What's in a day?

As a head or executive chef you're as close to a superhero as it gets in the kitchen. Everyone in the brigade, from the kitchen porter to the sous chef, looks to you for inspiration – and you'll have to hold your own with the front of house restaurant staff, too.

To be blunt, your menus will set the tone for the restaurant, and the quality and pricing of the food you produce could arguably make or break the business.

Key responsibilities:

  • Overall responsibility for daily operations in the kitchen
  • Liaising with purchasing companies for food orders
  • Maintaining or raising the profit margins on food
  • Producing menus and new dishes
  • Managing, training and recruiting a brigade of chefs

What sort of hours will I work?

You'll work split shifts like everyone else – at least a 40 hour week, but most likely whatever it takes to get the job done.

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What's the best bit about being a head chef?

"It's fantastic to have the freedom of expression with your food, to put your own stamp on the menu and to have more time for creativity and self expression," says Tim Luff, head chef, The Fishes, a Peach Pub in North Hinksey, Oxford.

And the worst?

"There's more paperwork than you'd think, and more people related things to worry about, for instance, when chefs in your brigade are off sick or on holiday. You can sometimes end up feeling like an agony aunt or uncle, too – dealing with problems when all you want to do is cook."

What skills do I need?

  • Excellent cooking skills
  • An understanding of produce and ingredients
  • The ability to write menus that are both creative and profitable
  • Blue chip management skills (ideally without the swearing)

What qualifications do I need?

Many head chefs have got where they are today by training on the job and taking every opportunity for placements (or stages) in top kitchens. However, formal qualifications will undoubtedly get you to the top faster. You can work your way up the ranks by taking the Modern Apprenticeship route as well as studying for NVQs or SVQs.

Alternatively, you can study full time at college. Useful qualifications include:

  • City & Guilds diplomas in professional cookery
  • BTEC HND in professional cookery
  • A foundation degree in culinary arts
  • Health and safety and food hygiene certificates

Who would it suit?

You're someone who hits the ground running at every shift, who enjoys the fast pace of the kitchen and can consistently produce top quality dishes under pressure. You're a born leader who relishes taking responsibility for the running of the kitchen, but also knows when and how to delegate. As for your warm, cuddly side, you have an unstoppable talent for creating new dishes and menus.

What sort of salary can I expect?

It all depends on your skills and the style of hotel or restaurant, so you could be earning anything from £20,000 to £150,000
Source: Chess Partnership, 2009

Where can I go from here?

To a better restaurant, a cruise ship, an international hotel, consultant for a group of restaurants, a contract catering post with more sociable hours, product development – or you could find an investor and launch your own place.

Look for head or executive chef jobs and chef de rang jobs

- Search for chef jobs in Glasgow
- Search for chef jobs in Aberdeen
- Search for chef jobs in Edinburgh

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