How Do I Get a Chef Apprenticeship?

Angela Farrer

You can get a chef apprenticeship by selecting and applying for an established apprenticeship program that is usually part of a culinary arts program in a vocational school or community college. A cooking apprenticeship at the college level typically consists of both classroom study and practical training in a working kitchen. Some experienced chefs may also offer restaurant apprenticeships as a supplement to a formal school setting, and these options can come with their own requirements for apprentice chef acceptance. Some apprenticeships may focus on a specific area of cookery, such as pastry or food preparation, so you also want to decide beforehand which specialty would hold your interest the most. You finally want to make an impression as a strong candidate during the application process since working in the food industry often requires a high level of commitment.

A chef.
A chef.

Prior to applying to a chef apprenticeship program, you ideally want to compare the time commitments, pay rates, curriculum, and overall reputations of several schools. Some courses of culinary study require a certain number of completed classroom hours before a new apprentice is permitted to practice hands-on skills in the school kitchen. A good number of college cooking programs place students in restaurant apprenticeships outside of the school, although some do not. This kind of final chef apprenticeship is typically reserved for aspiring chefs approaching graduation. Some offer paychecks, while others offer internship credit, depending on the program policies.

Chefs and apprentices working in a restaurant kitchen.
Chefs and apprentices working in a restaurant kitchen.

Chef apprentices generally must be at least 18 and usually must show proof of high school completion. Depending on the school or restaurant offering the apprenticeship, you may also need to submit an application form, a statement of intent about why you want to become an apprentice chef, or a letter of recommendation from a past instructor or employer. During the application process, it is often important to express commitment to the program and your enthusiasm for the food industry.

The typical chef apprenticeship entails long and labor-intensive hours in a fast-paced kitchen, as well as work scheduled on weekends and holidays. Both culinary instructors and apprentice-supervising chefs usually look for apprentices who are hard working, dedicated to learning new skills, well organized, and able to work effectively as part of a team in a high-pressure environment. The average apprenticeship can last between one and three years, and many can lead to full-time employment for apprentices who master the required skills. Completing a chef apprenticeship from a highly-regarded program of study is also a big plus when seeking work in restaurants.

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