What Kind of an Education Does an Aspiring Top Chef Require?


Whether it’s Gordon Ramsay and his hit cooking show or Wolfgang Puck and his internationally-famous restaurants, becoming a top chef has its perks. However, to reach these high levels of success, it takes a combination of factors. Whether it’s having excellent cooking skills, a great personality, or a head for business, today’s top chefs will attest a great education is a must-have to achieve success. If you are an aspiring top chef but have no idea where to begin, here are some tips that might help you become the next Gordon or Wolfgang.

Culinary School Requirements

If you envision yourself wearing a chef coat one day, the first thing you need to do is enroll in a top culinary school. Programs in these schools vary, with some students getting four-year degrees in culinary arts, while others complete very specific programs that may last as little as six months. Whether students receive a degree, diploma, or certificate, all study baking, cooking techniques, food preparation, and plating, as well as important topics such as kitchen safety, sanitation, and other related areas. To enroll in a culinary school, prospective students are required to be at least 17 years old, have a GED or high school diploma, and be proficient in English.

What about Business School?

While culinary school is important to learn the important cooking skills needed to become a chef, many of today’s top chefs also have an MBA on their resume. That’s because while culinary school teaches you how to cook, it does little to help you learn how to start and succeed with your own restaurant. According to business experts worldwide, restaurants have the highest number of failures among small businesses. Due mainly to intense competition, it’s widely understood that succeeding as a restaurateur is difficult at best. However, for those who have a business education as well as a sound culinary background, the ability to market your restaurant and attract customers becomes much easier.

Foreign Language Skills

While many culinary schools require students to be proficient in English, many of the best chefs in the world also have excellent foreign language skills. Whether it’s Spanish, French, German, or another language, having an ability to speak these languages will make it much easier for those who wear chef uniforms to converse with chefs in other nations who can show them the little-known secrets needed to turn an ordinary dish into an extraordinary dish. As many of the best chefs have learned over the years, working with other culinary professionals around the globe can turn those wearing chef jackets into world-renowned celebrities who are always in high demand. In addition to all this, having a command of foreign languages can also make it much easier to communicate with members of your kitchen staff, who may be from many different nations and have limited English skills.

Serving an Apprenticeship

Long before culinary schools came along , it was common for those wanting to wear chef uniforms to serve an apprenticeship in a restaurant. In many instances, this meant starting out peeling potatoes or doing any number of other assorted tasks in order to gain experience. However, to make the most of an apprenticeship, it’s often necessary to have a top chef take you under their wing and teach you the skills necessary to proudly wear the chef coat. With the restaurant industry employing nearly 13 million people, the competition can be intense for these apprenticeships. However, whether or not you already have a culinary degree, it’s still possible to gain an apprenticeship. To have the best chance of getting a great apprenticeship, be willing to take any job you can get in a fine restaurant, work harder than anybody else, and try to catch the attention of the head chef. If you’re successful in doing so, you can expect to spend up to four years learning everything there is to know about being a chef, which is invaluable experience for any aspiring chef.

Chef Certifications

To really make it big as a top chef and let everyone know the specific skills you possess, it’s a good idea to gain as many certifications as possible. Some of the most popular are Certified Master Chef, Certified Executive Chef, Certified Master Pastry Chef, and Personal Certified Chef. Gaining these certifications is usually based on a candidate’s education and work experience, and involves filling out an application documenting your experience. Once this has been verified, written and practical exams must be passed before certifications can be attained.

While it takes plenty of work for people to gain the skills needed to wear chef jackets, it’s clear the rewards for doing so can be great. If you’ve set your sights on becoming the next Gordon or Wolfgang, roll up your sleeves and prepare for plenty of hard work.