Training, Qualifications, and Advancement
Most chefs, cooks, and food preparation
workers start as fast-food or short-order cooks, or in other lower
skilled kitchen positions. These positions require little education
or training, and most skills are learned on the job. After acquiring
some basic food handling, preparation, and cooking skills, these
workers may be able to advance to an assistant cook position.
a high school diploma is not required for beginning jobs, it is
recommended for those planning a career as a cook or chef. High
school or vocational school courses in business arithmetic and business
administration are particularly helpful. Many school districts,
in cooperation with State departments of education, provide on-the-job
training and summer workshops for cafeteria kitchen workers with
aspirations of becoming cooks. Large corporations in the food service
and hotel industries also offer paid internships and summer jobs,
which can provide valuable experience.
To achieve the level of skill required of an executive
chef or cook in a fine restaurant, many years of training and experience
are necessary. An increasing number of chefs and cooks obtain their
training through high school, post-high school vocational programs,
or 2- or 4-year colleges. Chefs and cooks also may be trained in
apprenticeship programs offered by professional culinary institutes,
industry associations, and trade unions.
An example is the 3-year apprenticeship program
administered by local chapters of the American Culinary Federation
in cooperation with local employers and junior colleges or vocational
education institutions. In addition, some large hotels and restaurants
operate their own training programs for cooks and chefs. People
who have had courses in commercial food preparation may be able
to start in a cook or chef job without having to spend time in a
lower skilled kitchen job. Their education may give them an advantage
when looking for jobs in better restaurants and hotels, where hiring
standards often are high.
Although some vocational programs in high schools
offer training, employers usually prefer training given by trade
schools, vocational centers, colleges, professional associations,
or trade unions. Postsecondary courses range from a few months to
2 years or more and are open, in some cases, only to high school
graduates. About 8 to 15 years as a cook is required to become a
fully qualified chef. Those who gain experience, including in a
supervisory capacity, may become executive chefs with responsibility
for more than one kitchen. The U.S. Armed Forces also are a good
source of training and experience.
Although curricula may vary, students in these
programs usually spend most of their time learning to prepare food
through actual practice. They learn to bake, broil, and otherwise
prepare food, and to use and care for kitchen equipment. Training
programs often include courses in menu planning, determination of
portion size, food cost control, purchasing food supplies in quantity,
selection and storage of food, and use of leftover food to minimize
waste. Students also learn hotel and restaurant sanitation and public
health rules for handling food.
Training in supervisory and management skills sometimes
is emphasized in courses offered by private vocational schools,
professional associations, and university programs. Across the Nation
, a number of schools offer culinary courses. The American Culinary
Federation has accredited over 100 training programs and a offers
a number of apprenticeship programs around the country. Typical
apprenticeships last three years and combine classroom and work
experience. Accreditation is an indication that a culinary program
meets recognized standards regarding course content, facilities,
and quality of instruction.
The American Culinary Federation also certifies
pastry professionals, culinary educators, and chefs and cooks at
the levels of cook, working chef, executive chef, and master chef.
Certification standards are based primarily on experience and formal
training. Important characteristics for chefs, cooks, and food preparation
workers include the ability to work as part of a team, a keen sense
of taste and smell, and personal cleanliness. Most States require
health certificates indicating that workers are free from communicable
diseases. Advancement opportunities for chefs and cooks are better
than for most other food and beverage preparation and service occupations.
Many chefs and cooks acquire high-paying positions and new cooking
skills by moving from one job to another.
Besides culinary skills, advancement also depends
on ability to supervise less skilled workers and limit food costs
by minimizing waste and accurately anticipating the amount of perishable
supplies needed. Some chefs and cooks go into business as caterers
or restaurant owners, while others become instructors in vocational
programs in high schools, community colleges, or other academic
A number of cooks and chefs advance to executive
chef positions or supervisory or management positions, particularly
in hotels, clubs, and larger, more elegant restaurants.
Job openings for chefs, cooks, and food preparation
workers are expected to be plentiful through 2010. While job growth
will create new positions, the overwhelming majority of job openings
will stem from the need to replace workers who leave this large
occupational group. Minimal educational and training requirements,
combined with a large number of part-time positions, make employment
as chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers attractive to people
seeking a short-term source of income and a flexible schedule.
In coming years, these workers will continue to
transfer to other occupations or stop working to assume household
responsibilities or to attend school full time, creating numerous
openings for those entering the field. Job openings stemming from
replacement needs will be supplemented by new openings resulting
from employment growth, as overall employment of chefs, cooks, and
food preparation workers is expected to increase about as fast as
the average for all occupations over the 2000-10 period.
Employment growth will be spurred by increases
in population, household income, and leisure time that will allow
people to dine out and take vacations more often. In addition, growth
in the number of two-income households will lead more families to
opt for the convenience of dining out. Projected employment growth,
however, varies by specialty. Increases in the number of families
and the more affluent, 55-and-older population will lead to more
restaurants that offer table service and more varied menus-resulting
in faster-than-average growth among higher-skilled restaurant cooks.
As more Americans choose more full-service restaurants,
employment of fast-food cooks is expected to decline and employment
of short-order cooks, most of whom work in fast-food restaurants,
is expected to grow more slowly than average. Duties of cooks in
fast-food restaurants are limited; most workers are likely to be
combined food preparation and serving workers, rather than fast-food
cooks. In addition, fast-food restaurants increasingly offer healthier
prepared foods, further reducing the need for cooks.
Employment of institution and cafeteria chefs
and cooks also will grow more slowly than the average for all occupations.
Their employment will not keep pace with the rapid growth in the
educational and health services industries-where their employment
is concentrated. In an effort to make "institutional food"
more attractive to students, staff, visitors, and patients, high
schools and hospitals increasingly contract out their food services.
Many of the contracted food service companies emphasize simple menu
items and employ short-order cooks, instead of institution and cafeteria
cooks, reducing the demand for these workers.
Workers who perform tasks similar to those of chefs,
cooks, and food preparation workers include food processing occupations
such as butchers and meat cutters, and bakers.
Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Links to non-BLS Internet sites are provided for your
convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
Information about job opportunities may be obtained
from local employers and local offices of the State employment service.
Career information about chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers,
as well as a directory of 2- and 4-year colleges that offer courses
or programs that prepare persons for food service careers, is available
from: The National Restaurant Association, 1200 17th St. NW., Washington,
DC 20036-3097. Internet: http://www.restaurant.org
For information on the American Culinary Federation's
apprenticeship and certification programs for cooks, as well as
a list of accredited culinary programs, send a self-addressed, stamped
envelope to: The American Culinary Federation, 10 San Bartola Dr.,
St. Augustine, FL 32085. Internet: http://www.acfchefs.org
For general information on hospitality careers,
contact: The International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional
Education, 3205 Skipwith Rd., Richmond, VA 23294-4442. Internet:
At any time you can click on our Information
Form Service in order to have your details circulated to multiple
academic institutions so they can mail you comprehensive further information
and brochures. Remember this service is completely free of charge.
If you have any comments or queries relating to this site please
©Sandringham Publishing Ltd - All rights reserved