Commercial cookery is painted as a glamorous industry in popular Aussie TV shows such as MasterChef. With successful contestants landing cookbook deals and TV appearances, the life of a chef looks a bit like that of a celebrity.
But what is it really like to work as a chef in Australia? In other words, what can you expect once you graduate from your commercial cookery course and enter the world of cookery full time? Being a chef is a rewarding career path for those who are passionate about food, but there are certainly challenges that you’ll need to overcome.
Let’s take a look at what some industry experts have to say!
There will be hard work and long hours
There are pros and cons to being a chef, and with all the incredible benefits of doing what you love also come some challenges. The reality of working as a chef in Australia is that a great deal of work is involved. Of course, this is the case all over the world, but in Australia’s busy food and beverage industry, you can easily find yourself overwhelmed. While your friends working office jobs might be working eight hours a day, you could find yourself working far more than this at times, particularly during busy periods over the summer – often with late nights thrown into the mix.
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Peter Morgan-Jones, Executive Chef at charity organisation HammondCare, says being a chef is hard work, but believes it absolutely pays off if you love what you do. He gave aged services and retirement publication Australian Ageing Agenda some good advice for aspiring chefs wanting tips on how to deal with the workload:
“You need to be very time-focused. Everything’s on a deadline. I’m constantly checking the watch and multitasking. What I’ve learnt with experience is that you need a lot of patience and understanding. And good communication skills are important.”
There is plenty of opportunity to work your way up.
You might start small, but you can work your way up
When you’re studying to be a chef, you’ve got your sights set on success, but you’ll need to be prepared to put in the hard yards. After all, you don’t become the owner of a world-famous restaurant overnight! You’ll probably start out as a kitchen hand, or maybe even out front-of-house while you’re studying.
The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity to work your way up. So if your dream is to become an executive chef like Peter Morgan-Jones, or to publish your own cookbook, there are plenty of ways to reach your goal. As Kenvale’s own Anne Zahra says:
“The only way you can move up in this industry is starting on the floor and working up your hours. You make the career path in hospitality. There are a lot of jobs out there, and employers are always looking for experienced people. The sooner you start the better – you will move up faster.”
A good way to go about working your way up is to learn as much as you can from your industry mentors and try your hand at different positions. This will build up a rounded skill set you can use when you do eventually get to the top. Because being an executive chef or restaurant manager isn’t just about how well you can cook; it’s also about how well you can manage people, organise your finances, market your business and pass on your knowledge to others.
So, if you get the opportunity to work front-of-house or perform some tasks that are outside of cookery, don’t think of these things as irrelevant to your larger goal. They will all help you in the long run, by building up a wide range of skills you can use to shape your career.
You’ll do more than just cook
Cooking is your dream and your passion, so of course you want to spend most of your time doing just that. But if you want to work your way up to becoming a sous chef, head chef, or open your own restaurant one day, you’ll need to get stuck into some other tasks as well.
There are a lot of other tasks that come with working in commercial cookery.
As a chef, you’ll feel most at home in the kitchen, but there are a lot of other tasks that come with working in commercial cookery, for example training, new store openings, food development, product selection, procurement and logistics. Chef Danika Heslop has worked at restaurants like Quay and is now executive chef at Jamaica Blue. Her day is full of variety, she told Women’s Agenda:
“There is no one day alike with my job – one day I could be in the development kitchen working on our next promotion, the next I’m flying up to Brisbane to visit some of our franchisees.”
As you can see, a career in commercial cookery isn’t just about cookery! You’ll get to travel and sink your teeth into the day-to-day of running a business.
If you’re looking to start your career in commercial cookery, a Diploma with Kenvale College is the place to start!