Becoming a Development Chef

Becoming a Development Chef

Being a Development Chef can open up a fascinating culinary world and career but what exactly does the job entail? In this post we take a look at the role, what’s required, the opportunities and more.

Development chef – what’s the deal?

Development Chefs are the masterminds behind creating new and improved food products. They dive into all sorts of product categories, experimenting with various culinary flavors and styles to deliver innovative and mouthwatering creations.

The job in a nutshell

Being a Development Chef means taking a new product brief and guiding it through every stage of development until the final launch. It’s not just about creating new products; it also involves updating existing ones, sourcing ingredients, and managing suppliers along the way.

Collaboration is key

Development Chefs work closely with colleagues from different disciplines, such as scientists, engineers, manufacturing experts, sales and marketing teams, and even retail customers. It’s a highly collaborative role, making it perfect for chefs who love working as part of a diverse and dynamic team.

Essentials to rock the role

Culinary Skills: Development kitchens seek chefs with hands-on experience in cooking exceptional food and exploring food trends. Your culinary background and diverse work experience will be essential in showcasing your knowledge and creativity.

Passion for Innovation: Innovation is the beating heart of being a Development Chef. If you’re thrilled by the idea of experimenting, refining, and creating the best flavours and products, then this culinary niche is perfect for you.

Communication Skills: Working in a corporate environment differs from being in a restaurant kitchen. As a Development Chef, you’ll need to confidently explain your test kitchen creations, present your ideas to others, and document your recipes precisely.

Organisational Skills: Managing multiple development projects simultaneously is common in this role. You’ll need strong organisational abilities, an ability to work within budgets, and meet tight deadlines driven by commercial demands.

Development chef – finding your dream chef job

If you’re new to this type of chef job, there are various roles to explore, including:

Junior Development Chef: A fantastic first step for a creative junior chef who wants to transition into the industry and gain experience.

Development Chef: Aimed at experienced chefs with substantial culinary knowledge, creativity, and some previous experience in a similar role.

Senior or Executive Development Chef: Ideal for highly experienced chefs with a successful track record in the industry, including international experience.

As a Development Chef, you’ll most likely be employed by national manufacturing, contract catering, or food processing companies, creating new dishes or food products for supermarkets, restaurants, or branded outlets. You’ll work in a well-equipped development kitchen alongside food technicians and technologists.

Additional opportunities in the field

Apart from the traditional roles, there are other avenues to explore as a Development Chef, such as:

Ingredient Development Chefs: These roles involve finding applications for specific ingredients and presenting them to customers.

Sample Chefs: Here, your competent cooking ability will come into play as you create numerous, slightly different products for clients to try during new product trials and feedback phases.

Crafting your development chef CV

When developing your CV for Development Chef job applications, focus on the four main criteria we touched on earlier in this post, namely: culinary skill, passion for innovation, communication skills, and organisational skills.

Development chef – salary considerations

Senior-level Development Chefs have the potential to earn a decent salary. However, if you’re making a career side step, your starting salary might be lower than your current rate. Don’t forget to look at the overall package being offered, including working hours, training and development opportunities, and career progression prospects.

The interview process

During the first interview for a Development Chef role, you will be asked about your experiences, skills, and achievements. The interviewers will be looking for you to provide specific examples of how you have met the four main criteria for the role: culinary skill, passion for innovation, communication skills, and organisational skills. The purpose of this conversation is to determine whether you meet the requirements for the position.

If you pass the first round of selection, you will likely be invited to a second interview, which may involve delivering a cooking presentation based on an outlined brief. Examples of briefs you may be given include creating a dish that represents you on a plate, with a detailed explanation of the ingredients used, or reviewing the current ready meal market for a specific cuisine and developing a dish that fills any gaps in the market. It’s likely you’ll be given a couple of hours to cook and present your dish to the Senior Development Chef and NPD Manager, and you may also be asked to prepare a presentation to show alongside the cooking. You should be prepared to explain your choices and answer questions throughout the course of the interview.

What is it like to be a development chef?

We spoke to members of the Only Chefs network who currently work as Development Chefs to gain insight into the role. They said that it takes at least six months to get a handle on what is expected of you, and that there is a lot to learn on the business side of things, such as costing products, calculating nutritional information, and making customer presentations. They also noted that the role requires standing up for your food and explaining new concepts, which can be demanding in a corporate setting.

However, they also pointed out that the role offers more creative freedom than a restaurant kitchen, and that the hours and pay are typically better. It can be a challenging transition, but it can also be a rewarding career move for those chefs who are really passionate about food and innovation.

And finally, whether you are just starting out or looking to further your career as a Development Chef, we wish you the best of luck!

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