How To Become a Chef or Cook

So you are wondering how you can become a chef or cook. Overall, there is medium preparation needed to become a chef or cook. A mix of formal education, relevant experience, and job training is needed to be ready to become a chef.

We outline the details below and offer additional information throughout our website on where your formal education can be obtained.

The vast majority of chefs and cooks, or any higher level title for that matter in the culinary field, prefer training in community colleges, technical schools, culinary arts schools, and even 4-year colleges.

Education for Chefs and Cooks

Percentage of Chefs Based on Education Level
44% – Associate’s degree
22% – Post-secondary certificate
11% – High school diploma or equivalent

Find Culinary Arts Education Options:

– Culinary Schools by Location: Cooking Classes
– View List of Top Ranked Culinary Schools

Certifications for Chefs and Cooks

Certifications in the culinary field are another great way to boost your resume and get your foot into the door. The below certificates are highly regarded throughout the culinary industry. In order to obtain your certification, you may need to have some work experience in the field, take a written exam, and renewals may be required every few years.

Certification Name Certifying Organization
Certified Correctional Food Systems Manager American Correctional Food Service Association
Certified Chef de Cuisine American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Certified Executive Chef American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Certified Master Chef American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Personal Certified Executive Chef American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Foodservice Professional Certification North American Assoc. of Food Equip. Manufacturers
ProChef Level III Certification The Culinary Institute of America
Certified Personal Chef United States Personal Chef Association
Certified Correctional Foodservice Professional American Correctional Food Service Association
Certified Culinary Administrator American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Certified Executive Pastry Chef American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Certified Master Pastry Chef American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Certified Sous Chef American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Certified Working Pastry Chef American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Certified Decorator Retail Bakers of America
Certified Wedding Planner The Wedding Planning Institute

Work Experience

Besides obtaining your training from a culinary program, you can also explore learning through an entry level position in a professional kitchen. Starting out as a line cook can be a great learning experience. You will learn key skills and trade secrets from the head chef.

The ideal way to become a successful and complete chef is to have work experience and formal education. Many top culinary programs offer enough training on campus that you can take out many years of work experience. It is still highly recommended to go through some real life training before taking a high level position even if formal education was provided. Apprenticeships and entry level positions are recommended in combination with the training. The choice of which you do first is debatable and both scenarios can be effect. Explore the following business areas to find entry level positions for your training:

  • Resorts
  • Restaurants
  • Bed and breakfasts
  • Cruise lines
  • Hotels
  • Retirement homes
  • Amusement parks
  • Country clubs
  • Convention centers