Chef | Youth Central

Phil, 20s

Phil, second chef at the Canterbury Hotel, has been in the hospitality industry for six years now.

How did you become a chef?

Phil completed a vocational course in high school, worked as a kitchenhand in Year 12, undertook an apprenticeship, and spent many years cooking before getting to his current position. "This career was attractive to me for a number of reasons. First, I've always loved cooking. I love working with food - the flavours, the textures, the colours. And there's just so much to learn. While in other occupations there's a glass ceiling, no chef can ever learn it all. The possibilities are infinite."

What are some of the pros and cons?

Phil adds that another appealing aspect of the job is the opportunity chefs have to travel. "There is a real demand for chefs, and the opportunities will always exist. Not even computers can change the fact that people still need to eat! And lately there have even been English employment agencies coming to Australia to poach our chefs, so we're losing a lot of our people to other countries."

While he knew that it would be hard work as a chef, Phil wasn't quite prepared for the hours to be this long. "At the moment, I'm working around eight hours a day on average, but I have worked in busy city restaurants before and I could be working as many as 16 hours a day - straight through!"

As a chef, you'll be required to work under immense pressure, and the hours often make it difficult to have a life outside of work.

What makes a good chef? 

Phil says that there are a few ingredients that make a good chef: "You'll need to be passionate, conscious of hygiene and cleanliness, and thick-skinned (if you're going to learn from the best chefs, who are often the most temperamental.) Also, a bit of personality never goes astray."

He also feels that cooking today is more of an art than it was 10 years ago. Encouragingly, he says that chefs are getting more respect these days as the public gain a greater appreciation of good food.

"Well, a lot of people feel that anyone can cook, but with the growing number of cooking shows, and food and wine festivals, attitudes are beginning to change."

How do you become a chef? 

Phil advises that if you're interested in becoming a chef, it's a good idea to finish high school.

"A lot of employers are looking for the VCE these days, and because it's a career that can limit your social life, you want to make sure that you're ready for this when you get into the occupation. The extra two years at school can make a real difference."

Ending with a note of caution, Phil says, "When approaching employers about apprenticeships, ask plenty of questions to ensure that you will get the practical experience and full range of opportunities that you are after."

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