In order to become a culinary chef, one typically should first go to culinary school, although it is possible to become a culinary chef through years of apprentice work under a highly skilled chef. Becoming a culinary chef will likely also involve field training in several professional kitchens, as well as business training to learn how to run a restaurant.
As in most professions, there are a number of areas of specialization within the culinary arts. A student who wants to become a culinary chef can begin the process of specialization while she is still in school. There are some culinary schools that focus on one kind of cooking, such as French cooking, or on one genre of food, such as desserts and pastries. Other programs, however instruct students in a variety of culinary traditions and in all genres of cooking.
Part of becoming a culinary chef is working in the field. In fact, many culinary programs require students to complete a certain number of hours working in a kitchen for some food service oriented business in order to graduate. In addition to giving the students work experience, an internship like this can also help students to make important contacts that will help them as they strive to become culinary chefs.
Although a great deal of coursework has to do with preparing food, students also have to do a great deal of studying in order to become a culinary chef. For example, students are often tested on their knowledge of food and cooking topics such as the smoke points of oils or principles of baking. Part of this work to become a culinary chef also has to do with food safety. Students have to learn how to keep safe kitchens and how to make sure that they food that they prepare will not cause illness in their diners. Much of this training has to do with food temperatures, the importance of refrigeration, and how to properly clean cooking surfaces and utensils.
In order to become a culinary chef, it is important for a student to learn about the business of food service. Students must learn how to order and make purchases so that the kitchen is properly outfitted and how to deal with vendors. Furthermore, a student must learn about how to price items on restaurant menus in order to make enough of a profit to support the restaurant. Some of this training may be learned in school, but working in a kitchen and observing the efforts of a seasoned chef is a great way to learn such skills.