A chef


Chefs are culinary professionals with a flair for creativity and innovation to provide a unique gastronomic experience.

Includes banqueting chef.
Includes people performing training activities.

Chefs typically do the following:

  • Set up the kitchen with cooking utensils and equipment, like knives, pans and kitchen scales
  • Study each recipe and gather all necessary ingredients
  • Cook food in a timely manner
  • Delegate tasks to kitchen staff
  • Inform wait staff about daily specials
  • Ensure appealing plate presentation
  • Supervise Cooks and assist as needed
  • Slightly modify recipes to meet customers’ needs and requests (e.g. reduce salt, remove dairy)
  • Monitor food stock and place orders
  • Check freshness of food and discard out-of-date items
  • Experiment with recipes and suggest new ingredients
  • Ensure compliance with all health and safety regulations within the kitchen area

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to chef:

banqueting chef
chef de cuisine
commis chef
industrial chef
managing partner chef
chef de partie

Working conditions

Chefs and head chefs work in restaurants, hotels, and other food service establishments. All of the cooking and food preparation areas in these facilities must be kept clean and sanitary. Chefs and head chefs usually stand for long periods and work in a fast-paced environment.

Some self-employed chefs run their own restaurants or catering businesses, and their work may be more stressful. For example, outside the kitchen, they often spend many hours managing all aspects of the business to ensure that bills and salaries are paid and that the business is profitable.

Injuries and Illnesses

Chefs and head chefs risk injury in kitchens, which are usually crowded and potentially dangerous. Common hazards include burns from hot ovens, falls on slippery floors, and cuts from knives and other sharp objects, but these injuries are seldom serious. To reduce the risk of harm, workers often wear long-sleeve shirts and nonslip shoes.

Work Schedules

Most chefs and head chefs work full time, including early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Some work more than 40 hours per week.

Minimum qualifications

Chefs and head chefs are typically required to have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the occupation. Although they are not always required to have postsecondary education, many attend programs at community colleges, technical schools, culinary arts schools, and 4-year colleges.

Students in culinary programs spend most of their time in kitchens, practicing their cooking skills. Programs cover all aspects of kitchen work, including menu planning, food sanitation procedures, and purchasing and inventory methods. Most programs also require students to gain experience in a commercial kitchen through an internship or apprenticeship program.

Chefs and head chefs often start by working in other positions, learning cooking skills from the chefs they work for. Many spend years working in kitchens before gaining enough experience to be promoted to chef or head cook positions.

Some chefs and head chefs train on the job, where they learn the same skills as in a formal education program. Some train in mentorship programs, where they work under the direction of an experienced chef. Executive chefs, head chefs, and sous chefs who work in upscale restaurants often have many years of training and experience. Chefs and head chefs also may learn through apprenticeship programs sponsored by professional culinary institutes, industry associations, or trade unions.

Apprenticeship programs generally combine instruction and on-the-job training. Apprentices typically receive both instruction and paid on-the-job training. Instruction usually covers food sanitation and safety, basic knife skills, and equipment operation. Apprentices spend the rest of their training learning practical skills in a commercial kitchen under a chef’s supervision.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Chef is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Chef career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to chef.

pastry chef
head pastry chef
head chef
private chef
venue director

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of chef. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of chef with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

hospitality revenue manager
food service vocational teacher
telecommunications manager
customer experience manager
tourist animator

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of chef.

  • Comply with food safety and hygiene: Respect optimal food safety and hygiene during preparation, manufacturing, processing, storage, distribution and delivery of food products.
  • Store raw food materials: Keep in reserve raw materials and other food supplies, following stock control procedures.
  • Manage staff: Manage employees and subordinates, working in a team or individually, to maximise their performance and contribution. Schedule their work and activities, give instructions, motivate and direct the workers to meet the company objectives. Monitor and measure how an employee undertakes their responsibilities and how well these activities are executed. Identify areas for improvement and make suggestions to achieve this. Lead a group of people to help them achieve goals and maintain an effective working relationship among staff.
  • Use food preparation techniques: Apply food preparation techniques including the selecting, washing, cooling, peeling, marinating, preparing of dressings and cutting of ingredients.
  • Think creatively about food and beverages: Generate innovative and creative ideas to come up with new recipes, preparations of food and beverages and new ways to present the products.
  • Instruct kitchen personnel: Give instructions to the kitchen staff by guiding and teaching them and by providing them support before, during and after the service.
  • Plan menus: Organise menus taking into account the nature and style of the establishment, client feedback, cost and the seasonality of ingredients.
  • Dispose waste: Dispose waste in accordance with legislation, thereby respecting environmental and company responsibilities.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Work in a hospitality team: Function confidently within a group in hospitality services, in which each has his own responsibility in reaching a common goal which is a good interaction with the customers, guests or collaborators and their contentment.
  • Handover the food preparation area: Leave the kitchen area in conditions which follow safe and secure procedures, so that it is ready for the next shift.
  • Use reheating techniques: Apply reheating techniques including steaming, boiling or bain marie.
  • Use culinary finishing techniques: Apply culinary finishing techniques including garnishing, decorating, plating, glazing, presenting and portioning.
  • Use food cutting tools: Trim, peel and slice products with knives, paring or food cutting tools or equipment according to guidelines.
  • Control of expenses: Monitoring and maintaining effective cost controls, in regards to efficiencies, waste, overtime and staffing. Assessing excesses and strives for efficiency and productivity.
  • Maintain kitchen equipment at correct temperature: Keep the refrigeration and storage of equipment at the correct temperature.
  • Use cooking techniques: Apply cooking techniques including grilling, frying, boiling, braising, poaching, baking or roasting.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of chef. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of chef. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Cook pastry products: Prepare savoury and sweet pastry products, combining with other products if necessary.
  • Prepare canapés: Make, decorate and present hot and cold canapés and cocktails. The complexity of the products will depend on the range of ingredients used, how they are being combined and their final decoration and presentation.
  • Order supplies: Command products from relevant suppliers to get convenient and profitable products to purchase.
  • Identify nutritional properties of food: Determine nutritional properties of food and label products appropriately if required.
  • Set prices of menu items: Fix the prices of main course dishes and other items on the menu. Ensure that they remain affordable within the organisation’s budget.
  • Prepare sandwiches: Make filled and open sandwiches, paninis and kebabs.
  • Prepare salad dressings: Make salad dressings by mixing desired ingredients.
  • Cook seafood: Prepare seafood dishes. The complexity of the dishes will depend on the range of seafood used and how they are combined with other ingredients in their preparation and cooking.
  • Handle chemical cleaning agents: Ensure proper handling, storage and disposal of cleaning chemicals in accordance with regulations.
  • Cook vegetable products: Prepare dishes based on vegetables in combination with other ingredients if necessary.
  • Cook sauce products: Prepare soups, hot sauces, cold sauces and dressings.
  • Assist customers: Provide support and advice to customers in making purchasing decisions by finding out their needs, selecting suitable service and products for them and politely answering questions about products and services.
  • Execute chilling processes to food products: Carry out chilling, freezing and cooling operation processes to food products such as fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, catering food. Prepare food products for extended periods of storage or half prepared food. Ensure safety and nutrition qualities of frozen goods and preserve products in accordance with specified temperatures.
  • Apply procurement: Undertake ordering of services, equipment, goods or ingredients, compare costs and check the quality to ensure optimal payoff for the organisation.
  • Prepare desserts: Cook, bake, decorate and present hot and cold savoury and sweet pastry products, desserts and puddings.
  • Schedule shifts: Plan staff time and shifts to reflect the demands of the business.
  • Ensure cleanliness of food preparation area: Guarantee the continuous cleanliness of kitchen preparation, production and storage areas according to hygiene, safety and health regulations.
  • Cook fish: Prepare fish dishes. The complexity of the dishes will depend on the range of fish used and how they are combined with other ingredients in their preparation and cooking.
  • Train employees: Lead and guide employees through a process in which they are taught the necessary skills for the perspective job. Organise activities aimed at introducing the work and systems or improving the performance of individuals and groups in organisational settings.
  • Cook dairy products: Prepare eggs, cheese and other dairy products, combined with other products if necessary.
  • Create decorative food displays: Design decorative food displays by determining how food is presented in the most attractive way and realising food displays in order to maximise revenue.
  • Cook meat dishes: Prepare meat dishes, including poultry and game. The complexity of the dishes depend on the type of meat, the cuts being used and how they are combined with other ingredients in their preparation and cooking.
  • Compile cooking recipes: Organise recipes with regards to taste balance, healthy eating and nutrition.
  • Check deliveries on receipt: Control that all order details are recorded, that faulty items are reported and returned and that all paperwork is received and processed, according to the purchasing procedures.
  • Prepare flambeed dishes: Make flambeed dishes in the kitchen or in front of customers while paying attention to safety.

ISCO group and title

3434 – Chefs

  1. Chef – ESCO
  2. Chefs and Head Cooks : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Chef job description template | Workable
  4. Featured image: Photo by Pylyp Sukhenko on Unsplash
Last updated on December 22, 2022

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