What’s in a day?
Congratulations! As a commis chef you’re on the first rung of the ladder to becoming a great chef. In most kitchens you’ll do food preparation work and basic cooking under the supervision of a chef de partie or section chef, rotating through sections such as sauce, vegetables, fish and butchery roughly every six months. This is your big chance to learn all there is to know about your trade, but the standard and style of cooking you do will be determined by your commitment and the type of hotel or restaurant you apply to work in – so choose carefully. Key responsibilities:
- Maintaining high standards of hygiene
- Preparing the ingredients for a more senior chef
- Measuring dish ingredients and portion sizes accurately
- Dealing with deliveries and stock rotation
What sort of hours will I work?
Like most chefs, you’ll work split shifts and a minimum of 40 hours a week
Commis chef jobs
The best bit about being a commis chef?
“There’s a lot of banter with the boys – and the girls – in the kitchen,” advises Tim Luff, head chef, The Fishes, a Peach Pub at North Hinksey, Oxford. “It’s a great time for finding your feet, getting to know how things work and what makes the rest of the team tick as well.”
And the worst bit?
“Plain and simple – it’s hard, dirty work. There are lots of physically tough jobs to do, such as hauling things around the kitchen, as well as keeping on top of deliveries, which can be a challenge.”
What skills do I need?
You’ll need to have a lot of stamina, be able to learn on your feet and be passionate about food because cooking in a high pressure kitchen is hard work. You’ll also need to be versatile, because it is important that you gain experience in all sections of the kitchen – fish, pastry, butchery and so on – before you consider specialising.
What qualifications do I need?
Arguably, you don’t need any. You could, for instance, train on the job as a modern apprentice, or join a company with training programmes as a kitchen porter. Alternatively, you may have completed formal training. Check out what’s on offer at colleges around the country, but in the meantime, here are a few work related qualifications that will help:
- The 14-19 Hospitality & Catering diploma
- NVQs or SVQs
- City & Guilds diplomas in professional cookery
- BTEC HND in professional cookery
- A foundation degree in culinary arts
- Any health & safety and food hygiene courses
Who would it suit?
Someone who loves cooking. Remember, this is one of the lowest ranking jobs in the kitchen, but if you’re committed, a white hot career awaits.
What sort of salary can I expect?
Probably in the region of £12,000-£18,000, but, as most commis chefs stay in the role for four to five years, there is a discrepancy in salaries as they become more experienced.
Where can I go from here?
Let’s face it, even Gordon Ramsay started as a commis chef, so head for the stars. The natural progression from commis chef is to demi-chef de partie, chef de partie (section chef) and then onwards and upwards to sous chef and head chef. In some kitchens you’ll progress faster than in others, but it’s often worth staying in the role for four to five years to do the groundwork.
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