Career Profile: Chef
Everyone needs to eat, but some meals are better than others. Chefs are highly trained cooks who help to make meals special with the ingredients they use and how they prepare the food. If you like to help people experience new and special tastes, a career as a chef might be right for you.
Many people learn to cook basic dishes like bacon and eggs or macaroni and cheese, but chefs learn to make much fancier meals than that. Most chefs need a certificate or diploma from a culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa or the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver. Different lengths of programs are available, and students can choose to focus on a certain type of cooking, such as French or Italian. Finding a school with a Red Seal designation is important, since most employers will require that.
Learning to be a chef involves becoming familiar with many different topics, such as the safe handling of food, how to cook dishes from different parts of the world, and other subjects. People can also choose whether to study to become a head chef or to specialize in something like sauces or desserts.
With this training, people can find jobs in all kinds of places, such as restaurants, conference centres, and even cruise ships or catering businesses. Teaching cooking at a trade school or community college might also be a good option for some chefs.
Salaries for chefs depend on their level of responsibility and where they work. Generally, chefs begin at about $12 per hour or over $26,000 per year and can rise to almost $21 per hour or over $50,000 per year. Over half of Canadian chefs work full time, but many people work part time and then possibly take another job as well.
Being a chef is not an easy job. In restaurants, there might be slack times when almost no one comes to eat, but then it might be extremely busy when mealtimes come. Some foods can be prepared an hour or more in advance, but many others need to be made just before they go out to the table. Chefs can be on their feet, busily making food without much of a rest for hours at a time. Sometimes, things go wrong and a chef has to make a last-minute change to a dish to make it work.
Creativity is a very important quality in chefs. Being able to create new dishes or to figure out what to do with limited choices will help chefs find work wherever they live. Communicating well with other people is also important, since chefs often have to work with kitchen staff who have little or no training and still be able to get meals prepared and out on time.
Job prospects for chefs in Canada are not very good right now, but openings come up quite often. Big cities are likely to have more opportunities but also more competition for jobs. You can already start to get experience as a chef by studying cookbooks and practicing your skills. You might become a great chef someday!
Culinary Schools.org. “Find a Top Cooking School in a Canadian Province.” https://www.culinaryschools.org/international/canada-cooking-schools/#context/api/listings/prefilter.
Government of Canada. “Cook in Canada.” https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/6225/ca.
Payscale.com. “Kitchen Chef: Hourly Rate.” https://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Kitchen_Chef/Hourly_Rate.
Work BC. “Chefs (NOC 6321). https://www.workbc.ca/careers/6321.