The different types of chef qualifications often include an education in culinary arts and several years of experience working in different roles within a professional kitchen. Restaurant employers tend not to require of their employees any specific type of education, though training in cooking classes and culinary schools can be beneficial to those beginning in the industry. Several years of kitchen management experience are typically required of those wishing to attain the highest level of chef, and can be obtained by promotion through the ranks of various positions available in large professional kitchens.
Though it is not necessary to obtain a high school education before becoming a chef, many employers consider education beneficial among other chef qualifications. Some high schools offer introductory cooking courses that prepare students to enter a post-secondary trade school or four year university specializing in the culinary arts. Students may find that their educational background sets them apart from other candidates when applying for positions in upscale restaurants and hotel restaurants.
Those who do not wish to pursue additional vocational training beyond secondary school should begin pursuing hands on experience to add to their list of chef qualifications. Entry level kitchen positions are often available to recent high school graduates in which employers offer to train employees on the job. These positions can include working in a fast food service kitchen or a cafeteria.
Within a professional kitchen, there is often a hierarchy of positions over which the chef may preside as a type of manager. Entry level kitchen staff, comprised primarily of recent college and trade school graduates or those with sufficient entry level cook experience, may be given lower positions within the hierarchy and allowed to work up within the ranks to become chef. The size of the restaurant typically determines the number of staff within the kitchen, and the responsibilities of those employed there may vary according to need.
The kitchen is generally divided into stations, characterized by the type of dish prepared there. For example, one kitchen might include a station for grilled meats, another for soups, and another for fried dishes. An entry level cook may be given responsibility over the certain types of dishes prepared at one individual station, or can be asked to apprentice to that station's cook and perform preparatory and cleaning work particular to that area. Station cooks may then be promoted to sous-chef, a position which assists the chief kitchen chef, and can supervise the kitchen when the chef is not present.
Chef qualifications for newly posted available positions generally require several years of experience performing specified activities. Most applicants must have spent many years working through the hierarchy of a kitchen to attain kitchen management experience, which is essential when seeking to become a chief kitchen chef. The position of sous-chef may be promoted within his own kitchen when the chief chef steps down, or he may choose to seek new employment outside of his training kitchen which will accept his years of junior management experience. An employee can, at any time, choose to leave the professional kitchen and open his own restaurant in which he may then preside as chief kitchen chef.