Hospitality & Tourism
Chefs plan menus, prepare food and manage the kitchens in restaurants and other places where food is served.
What does a Chef do?
Chefs plan menus, prepare food and manage the kitchens in restaurants and other places where food is served. In large kitchens, chefs work as part of a team, run by the head chef, executive chef or Chef de cuisine.
As a chef, you would:
- plan menus and determine associated food and labour costs
- keep costs within budget
- prepare, cook and present food
- in large kitchens, or high end restaurants, look after one food area, like desserts
- demonstrate techniques for making and presenting new menu items to other chefs and cooks
- make sure that food is served promptly to customers
- monitor food production to ensure consistent quality and portion size
- plan staff rosters and supervise the activities of other chefs and cooks
- order food, kitchen supplies and equipment
- follow relevant hygiene, health and safety guidelines.
Chefs generally start their career as a kitchen assistant or trainee chef, also known as commis chef. At this level you would spend time in each area of the kitchen, learning a range of skills and how to look after kitchen equipment.
As a station chef or Chef de partie, you would then be in charge of an area of the kitchen. Sous chefs run the entire kitchen for the head chef when needed. Head chefs are responsible for planning menus, and for budgeting.
Key skills and interests
To become a chef, you would need:
- a keen interest in food and cooking
- strong communication and leadership skills
- the ability to work under pressure
- high standards of cleanliness and hygiene
- the ability to do several tasks at once
- creativity and imagination for food presentation.
Working hours and conditions
Hours are likely to involve early mornings and/or late nights depending on where you work. You can also expect to cover weekends and public holidays. Part-time, casual and seasonal work is often available.
Chefs are employed in hotels and resorts, restaurants, clubs, hospitals, flight catering centres, seagoing vessels food processing factories, large companies and for wealthy individuals. Chefs with sufficient start-up money may become restaurant owners.
Kitchens are hot and humid and very busy around key meal times. You would wear chef whites and a hat for hygiene reasons.
How to become an Chef?
Entry Level Education
To become a chef you usually have to complete an apprenticeship in commercial cookery. Entry requirements may vary, but employers usually require junior secondary school certificate or equivalent.
Although both chefs and cooks complete an apprenticeship at Certificate III level initially, chefs are generally required to gain further skills at Certificate IV level and above.
Employment of chefs and head cooks is projected to grow, but slightly slower than the average for all occupations.
Population and income growth are expected to result in greater demand for high-quality dishes at a variety of dining venues, including many upscale establishments.