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What does catering involve?

Chefs work in all kinds of places, from pubs to cruise ships and from schools to the high class restaurants. In some places, for example, schools, they might be known as cooks. Their job is to prepare and cook meals.

In some kitchens (for example, in a small pub), the chef might work alone or with the help of only one or two staff. But some kitchens (for example, in major hotels) are huge, and might have dozens of staff, with a number of specialist chefs working under a head chef.

There is so much variety in the catering industry that it is impossible to generalise about a chef's typical working day. For example, some chefs specialise in vegetarian cooking, while others specialise in an ethnic style (such as Thai or Indian). Also, there are different types and levels of chef. In a large kitchen, there could be a:
  • Chef patissier (pastry chef).
  • Chef saucier (sauce and main meal chef).
  • Chef poissonier (fish chef).
  • Chef entremettier (vegetable chef).
What each chef does depends on what kind of chef he or she is. A fish chef will order new stock, inspect it on delivery and prepare it for cooking. Meat and fish chefs need to be prepared to gut and clean animals. Vegetable chefs might have to do hours of scraping and chopping of vegetables.

However, trainee chefs and kitchen assistants tend to do these more routine tasks. The cooking of a dish could take a few minutes or a few hours, so timing and teamwork are critical.

Chefs also have ranks. There is the commis chef (trainee), the chef de partie (section leader), the sous chef (deputy head/second chef) and the chef de cuisine (head chef). There are also chefs patron - these are chefs who own their own restaurants.

What skills will I need?

As a chef/cook, you need:
  • To enjoy cooking and cope with the kitchen heat.
  • A lot of stamina.
  • The ability to stay calm under pressure.
  • To be well organised and quick thinking.
  • To take a long-term view, as the training can be lengthy.
  • To work well as part of a team.
  • Good communication skills.
  • Creativity and imagination to think of new menu ideas and food presentation.


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