Career path in focus: from dishwasher to the executive chef
All the great chefs have at least one thing in common: they started at the bottom. And while unlike in some other industries, the hospitality industry doesn’t cater to cheating your way to the top. Experience, leadership and creativity take time and practice. They’re the skillsets which set apart the good from the great.
There are very few industries that have a right of passage as defined as the career path of a chef. Below you’ll find just some of the ways in which you too can progress your career from kitchen dishwasher to executive chef.
Step One: Embrace the time spent in the restaurant kitchen doing the dishes
It’s here you’ll learn the foundations of how a kitchen runs and the role of the key players. Plus you’ll develop a deeper understanding of why simple things like proper storage and organisation make for smoother service. Pay attention and absorb everything that you can.
Step Two: Get certified
Skills Certified Australia’s Partner RTOs offers a Certificate II in Kitchen Operations which will not only cover the fundamental skills you need to progress forward, but it will also grant you national recognition. Head chefs take formal training into consideration when looking at resumes so make sure yours has the industry essentials.
Step Three: Progress into prep
The beauty of working in a kitchen is that opportunities will always pop up. Those who work hard, have a can-do attitude and a certification will stand above the rest for the next promotion.
Traditionally the second stage after washing dishes, fundamental prep duty is where you’ll develop the basic skillset of prep. From peeling potatoes to dicing onions, washing herbs and arranging the fridges and cupboards with prepped stock, you’ll learn to work fast and effectively. Take the opportunity to learn the right way to do things and be rewarded in the end.
Step Four: Work your way up the ladder
Gradually you’ll grow into a station chef or line cook and from there, a sous chef, head chef, and eventually an executive chef.
This task is easier than it sounds. For quick growth, don’t wait to be asked. Do. Assess what’s going on around and if you see an opportunity to help out where you know you won’t get in the way, just do it. Kitchens have fast turn arounds so keep an ear out for new openings too.
Step Five: Learn to cook properly
As your face becomes familiar in your restaurant kitchen, you’ll be asked to do more and cover shifts that aren’t yours. These are great learning opportunities for expanding your repertoire and experimenting with different foods. Embrace new recipes and discover how to balance out flavours. If you show you’re hungry and curious, the head chef will notice.
Step Six: Go the extra mile
The Certificate III and IV in Cookery can both be granted based off your own industry experience. These certifications will again make your experience and qualifications stand out when looking for a promotion or a new opportunity within the industry.
Step Seven: Find your flavour
Where you take your career next is entirely up to you. Maybe you’re keen to explore the future of sustainability, or perhaps you want to specialise in French or Italian cuisine. Whatever you decide, your speciality will help you develop your brand as a chef. The more specialised you are, the more in demand you’ll be.
For more insight on career development read follow our 5 step plan for your next career move.
Find out if you can get certified for your existing hospitality experience through recognised prior learning (RPL) by completing the free 60 second skills test.