Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Do you love cooking and dream of turning your passion into a profession? If so, you might be interested in becoming a chef.

As a linchpin of a career in hospitality, chefs serve as the head of the kitchen – be it a restaurant chain, local eatery, hotel, or café – and perform duties ranging from managing staff and creating menus, to overseeing the restaurant's kitchen.

In this article, we explain how to become a chef, what a chef does, the different types of chefs there are – for example, what is a commis chef? – and how to progress your career.

What is a chef?

A chef is a person who prepares food for a living. A chef can work in various settings, such as restaurants, hotels, catering companies, or private homes. They can also specialise in different types of cuisine, such as French, Italian, Chinese, or Indian.

Alongside adapting and creating menus, a chef also needs to order ingredients, cook dishes, and ensure food safety and quality standards are met throughout their kitchen.

Types of chefs

Alongside varying culinary settings, there are also different types of chef roles in a professional kitchen, each with their own responsibilities for making sure all food is of the highest standard.

Some of the most common types of chefs are:


This is a chef who owns and runs their own restaurant. They look after both the business and the menu – often seen in local restaurants and cafés.

Executive chef

These chefs oversee all aspects of the kitchen, such as its staff, budget, inventory, and quality. They also create most of the recipes and dishes for the menu.

Sous chef

A second-in-command chef who assists the executive chef. They also help to manage the kitchen staff and ensure the smooth operation of the kitchen.

Senior chef

A chef who is in charge of a specific section or station in the kitchen, such as sauces, meats, pastries, etc. They also supervise the junior chefs and cooks in their section.

Commis chef

A junior or assistant chef who works under the senior chef. They are responsible for preparing ingredients, cooking dishes, and maintaining the cleanliness of the kitchen, while learning from the senior chefs.

What do you need to become a chef

Some chef positions allow candidates to kickstart their careers with minimal experience, but it is advantageous to have some related experience or education. Some of the common ways to get into this career are:


You can study a vocational course in professional cookery or culinary arts at a college, such as a T-level, a BTEC, or an NVQ. These courses will teach the practical skills and knowledge needed to work in a kitchen, such as cooking techniques, food hygiene, nutrition, and menu planning.

Some college courses also provide work experience in a real or simulated kitchen environment, which helps students understand the day-to-day operations of the profession.


For those looking to enhance their education further, a higher education course in professional cookery or culinary arts at a university is a viable option. These include foundation degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or even master’s degrees.

These courses give a more in-depth and academic understanding of the culinary industry, as well as the skills and experience that chefs need to excel. This is a more rounded approach, as students also learn about topics such as food science, food history, food culture, and food business.


Another route to becoming a chef is through working as an apprentice chef in a kitchen. This involves learning on the job from experienced chefs and earning a wage while studying, which is a key selling point.

At the same time, apprentices attend a training provider, such as a college or a private company, where they are expected to complete a qualification in professional cookery or culinary arts, such as an NVQ or a diploma. An apprenticeship can last from one to four years, depending on the level and employer. This is a great way to start a commis chef career and advance to becoming a senior chef.

You don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications to become a chef, as some employers may be willing to train you on the job if you have a passion for cooking and a willingness to learn. However, having some qualifications can help you stand out from the crowd, improve your skills and knowledge, and advance your career.

Chef role and responsibilities

Even though each kitchen may have different procedures, most of the duties a chef may undertake remain similar. For your typical chef, and for many commis chef responsibilities, these may include:

  • Writing clear, compelling, and engaging item and dish descriptions for menus

  • Cooking food in a timely manner

  • Delegating tasks to kitchen staff

  • Informing waiting staff about daily specials

  • Ensuring appealing plate presentation

  • Supervising cooks and assisting as needed

  • Slightly modifying recipes to meet customers’ needs and requests

  • Monitoring food stock and placing orders

  • Checking freshness of food and discarding out-of-date items

  • Experimenting with recipes and suggesting new ingredients

  • Ensuring compliance with all health and safety regulations within the kitchen area.

Working hours

The working hours of a chef depend on the type and location of the establishment, but they are usually long and irregular, involving evenings, weekends, and bank holidays. A chef can expect to work around 40-45 hours a week, but may do more hours depending on the requirements of their role – with some shifts lasting up to 12 hours a day.

Chef salary

According to data from, the average salary for a chef in the UK ranges from £33,000 - £42,000 per year, but this can vary depending on experience, location, and industry. The more experience you have in the field means there’s the potential to earn more.

Commis chefs typically earn anywhere between £22,100 - £26,700 per year, while sous chefs can earn between £30,500 - £34,100. Some employers may also offer benefits such as tips, bonuses, meals, or accommodation, alongside the highest paying chef jobs. Check out our 2024 hospitality salary guide to learn more about chef salaries across 13 UK regions.

Chef career prospects

Becoming a chef can open up many opportunities for career growth and development in the culinary industry. As a chef, you can work in various settings, such as restaurants, hotels, or catering companies, while also discovering your niche – be it breakfast, oriental, or European.

As you gain more experience and skills, you can progress to higher-level positions, such as senior chef, sous chef, and executive chef. These positions may offer increased salaries, better benefits, and more creative control over the menu and kitchen. You can also work as a freelancer or consultant, where you help restaurants and kitchens develop their menus and customer offerings.

If you want to learn more about the salaries and benefits you could be earning for your role in the hospitality industry, download our salary guide now.