kitchen Porter is less likely to have had formal training, but they are still an important part of the kitchen hierarchy and can progress to higher up jobs. Kitchen Porters assist in basic tasks like peeling vegetables and cleaning duties.

What is an Escuelerie?

Commonly named as the kitchen's Dishwasher, the Escuelerie is responsible for washing anything used in the cooking and food preparation process.

Knowing the hierarchy of a professional kitchen is valuable information and can be beneficial when applying for entry-level jobs or looking for cookery classes to enrol in.

What are the Different Chef Titles?

Invest in the Right Cooking Equipment

Quality cooking equipment can help you achieve better cooking results because they are long-lasting and made from materials that offer great heat retention and consistency. However, you need to learn how to use your cooking equipment properly if they are to yield great results. For example, using a frying pan to saute will not be as effective as using a saute pan.

Take the time to learn about each piece of cookware, so you know how to utilise them. Cookware and professional kitchen knives should be seen as a fantastic investment opportunity - one that is sure to elevate your cooking and replicate the cookware you'd typically find in a professional kitchen.

Professional Kitchen Knives

Chefs will never leave the house without their professional knives. This is because a well-made kitchen knife can make a huge difference in food preparation, lending a hand in more refined cuts while reducing the amount of pressure needed to cut through your ingredients.

Before buying the first knife you see, take the time to learn about each knife type and the role they play. A paring knife is great for peeling fruit and vegetables, whereas a chefs knife is considered an all-purpose knife and perfect for chopping, dicing and slicing a variety of food. Read our guide that explains the different types of kitchen knives and how you can utilise them properly.

Typically, three knives are considered crucial in a professional kitchen. Aspiring and professional chefs will own:

However, all knives are useful to own and practice with and can make certain food preparation easier. For instance, Santoku and Nakiri knives are fantastic for more refined slicing and dicing when delicate cuts are needed. They're also great for recreating and preparing Asian-inspired dishes.

Kitchen Knives

Pots and Pans

What you cook in matters, so when it comes to selecting your pots and pans, knowing how to use them can work wonders and enhance your dishes. If you are unsure of when to use a frying pan over a wok or the purpose of a milk pan, consult our pots and pans buying guide.

Some cookware essentials that are found in most, if not all, professional kitchens are:

  • Frying pan
  • Saute pan
  • Saucepan
  • Milk pan (for sauces)
  • Wok
  • Stockpot
  • Casserole dish
CookwareCast IronBakeware

Kitchen Utensils and Gadgets

Familiarise yourself with kitchen utensils and gadgets, so you know the best ways to use them. For instance, a metal spatula is ideal for flipping and moving food while it's being cooked in a frying pan, however, a silicone spatula is ideal for mixing wet ingredients and for scraping mixture from a mixing bowl. Kitchen utensils and gadgets are fantastic for making menial tasks much easier.

Kitchen Accessories

Kitchen Clothing

Professional chefs wear one of the most recognisable uniforms, with their white chef jackets and tall, white hats. However, it is not essential to wear a toque blanche (the famous chef hat) in all establishments.

 Your uniform will depend on your job level and the establishment you are working in. That being said, you will want to ensure that you have an apron that can protect your clothes from food splatters. Aprons are fantastic for keeping food mess from your clothes, but they can also protect you from hot, spitting oil.

As well as an apron (or two!), kitchen linens such as tea towels and oven gloves are considered a necessity. Use a tea towel to dry dishes while using oven gloves to remove hot cookware from the oven. Tea towels and oven gloves can both be used to carefully hold warm cookware and bakeware.

Kitchen Linens
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ProCook Apron
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Knife Skills

Whether you simply love to cook or are hoping to take cookery classes to propel yourself into a culinary career, mastering basic knife skills is essential to improve the taste, texture, and appearance of your dishes. However, the key to uniform and clean cuts is using a well-sharpened knife. Read through our knife sharpening guide to learn the best knife sharpening techniques as well as how to use a whetstone.

What are the Different Cuts?

Taking the time to learn the different cuts can help you create impressive-looking and evenly cooked meals. Here are the most common knife cuts and when you are most likely going to use them in your cooking.

Large Dice

A large dice means a square cut that is often used for root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips and celery root. This cut is also common for long cooking or slow cooking dishes. Large dice dimensions are around 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch, and are incredibly uniform.

Medium Dice

As the name suggests, the medium dice is a smaller and more delicate version of the large dice. If you are ever unsure on the size of dice used for a specific recipe, a medium dice is your safest option. To achieve a typical medium dice, aim for 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch.

Small Dice

Measuring at 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch, the small dice is one of the most delicate cuts. To achieve the perfect small dice cut, you will want to cut your vegetables into allumette shapes.

Brunoise

The brunoise measures at 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch. Due to its small and delicate sizing, the brunoise is commonly used for garnishing dishes because of its professional presentation.

Fine Brunoise

Measuring at 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch makes the fine brunoise incredibly tiny! Use a fine brunoise cut for sauces or as a garnish for soups.

Batonnet

This cut is a rectangular stick that measures 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 to 3 inches. The Batonnet is also commonly used before cutting them into the medium dice cut.

Allumette

A smaller Batonnet, the allumette measures 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch x 2 1/2 to 3 inches can sometimes be referred to as the ???matchstick cut??? due to its long and fine shape. You may want to cut vegetables into an allumette cut before turning them into a small dice cut.

Julienne

Also known as a French cut, the julienne cut is one of the most renowned cuts and is typically used for carrots, cucumber, potatoes, or celery. You may commonly find julienne cut foods used as garnish. The julienne cut measures 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 2 1/2 inches and is similar to the allumette cut due to its lengthy shape.

While a kitchen knife offers greater precision, you can also use a julienne peeler for quick and accurate results.

Fine Julienne

The fine julienne cut measures in at 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 2 inches and is frequently used for garnishes.

Mince

You???re probably familiar with the phrase 'minced garlic,' where you finely chop your garlic into incredibly small cuts. Mincing is less precise than dicing or brunoise cuts, as we want the flavour to distribute throughout the dish which can be easily achieved through this fine texture.

Chiffonade

This type of cut is mainly used for herbs or vegetable leaves such as basil. To achieve this cut, stack the leaves, roll them, and then slice them perpendicularly, so you create thin strips.

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Much like anything, the best way to improve your skills is to practice time and time again. Once you have the right equipment, look online for recipes, or treat yourself to recipes books for inspiration. Practice perfecting certain recipes, asking friends and family for their honest opinion, and once you feel more confident and comfortable in the kitchen, try tweaking recipes so you can create your own signature dishes.

Be prepared for things to go wrong from time to time. You may overcook a steak or boil your vegetables for too long, causing them to become too soft. When it comes to cooking, practice makes perfect.

Practice Cooking at Home

Attend Cookery Classes

While cooking at home is a great way to practice techniques, you may struggle to continue improving when it comes to more technical dishes like making pasta from scratch or learning how to make sushi. Attending cookery classes and learning from professional chefs is a fantastic way to elevate your cooking and take everything you've learnt yourself to the next level. What's more, you can check whether your knife and cooking techniques are correct, or fix any bad habits you may have picked up, like holding your chefs knife incorrectly.

We opened the doors to our ProCook Cookery School late last year, so people who are just as passionate about food as we are, can learn cooking best practices and enrol in cuisine-specific courses. Along with cooking masterclasses, we also offer a variety of skill-based and technical courses that are designed to improve your knife skills and confidence in the kitchen.

ProCook Cookery School

Gain Valuable Work Experience

Once you've learnt the basics and are confident in your skills, it may be time to gain work experience in a professional kitchen. Typically, you will have to work from the bottom up, and although you may know how the difference between frying and sauteing, you will still need to learn on the job.

If you're passionate about food and wondering how to become a chef, practice makes perfect. Take the time to learn the basics, hone your knife and cooking skills, and attend cookery courses. Once you are confident and comfortable with your cooking ability, consider reaching out to cooking establishments like restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes.

Our ProCook Cookery School is designed to be informative, fun and hands-on, so you can learn the best cooking practices and techniques.

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