a career as a chef may be exciting for those who are passionate about cooking and enjoy trying out new cuisines. if you enjoy creating exciting new dishes for friends and family, why not take it to a new level by impressing customers at your own restaurant? one of the most frequently asked questions by people who wish to enter this career is 'how long does it take to become a chef?', and the answer to this can be quite complex because there is no fixed universal requirement.
the path to becoming a chef
in order to become a professional chef, you need more than just an interest in food. for starters, you will have to obtain a formal degree from a two or four year college in the culinary arts. these programs will train you in various cooking techniques and other skills that you need in order to be a competent chef. you will understand various spices and how to use their combinations to create unique flavor, how to mix and match vegetables and ingredients to create authentic cuisine, and also how to liaison with clients and set the menu for a restaurant.
some individuals choose to bypass the postsecondary educational requirements and pick up their skills through direct work experience. this can be done through apprenticeships with professional chefs, but there is a catch. most professional kitchens are very selective about whom they will hire for an apprenticeship; while having a degree is not required, it does give some people a competitive edge. most apprenticeships last between a year and two years, and tend to combine classroom training in addition to the practical experience. places looking for apprentices can be as small as a restaurant to as large as a major hotel chain requiring more hands in the kitchen.
another factor affecting your entry into the profession is if you want to specialize in a particular area of cooking. some individuals want to become pastry chefs, while others want to become experts at chinese cuisine. the programs and apprenticeships for these areas can vary significantly in their duration. so the answer to 'how long does it take to become a chef' is anywhere between 2 and 6 years. if you want to assume more senior roles in the kitchen and become a sous chef or head chef, you will have to acquire more experience and spend more time specializing in a particular cuisine.
should i become a chef?
if you are imaginative with food, love to cook, and are comfortable working long shifts in the kitchen, a career as a chef may be right for you. however, there is a lag in the employment, meaning that the market will be extremely competitive for a very limited number of jobs. with your training as a chef, it is possible to start your own business as well. if you feel you have what it takes to manage the finances of a business and start your own kitchen, this is highly recommended.