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Careers as a Chef

As a chef, you can put your artistic and culinary skills to use and create a product that everyone will love. With each relocation, you’ll have opportunities to learn new skills, build your portfolio and open doors to advance in your career.

If one of your passions in life is cooking, especially for others, then a career as a chef may be a great choice. Being an artist in the kitchen doesn’t always take a lot of formal training, and the skills you learn are extremely portable. Entry-level positions as a cook or chef often only require a high school diploma or equivalent. You can then work your way up to lead positions based on your skills. Advanced career positions, such as a sous chef or head chef, typically require training at a community college, technical school, culinary arts school or a four-year college.

Roles and responsibilities

The many roles and responsibilities of a chef often require much more than just cooking. Some of your responsibilities as a chef may include the following:

  • Checking the freshness of food and ingredients
  • Supervising and coordinating the activities of other cooks and food preparation workers
  • Developing recipes and determining how to present the food
  • Planning menus and ensuring uniform serving sizes and quality of meals
  • Inspecting supplies, equipment and work areas for cleanliness and functionality
  • Hiring, training and supervising cooks and other food preparation workers
  • Ordering and maintaining the inventory of food and supplies
  • Monitoring sanitation practices and following kitchen safety standards

Specialties in the field

You may be interested in one of the many different specialty fields that are part of the chef occupation. Some specialty chefs include the following.

  • Executive chefs oversee the operations of the entire kitchen, including developing the menu, setting food quality standards, maintaining inventory and ensuring compliance with safety practices.
  • Head cooks, like an executive chef, often assist with menu development. Other duties include ensuring adequate staffing levels, maintaining food safety and processing accounting and payroll.
  • Chef de cuisine, derived from the French word, is the head of the kitchen.
  • Sous chefs, second in command to an executive or head chef, primarily maintain the quality standards for prepared food but must also know how to operate the kitchen in the absence of the executive or head chef.
  • Private household chefs work for a private employer or multiple private employers in their home, yacht or private plane.

Depending on your location, it may be difficult to find employment in your direct specialty field, and you may need to wait for a head chef position to open. Because of the important and unique skills that you learn in this occupation, you can translate your abilities into other types of employment. As a trained chef, you may also qualify as a baker, cook, food and beverage server, food blogger, food preparation worker or food service manager.

Starting your job search

When you are ready to start your job search, visit the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search to search for positions with companies and organizations committed to hiring military spouses.

Joining a professional organization and networking with your peers is an important part of becoming a successful chef. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Relocations and your career

Relocating every few years may be one of the best things that can happen to your career as a chef. Every experience you have as you relocate can help you learn new styles of food, skills, tricks and tips. Having a broader knowledge of foods can make it easier to find employment in your dream kitchen as you transition out of the service and may even give you the inspiration to start your own kitchen one day.

If you move due to a PCS, you can receive up to $1,000 in reimbursement for costs associated with exams or registration fees to keep working in your new state. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires.

Next steps

To find more information related to starting your career as a chef, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keywords 'Chefs and Head Cooks' to learn more about the occupational overview, including latest government statistics and occupational wages.

If you need more information on getting the proper license or certification as part of your specialty field, visit the Advantages of Licensure article in the Education, Training and Licensing lifecycle stage of MySECO. You can also visit the Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your state.

Speak with a SECO career coach by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.

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