- Working with a good manager
When you’re training the first step is to learn how to manage yourself and to continuously develop your skills and experience – this almost always requires some inspirational words and guidance from someone in a more senior role to you. What can you learn from them about how to be a good manager, a great role model and a professional chef?
- Food pairing experience
You might learn this at culinary school, you might learn it on the job. Food pairing forms the basis of dish design – if you don’t know how to follow the rules on basic flavour combinations then how can you ever learn to break them?
- Getting to grips with the economics
The best Head Chefs create thrilling dishes but also understand the cost and time implications of what they create. Before you step up to this role you need to have experience of how the finished plate relates to the restaurant balance sheet.
- Making a bad decision
Decision making is another crucial part of being a successful Head Chef and it’s not something that comes easily to everyone, particularly in a high pressure situation. Making a bad decision, living through the consequences, and learning from this is an essential experience for an up and coming chef.
- Learning how to attract business
The role of the head chef doesn’t stop at the kitchen door. Restaurants where the top talent in the kitchen understand how to contribute to PR, marketing and attracting customers always perform better.
- Quality control
As a Head Chef you must have the experience to enforce quality control in the kitchen, to know when to stop a dish going out and to identify and solve any ongoing quality issues.
- Innovation and testing
Having the time to test and innovate will contribute significantly to your success as a Head Chef. This may be working with other innovative professional chefs or simply by tasting your way around cultures and countries and trying out your own versions of dishes as you go.
- Handling the purchase and ordering
This will ultimately fall under the Head Chef’s remit, even if some of it is delegated. Experience of buying and maintaining an inventory is a must.
- Be a trainer not a trainee
Head Chefs have a responsibility to inspire and educate those coming up behind them - the best do this with enthusiasm, passion and expertise. Experience in a training role will help you to create a positive kitchen environment.
- Taking responsibility
You can start taking responsibility in the kitchen from day 1. If you make a mistake, own up, if you did something well enjoy the credit. A great Head Chef knows how to take responsibility, doesn’t seek to blame others and understands how to convert this into ongoing positive development (of both himself and of the restaurant). It’s never too early to learn these skills.
Becoming a Head Chef is the goal for many who enter the restaurant business. However, it can be a long road to get there and once you’re at the top there are plenty of challenges and obstacles you’ll continue to face as part of your chef career. What kind of experiences should you ideally acquire before you become a Head Chef?