You love the kitchen and are always coming up with new recipes. Friends rave about your delicious meals. You enjoy making each dish into a beautiful presentation. Now you want to become a culinary chef and wonder if you need to go to school or start working in a restaurant. Here is some advice to help you pursue a career as a culinary chef. 

Things You'll Need

  • A love of food and cooking
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • College degree in culinary arts or equivalent work experience
  • Kitchen work experience
  • Apprenticeship to chef

Cook at home and keep a clean, organized kitchen. You must love the entire cooking process. A good culinary chef understands every aspect of the food preparation process from food selection to cleaning the dirty dishes. Take care in choosing foods and seasonings for meals. Keep the dishes washed and all cooking surfaces immaculate. Consider food presentation when you serve the meal. All of these details are important in a restaurant kitchen. If you practice these skills at home, you will be a step ahead in a restaurant kitchen.

Experiment with recipes. Explore cookbooks and cook the recipes that interest you. Study the recipes of famous culinary chefs and figure out what makes their dishes stand out from similar meals. Get an understanding of recipe format and begin developing your own recipes.

Decide if you want to learn a culinary speciality. Culinary chefs sometimes specialize in a certain type of cuisine. Specialties include European food, ethnic cuisine, gourmet delicacies or pastries. If you want to specialize in a cuisine, find a culinary arts program in your area of interest.

Start working in a restaurant kitchen. Consider any kitchen job to get your foot in the door. Do not turn down an opportunity to work in a restaurant kitchen just because it is entry level, when you are inexperienced. Every job in a kitchen is important to overall meal preparation and can teach you about the way a professional kitchen operates. If you are still in high school, consider seeking a job as a dishwasher. Some small diners will hire teenagers as assistant cooks.

Complete your education. A high school diploma or GED is necessary for most chef jobs. While work experience in a restaurant kitchen is important and a college degree in culinary arts can be helpful for pursuing culinary chef jobs. It may even be required for some sous and executive chef positions. You can find a list of culinary schools and culinary arts programs on-line and at the library. If you are in high school, ask your guidance counselor for advice on culinary arts education. You can choose between culinary schools that focus on culinary arts degrees exclusively or universities that have culinary programs. Once you obtain a list of schools, contact the schools for further information on curriculum, specialties and tuition.

Seek a chef apprenticeship. Chef apprenticeships provide kitchen work experience and allow an aspiring culinary chef to work closely with chefs. This may be a culinary students way of obtaining kitchen work experience for school credit hours. A chef apprenticeship program developed by the American Federation of Culinary Arts is offered through most culinary schools. A chef apprentice often helps prep cooks and sous chefs with food preparation, stocking shelves and ordering ingredients. The apprentice may have duties such as cutting vegetables, washing fruit or measuring ingredients.

Work your way up to the culinary chef position. The types of jobs that lead to culinary chef positions include line cook, station cook, prep cook, chef apprentice and sous chef. These jobs are important so that you gain an understanding of how a professional kitchen operates on every level. A culinary arts degree and an apprenticeship may allow you to reach the sous chef position faster because you will gain line chef experience during the apprenticeship. Once you are a sous chef, you will have more opportunities for culinary artistic expression through recipe creation. After a sous chef position, you can become a head chef, executive chef and then a master culinary chef.