Food & Beverage

What’s best when starting a culinary career? Straight into full-time employment vs gaining qualifications

Thursday, March 8, 2018

There are two widely accepted routes of entry into the culinary industry. The first is to throw yourself straight into the deep end and work in a kitchen without any prior experience. The second is to go through training first, whether that’s culinary school, work experience or another type of qualification. But which route is the best option for making it in this highly competitive industry?

Straight into full time employment – the pros

  • You can start right away. There is nothing to hold you back and you don’t have to pay for qualifications to get started.
  • Earnings are immediate. Your salary might be low when you first start but you will be paid, unlike those who first seek out qualifications, especially if those qualifications cost money to complete.
  • The networking. You’ll meet people as soon as you start, you’ll be around chefs every day, learning from them - on the job experience is often what future employers prize more than qualifications.

Straight into full time employment – the cons

  • Hierarchy. You will be absolutely at the bottom of the pile when you start and may have to fight your way up.
  • The hours. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to start making your mark when you have nothing to your name other than enthusiasm. Be prepared to work all the hours under the sun.

Working after gaining qualifications – the pros

  • You might get a better job. Depending on the kitchen you might find that you don’t have to start right at the bottom of the ladder but can begin as a junior chef or specialist.
  • You should get paid more. As with any industry, the more qualifications you have the more of a fee you can demand for your services.
  • You’ll be more confident. You’ll already be familiar with the language of the kitchen, how some dishes are made and should have basic prep skills, all of which are an advantage.

Working after gaining qualifications experience – the cons

  • The debt. Many of those who choose the culinary school route end up in substantial debt. Kitchen salaries are often not large enough to pay this back quickly.
  • The school/qualification. Just because you pay for a course or qualification doesn’t mean you’ll be any good as a chef. A lot of additional work is often required in addition to what you’re being taught.
  • Culinary school isn’t a must. Qualifications and culinary school aren’t a baseline requirement. Many talented chefs will say that all you need to get a start in the industry is a cookbook and a good head on your shoulders.