How to Become a Chef

Find out how to become a chef and how we can help you get there to realize your dream culinary career.

Becoming a chef is a dream for many people. Bringing joy to others through food, being creative, working varied hours, and being in a growth industry are just some of the reasons people choose the career path of a chef. To become a chef takes a lot of hard work and dedication to consistent improvement. There is no one path to becoming a chef, but generally, this is the path that many chefs follow.

1. Obtain your high school diploma or equivalent (GED) 

Domestic and international applicants will need to have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to apply to culinary school. You will find that the lessons you learned in your high school math and science classes are applied in the kitchen.

2. Entry-level Restaurant or Kitchen Experience

While earning your high school diploma or after graduating, getting some work experience in kitchens or restaurants is a great way to discover what happens in a professional kitchen. Through this exposure, you may identify the roles and specializations of interest to you for a career in the culinary industry.

3. Attend Culinary School

Formal training through culinary school is one of the fastest ways to set you on the path to becoming a chef. Through a six-month, one-year, or two-year program, you’ll be trained in the fundamentals of culinary techniques. To excel in all your practical and written exams, you’ll need to work hard, ask questions, practice, and perfect your skills.

Along with the hands-on culinary training and skill development, you’ll get to network with professionals in the industry and develop contacts with your fellow students, faculty, and alumni. This will be helpful when you begin and later advance in your career.

A certificate from a recognized culinary school provides you with more opportunities and a better entry-level position into the industry.

4. Get Practical Kitchen Experience

Through practical experience, you will broaden your skills and proficiencies. You may start work as a line cook or a prep cook doing food preparation for your day-to-day. 

Many successful chefs advise working in different environments - such as restaurants, catering companies, or hotels. Working with different chefs with various culinary styles and cuisines will help you broaden your experience and skill set to increase your employability. 

You’ll need to work hard aiming for promotions to get you to the top job. A common path might be Commis, Chef de Partie, Sous Chef, and then Head Chef. It will take years of experience working in professional kitchens to attain the level of a professional chef. 

5. First Chef Role

Your hard work has paid off if your goal was to become a chef. Once you’ve achieved the level of chef you have different options going forward. You can continue working as a chef, choosing different venues to challenge yourself, you might open your own restaurant or catering company, become a personal chef, or you may look to take on a management position in food-related companies. 

6. Obtain Highest Certifications in Canada

Some individuals wish to continue their journey and obtain the highest culinary designations in Canada. Offered by the Canadian Culinary Institute, the Certified Master Chef professional designation (CMC) is the highest level a chef can obtain in Canada. The Certified Chef de Cuisine (CCC) is the highest professional designation for cooks in Canada. To apply to both programs, applicants require years of experience working at the highest levels.

Start a Culinary Career with Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts

There are so many career opportunities available to you as a chef in the culinary industry and we can help you get there.

Find out more about our professional diploma programs and what you need to get started on your career to becoming a chef today. Contact our admissions team at 1-800-416-4040 or in the Vancouver area at 604-734-4488. We’re excited to meet you and get you started on your culinary dream!