Aspiring Head Chef Tips

Tips to become a head chef

Editor’s note: Aspiring Head Chef Tips was originally published in March 2017 and most recently updated in May 2022.

As a team we believe aspiration is a crucial part of being able to realise success. That’s why we’ve reached out to our network to ask, what does it take to make it to head chef? Read on for a round-up of tips given by some leading head chefs.

Aspiring head chef tips

Learn how to manage yourself, before you try to manage others

‘Since one of the duties of becoming a head chef is learning how to manage a tight ship in the kitchen environment, you will need to master these skills yourself first.

You can do this by listening to the direction of your current head chef or kitchen manager and keep on top of things, without having to be told. This will show to others that you’re capable of thinking under pressure, which is a very important aspect of becoming a leader in the kitchen.’

Have passion

‘Being a chef is really hard work and if you don’t have true passion for the art of cooking, you’ll not make it. Every day your food is being analysed and judged, and you have to be consistent in your performance. Be open-minded and keep on learning. Above all don’t accept mediocrity in yourself or your team. Instil a love of cooking in every corner of the kitchen.’

Take time and energy to learn the basics

‘Be disciplined and enthusiastic about your work. Gain experience working under people who can inspire you and help to develop your talent. Also, use your creativity and love of food to create delicious dishes.’

Be respectful

‘Respect the food you work with and respect the people you work with. A fancy title or business card does not get you respect. You need to earn it, and you can earn respect from the team by displaying your knowledge and giving them the respect they deserve too.’

Aspiring head chef tips – kitchen life isn’t a TV show

‘As much as you may crave 15 minutes of fame, very few chefs become famous TV stars in this industry. Always remember why you are in this business. This alone will provide opportunities that fulfil and inspire you as you progress in your chef career.’

Be prepared to work harder than you ever have before

‘Becoming a chef is not easy. On top of all that there is to learn, you will encounter painful guest comments, angry sous chefs, crazy pastry chefs, burned arms and cut fingers. The only way you’ll get to the top is by keeping sharp, working hard and being dedicated to the craft. There is no easy road or short cut to becoming a great head chef.’

Aim high

‘Be the hardest working member of the team at all times. We work long hours, miss holidays and don’t get much sleep. But keep grafting and you’ll reach your goals.’

Aspiring head chef tips – remember, everyone has bad days

‘Don’t let a bad service get you down. Everyone can have a bad day. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going. No matter how hard it gets, never give up. Keep focused on the end result and visualise what you want. If you give up, you’ll never get there.’

Give yourself time

‘Becoming a head chef doesn’t happen overnight. You need to go through a variety of situations and take on different positions, such as working in a free standing restaurant, having hotel experience and so forth.

Being a solid head chef doesn’t just involve the kitchen. It’s also about hiring and training staff, guiding and inspiring people and being involved in public relations. Yes, cooking skills are important, but there are important things that kitchen experience will teach you that you’ll also need to successful in the job.’

Aspiring head chef tips – focus on your work, not the titles

‘If you produce results beyond expectations, promotions and titles will follow. There can be too much focus on achieving the next level, when the main goal for your career should be improving your skills and furthering yourself by embracing new opportunities.’

Success is connected to action

‘Successful people keep moving, keep trying and in turn keep learning. Always remember that, as a chef, you’re as good as your last meal. Make people remember you for everything that you do well and continuously push the boundaries to make your dishes better.’

Surround yourself with the top people in the industry

‘Learn as much as you can from them, no matter how hard it may seem at the time. When you’re young, you will probably think you know it all, but as a voice of experience let me tell you that you don’t and never will. That’s the reason I still love being a chef after 20 years.’

The industry will change many times through your career

‘There will be many different food fashions and styles that will come and go. You need to always keep up with the times and make sure you check out what other top professionals are doing by reading their books and eating in their restaurants. Don’t be scared to reinvent yourself as long as it comes from the passion you have inside.’

Remember discipline

‘The kitchen is a like a military field, so you need to be disciplined and highly organised in every aspect. From food preparation to delivery, your focus should be on your operation and food at all times. While it’s important to keeping up with cooking trends and seasonality, try to avoid putting too much time and effort into monitoring your competition.’

Aspiring head chef tips – keep evolving

‘A great head chef should constantly evolve. It’s vital to keep creating new flavours and dishes while staying true to the character and identity of your cuisine of choice.’

Be curious

‘Go out as much as you can, read books and magazines, watch TV shows, and go to food markets. Inform yourself, but also question the type of food you grew up with and be inquisitive.’

Go the extra mile

‘Great chefs work long hours perfecting their craft, whether it’s actual cooking, reading or checking out new restaurants. We never seem to stop looking, learning and observing. So for sure this is not a 9-5 job.

It’s a real passion and from the minute you wake up till it’s time to sleep, you are always thinking about food, what goes with what, what’s new and what do you love to cook.

To get ahead you really do have to go the extra mile and for great chefs going the extra mile is the norm. You have to work extremely hard if you want to be a successful chef and – unlike cooking shows – things can get intense and no scenes will be cut.’

Be patient

‘A lot of young chefs have the right talent and drive, which is wonderful, but experience is the key and it comes with time. Experience comes with moving around, working with different chefs, and learning different repertoires. You know you’re ready to run the kitchen when someone is looking for you and your talent.’

Aspiring head chef tips – let people come to you

‘Stay focused. Self-discipline plays a key role in becoming a head chef. You must learn all the dynamics of the industry and maintain nerves of steel.

Read: Improve Your Head Chef CV

Keep an open mind and take all criticism constructively. Everyone is going to have an opinion. Stay true to what you believe and trust your instincts in making career choices. No two chefs will have the same career path to success.

We hope Aspiring Head Chef Tips gives you some food for thought! Don’t forget to check out more of the Only Chefs blog for some great career focused content.

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