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What Does a Chef Career Path Look Like?

There is no denying our vision of the culinary world’s fiery and tempestuous nature has been shaped by what we have seen on our TV screens. From MasterChef to Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay to D’Acampo, we’re a nation obsessed with the raw intensity of the kitchen and the chaos that ensues. Now, there is a new generation of Chef rising and there is a big appetite for it.

The #Chef has amassed an incredible 44.6 billion views on TikTok, with candid behind-the-scenes footage of what culinary life is really like. Chef Thom Bateman, who owns The Flintlock restaurant in Staffordshire, has amassed 2.5 million followers on TikTok with over 37 million likes on his how-to videos, introducing a whole new generation to the wonders of the culinary world. What was once a humble job has become a highly fashionable and lucrative career path with the meteoric rise of independent restaurants giving local Chefs somewhat a cult celebrity status and international following online.

Take, for example, Liverpool Restaurateur, Nisha Katona, founder of the extremely popular Mowgli Street Food who opened her first restaurant in 2014 after leaving a 20-year career in law. Since then, she has been awarded an MBE for services in the food industry, has become a regular face on ITV, BBC and Channel 4 and has written five cookbooks. It’s a testament to what Chefs are able to achieve if they wish.

Chef Industry Deep Dive

For the next generation of workers set to leave school next summer or those who fancy switching lanes in their career, we’re going to take a deep dive into the culinary industry to give you a full lowdown on what you can expect if you choose to explore a career as a Chef.

Is There a Demand for Chefs in the UK?

In the bleak mid winter cost of living crisis that seems to be going on a tad too long for our liking, choosing an industry with great career prospects has never been more important. There is no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic had a disastrous effect on the hospitality industry and many Chefs, alongside other hospitality professionals, simply had no choice but to “jump ship” leading to a massive talent shortage in the industry.

This, however, created a huge demand to attract skilled workers back into the industry but this time, with better pay. The average hourly pay for temporary chefs increased by as much as 20% in parts of the UK. Not only that, but with many people having left the industry, vacancies in the sector are now 48% higher than they were pre-Covid. It’s a good time to be looking for Chef jobs.

What are the Working Hours Like?

This varies depending on the type of kitchen you’re working in (remember, it’s not only restaurants where you can find Chefs, they can also work on cruise ships, in universities, festivals…wherever there’s people, you can often find a kitchen!) and your level of responsibility. According to our Back of House People Operations Manager and former Chef, Michael McGuinness, you can expect to work between 48-58 hours a week. In a recent article in The Guardian, New Generation of UK Chefs Taking the Heat Out of the Kitchen, Michelin-starred Chef Paul Foster said that the 70+ hours a week are a thing of the past now with most businesses understanding the benefits of a healthy work-life balance.

Like any hospitality role, the busiest times for you are when most other people aren’t so busy, think evenings, weekends, bank holidays and Christmas Day. These are referred to as working “unsociable hours” and they unfortunately come with the territory. It’s something that will undoubtedly effect your social life and may reduce the time that you spend with family and friends, especially if they work the regular 9-5. It’s important that you consider this commitment before beginning a career in the industry.

If you’d love a Chef job but not the commitment of working full-time in a kitchen, why not consider temporary work? The benefit of temporary Chef jobs is that you can pick and choose your own hours, enabling you to fit the role around the most important things in your life. Along with choosing your own hours, you can choose which places you can work from football stadiums to corporate offices and everything inbetween. As they say, variety is the spice of life!

As a temporary staffing agency with six hubs across the UK, including Liverpool, Manchester, London, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, we have experienced unprecedented demand for temporary Chefs from our many clients. We have now invested in a dedicated Back of House team who are responsible for sourcing top-quality temporary Chefs for our clients, some of the UK’s major names in stadiums, arenas and festivals.

This means we have a wealth of knowledge to pass onto those who are looking to have a career in the culinary world and some very exciting temporary Chef jobs, too!

How Do I Get My First Job As a Chef With No Experience?

That depends on your education level, if you are studying or have studied at culinary college, you can look for Commis Chef roles, an entry-level role that requires some basic knowledge of food preparation.

If you don’t have any professional culinary qualifications, then you can still become a Chef, it’s just going to take an extra step or two to get there. However, never underestimate the power of starting at the bottom and working your way up. You could look at a Kitchen Porter role, it provides exposure within a professional kitchen, a valuable opportunity to learn the lingo and get to grips with the general operations.

Here at Arc, we’ve had many of our Team Members (our workforce of temporary staff) who have started as a Kitchen Porter and worked their way up. This way, if you’re end goal is to become a Head Chef, you’ll have first-hand knowledge of each and every level, making for fantastic management skills that cannot be replicated in a textbook.

What Skills Do I Need to Become a Chef?

Apart from the very obvious skill you need, here are three key skills every successful Chef has.

Work Well Under Pressure

There are no rose tinted glasses here, it takes a certain type of person to thrive within a stressful environment like that of a professional kitchen. Long hours on your feet, quick turnaround times and of course, the heat, it’s not for the faint of heart.

You need to be able to maintain a cool head under pressure. As the saying goes…if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Attention to Detail

In a country where around 1-10% of people have a food allergy and every year there are 2.4 million cases of foodborne illness, Chefs have a great amount of responsibility on their shoulders. It’s critical to have a strong attention to detail and adhere to relevant legislations at all times.

Leadership Skills

In the loud, stressful and busy environment of a kitchen, a Head Chef must be able to command the kitchen with expert ease and equip their team with the skills to be working in the most productive manner.

A well-oiled machine is not created by itself, a great leader will give it the skills, confidence and responsibility to work efficiently and effectively. For a Head Chef, the number one goal is to make money for the restaurant and clear leadership will be the route to success.

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Chef? 

Here at Arc, we request that our Chefs have:

  • A valid food hygiene certificate. You will have an NVQ Level 1,2,3 Professional Cookery (or equivalent) or relevant experience in the role.

For some roles, we ask for:

  • A Food Safety Level 2 & Food Allergens certificates
  • DBS Check

The Typical Chef Career Path

Commis Chef

A Commis Chef is the most junior role within the kitchen, a place where many of the world’s most esteemed Chefs have begun their careers, including Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White. It’s where every Chef starts and is usually where you can find many recent culinary school grads putting their skills to the test.

In most kitchens, you’ll be assisting the Chef de Partie with their tasks, preparing ingredients and dishes, helping with deliveries, stock organisation and cleaning duties. To make the most of your time as a Commis Chef and best prepare for taking the next step up the ladder, it’s essential to have a proactive attitude, strong listening skills and exceptional organisational skills.

Chef de Partie 

A Chef de Partie is responsible for a particular area of production within a professional kitchen and therefore, there are many variations of this role, including:

  • Sauté chef
  • Fish Chef
  • Vegetable Chef
  • Pastry Chef

In most kitchens, they’ll work alone with the support of a Commis Chef but in larger kitchens, there may be several junior Chef de Parties to ensure the utmost efficiency. Their responsibilities include managing their own section and ensuring that it meets the standards set by the Sous Chef, preparing the food to a high standard and training Commis Chefs.


Vive La France!

If your GCSE French skills have picked up the strong French connection, that’s because the brigade de cuisine, was a system developed by Georges Auguste Escoffier, a French Chef and Restauranteur. Escoffier called upon his military experience to create a hierarchical system to organise his kitchen staff. Today, this system is used in professional kitchens across the world.

Sous Chef

Literally translating to “Under Chef” in French, a Sous Chef is second in command but often has a more active role within a professional kitchen in directly managing the team.

Their main duty is to direct operations as determined by the Head Chef including ensuring all the elements of the kitchen are working with utmost efficiency, checking presentation and food quality alongside training new starters.

Head Chef / Chef de Cuisine

The Head Chef is the highest role within the brigade de cuisine, in larger establishments, however, an Executive Chef leads.

They are responsible for overseeing the whole kitchen operation from menu planning, staffing, and inventory management to food preparation, cooking and adhering to health and safety regulations.

This is a high-pressured role within a high-pressured environment and requires some years of experience within a kitchen to be able to truly excel in this role.


How Much Do Chefs Earn in a Year?

As we always say, this can differ greatly based on location, company and experience. According to Indeed, the average salaries for full-time Chefs are:

Commis Chef: £20,718 per year

Chef de Partie or Line Chef: £27,091 per year

Sous Chef: £31,378 per year

Head Chef: £35,838 per year

Figures are correct at time of publishing: 22/11/2023

Apply For Temporary Chef Jobs

If this sounds like the type of career that you want, check out our active chef roles across the UK.