There is a hierarchy in the culinary industry when it comes to the position of a chef.
The most desired and esteemed position is that of the executive chef.
The next most important position in the hierarchy is the sous chef, followed by the station chef, expediter, kitchen manager, pastry chef, saucier, and fish cook.
The commis, a junior chef learning the ropes and working under a chef de partie (station chef), can climb this hierarchy provided that the commis has a flair for creativity, a passion for food and cooking, as well as a deep understanding of a sense of urgency.
Table of Contents
- Pros of Being a Chef
- Cons of Being a Chef
- Pros and Cons of Being a Chef – Summary Table
- Should You Become a Chef?
Pros of Being a Chef
This is an exciting and rewarding career that offers many wonderful benefits to those that have a passion for the culinary field.
1. Travel Opportunities
Young chefs starting their careers that do not have a family yet, often travel to other destinations across the world to gain greater experience or travel.
The hospitality industry is a booming industry with excellent growth projections for the next decade.
The culinary industry is at the heart of the hospitality industry.
As such, the demand for these professionals is ever increasing.
There are constantly positions opening up all over the world that headhunt the top professionals in this industry.
2. Opportunities for entrepreneurship
One of the greatest advantages of this career is that most experienced chefs can start their businesses.
It does not matter how far you have climbed up the ladder, there is the possibility to open your own establishment at any point in your progress.
Whether you start a mobile eatery or a fine dining establishment, as soon as you have experience in a particular style of cooking, there will be a market for your product.
Even if you decide to open a stall and grow from there, you will be able to do it.
This is one industry where entry into the market for even a semi-experienced chef is very easy.
3. Freedom of creativity
The higher you climb the ladder, the more creativity you will have as a chef.
Some executive chefs place the focus of their work on teamwork and incorporate ideas from all levels into the final menu.
For example, even junior chefs will have the ability to participate in the drafting of new menu items.
This is where creativity comes in and is very important.
Not only in what is being prepared but how it is being presented on the plate.
Plating food is a skill in and of itself that many chefs aim to master in their careers.
It has been said that most people eat with their tastebuds, sense of smell, and sense of sight.
Visually, plating is what draws the patron in and entices their taste buds.
For this reason, plating is probably one of the most important skills to master.
4. Learning about other cultures
It is exciting to work in a kitchen.
There is a lot of stress involved but also a lot of job satisfaction when you hear the words: “compliments to the chef”.
But, more than that, is the opportunity to meet people from different age groups, different walks of life, and different cultures.
As previously mentioned, the demand for chefs is high all around the world.
As such, it is not uncommon to work in a multicultural kitchen.
Your executive chef may be French, the sous chef may be American, the chef de partie may be Haitian, and so on.
You will get to meet people from all over the world and learn about their cultures, their way of cooking, and which foods they love.
You may even incorporate these recipes into your menu one day as you learn to cook a multitude of cultural dishes.
5. Job Security
This may be interpreted in various ways.
Firstly, there will be a high demand for chefs in the coming years and it is set to continue to grow.
Jobs for chefs are in demand all over the world.
And, if you happen to specialize in certain areas of the culinary world, such as French cuisine, or West African food, you may be headhunted by some of the top restaurants around the world.
6. Growth towards a leadership role
As previously mentioned, this is a field that allows for upward growth.
As an entry-level chef, there is a lot to learn about the kitchen.
Each area has room for advancement.
For example, if you are a line worker, and your specialty is meat, you may move horizontally, and specialize in seafood.
Or, you could work to move upwards toward a sous chef position.
Each category offers the chef a multitude of learning opportunities.
You will not ever feel that you are stagnating if you are someone that works hard.
In addition, there is a relatively high labor turnover, which means that positions open up all the time.
7. Live out your passion
If you love food and you enjoy cooking, then this may be the ideal career for you.
Not only will you be able to turn a hobby into a career, but you will experience high levels of job satisfaction in the process.
Many people never find their passion in life and end up doing dull work that does not inspire, motivate, or progress them in life.
Finding and following your passion is a dream that many never experience.
Those that are able to find their way into this field, will experience living out their passion daily.
Cons of Being a Chef
Just as there are advantages, there are many disadvantages as well.
Here are the top 7 disadvantages of this job.
1. Low salary
The entry-level salary for this position is relatively low.
In addition, many chefs will not land their dream job at a Michelin star restaurant and will end up working for low-paying establishments.
This is problematic for those that are raising families as the income may not always be enough to sustain an entire household.
Often, these individuals will need to get a second job or work a lot of overtime.
2. Weekend work
Another drawback is that you will be working when most people are off.
Restaurants are mostly busy when people are not at work.
This means that you will often, if not all the time, need to work over weekends.
Many establishments in the US are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, which means that chefs will have these two days as their weekends.
The sad reality is that most of your friends will be in the same industry as you will have the same time off.
You will not be able to attend that weekend’s BBQ unless you are off on that weekend.
3. A stressful job
It is no secret that the culinary world is riddled with high levels of stress.
Imagine you have a 60-seater restaurant and all of those seats get filled at the same time.
This is what is known as “the rush” in the hospitality industry.
The kitchen will experience intense bouts of busy times to meet the demand coming from the restaurant floor.
This is not a “one night in the week” kind of thing.
The rush happens during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Each day you will experience this sudden influx of patrons who all want their food at exactly the same time.
This is also where coordination comes into play.
An unorganized kitchen will be thrown into disarray when this happens, causing even more stress.
4. Not a great career if you’re planning a family
Unless you work at an establishment with fixed hours from six in the morning till right after lunch, chances are you will work some pretty random times.
For example, you may work the breakfast shift one day and the dinner shift the next day.
As such, starting a family may be a very challenging thing for you.
You will find it very difficult to organize yourself around your work schedule.
Keep in mind that although this may be difficult, it most certainly is not impossible.
But most people find it hard to adapt to this lifestyle when they have families.
5. You will smell of food all day long
Working in the kitchen all day cooking food will leave an unpleasant food smell on your chef’s jacket.
This is something that is unavoidable and most chefs do not seem to be concerned, as this is their passion.
The smell is not too unpleasant, but it certainly is noticeable.
But, for some, this smell is unbearable and over time the smell becomes more noticeable to these individuals.
If you feel that this is something that will not bother you, then you should consider pursuing this career.
Many find the smell intolerable though.
Sadly, due to high-stress levels, long working hours, and demanding jobs, many chefs experience burnout by mid-career.
Unable to return.
This does not happen to all chefs, but it does happen to a fairly large portion of the population at the higher end of the hierarchy.
7. Working long hours
As previously mentioned, you may only start to get busy after six in the evening when most people are off work.
Most establishments see their busiest period between 6 p.m and 9 p.m.
You can accept to work well after 11 p.m at most establishments.
Your working days and hours will be drastically different from those working in an office environment.
Pros and Cons of Being a Chef – Summary Table
|Pros of Being a Chef||Cons of Being a Chef|
|1. Travel Opportunities||1. Low salary|
|2. Opportunities for entrepreneurship||2. Weekend work|
|3. Freedom of creativity||3. A stressful job|
|4. Learning about other cultures||4. Not a great career if you're planning a family|
|5. Job Security||5. You will smell of food all day long|
|6. Growth towards a leadership role||6. Burnout|
|7. Live out your passion||7. Working long hours|
Should You Become a Chef?
There are many reasons to pursue this career field.
If you love to travel, enjoy working in a demanding job and being challenged, and have a creative flair then this may absolutely be the job for you.
The thing to consider is whether cooking and food is your passion.
If it is then you may want to pursue this field as you will experience very high levels of job satisfaction.