I’ve known a few chefs and cooks in my lifetime, and they have all told me, in one way or another, cooking is about much more than making food. Cooking is about creating experience.
Head to almost any mid to high end restaurant and you will see menus that change seasonally, chef specialties based on what was available fresh that day, and flavor profile descriptions that leave your mouth watering.
Why? Because people have come to love a well designed and delicious meal. Trying out a new restaurant is exciting, especially if you heard the food is excellent, and chefs are at the forefront of the food revolution.
Chefs are highly skilled culinary experts that have garnered the experience and education to earn the title among peers.
As Reluctant Gourmet points out, there is no official organization that officially decrees someone a chef but those among the industry have their own ranking system.
Some culinary institutes offer a designation after the completion of certain levels of education, experience and testing.
The title chef usually comes with a job opportunity. Those who have trained under high profile experts, earned a culinary degree or have created a name for themselves by working for or opening a notable restaurant typically don the title.
There are many positions one can have within a restaurant, but chefs typically undergo training, create and modify recipes, have a vast knowledge of cooking techniques and manage the kitchen as a whole.
Resume objective for a chef
After reading through dozens of resources, one thing is clear, a good chef never stops learning.
The Institute of Culinary Education highlights this by suggesting it can take weeks to learn how to properly dress a salad and many work for years before they work their way up to entrees and plated dishes.
Use your objective to highlight your experience and areas of expertise. If you worked for four years as the salad dresser, mention the techniques, cuisines, and foods you are most skilled in.
Even a job at a run of the mill chain restaurant provided you with experience the average person doesn’t have. If you do not have much to brag about, then highlight your desire to learn more.
As mentioned above, a chef who is willing to learn and grow is going to be a major asset to any restaurant.
Hardworking, dedicated chef ready to take their career to the next level. Extensive experience in Asian, French and Indian cuisine. Seeking a position where they can learn, experience new cooking techniques and ingredients and work in a fast paced, rewarding kitchen.
Resume skills for a chef
It probably comes as no surprise that almost all of the sources we read for this article point to the fact that a chef needs to be creative, detailed oriented and hardworking. But what else does a top chef need to succeed?
According to some of America’s most notable chefs interviewed in First We Feast, a great chef needs to be humble, dedicated and patient.
Why? Because as they point out, you will most likely be starting at the bottom and working your way up. Becoming a chef is not an easy path for most.
It comes with frustration, long hours, and high stress. While you most likely won’t have Gordon Ramsay screaming in your face, you should be prepared to be admonished if you mess up.
This requires building a thick skin, the ability to receive and accept criticism, and that all important thing we keep mentioning, continuing to learn and grow as a chef.
In addition to the soft skills you need, come some particular hard skills unique to chefs.
You will need to be knowledgeable on food safety and allergens. Hygiene and kitchen safety precautions and general kitchen running operations.
When it comes to food prep you will be expected to know different knives and knife cuts, various baking, grilling and cooking techniques, how to pair ingredients and plating skills.
Expert pastry baker | Extensive experience with seafood | Recipe creation | Maximize the use of seasonal ingredients | Understanding of Cost control & reduction | Knife & meat cuts | Food safety & regulations
Chef work experience
When someone is starting out as a chef they often bounce around from job to job. This can be due to stress and an inability to work with the head chef or kitchen manager, or this can be due to seeking out a variety of culinary experiences.
Every single expert chef we read comments by suggested staying in a kitchen for AT LEAST a year, less than that can burn bridges.
Some chefs recommend staying a minimum of two so you can see how the same chef varies the use of seasonal ingredients.
Reluctant Gourmet advises that you will likely begin your career as a cook. But also points out being a cook isn’t always a negative connotation.
They highlight Rachel Ray and Nigella Lawson who hold the title of cook as they have never been professionally trained.
If you are reaching for a position at a high end restaurant or an opportunity to work in a famous chef’s establishment, it can serve you well and you gain a well rounded work experience.
Your goal is to have a work history that showcases your diversity when it comes to cooking, but also shows you are reliable and dedicated to the career.
Sample Work Experience
Sous Chef, 2014-2020
Worked side-by-side with the head chef to design and implement seasonal menus, specialty items and design menus for private dining experiences. Prepared a variety of seafood, steak, vegetarian and fowl based dishes. Planned and delegated duties to junior staff and led the kitchen during meal service when needed.
- Trained new staff on a variety of techniques and menu items
- Ensured the kitchen maintained sanitation and followed health and safety protocols
- Interacted with guests to gauge their dining experience and fix concerns
- Worked and led in a fast paced, high stress kitchen to achieve optimal results for the guests
Joss Sushi Bar & Restaurant
Cook & Sushi Prep, 2010-2014
Assisted in the prep of fish and other sushi ingredients pre-service. On occasion assisted in preparing sushi orders and maintaining a sanitary station. Worked in the kitchen as part of a fast paced team preparing asian and asian fusion styled dishes.
- Created and oversaw one seasonal dish each menu change
- Ran afternoon and weeknight shifts as needed
- Prepared a variety of traditional and house sushi rolls
- Evaluated sushi and seafood ingredients to ensure quality and safety
- Visited dining area to check in with guests
Line Cook, 2008-2010
Assisted in the preparation of asian and Japanese style dishes from both a regular year round menu as well as a seasonal menu. Followed all sanitation and food safety prep guidelines both before preparing food and at the end of my shift to ensure a clean and healthy kitchen.
- Knowledge of how to make common sushi rolls and prepare sushi rice
- Ability to work in a fast paced, high stress kitchen
- Followed chef’s directions and feedback when preparing food
- Cross checked orders with guest allergens to ensure safety
- Knowledge of sushi knives and sushi station sanitation
As we have already mentioned, a degree might not be needed to excel in this career. Being a chef requires a lot of intuition and creativity, which can’t be taught.
That being said, attending culinary school or taking courses can teach you new ideas and skills which can enhance your ability to create one of a kind dishes.
As we read through several articles one theme we noticed is that many chefs recommended individuals work for a year or two as a cook before they commit to culinary school.
Bradley Ogden, who owns a restaurant at Cesar’s Palace, was one who gave the above advice because, being a chef may be very different than you fantasized about. “It’s no Food Network celebrity”.
Associate in Culinary Arts, 2002-2004
Associate in Baking and Pastry, 2004-2007
Culinary art degrees come in a large swath of varieties, so if your work experience does not highlight a specific skill that the current post is looking for, mentioning courses in that area could help seal the deal.
Because cooking has such varied skills, levels and concentrations it could prove beneficial to round yourself out by listing courses.
For example, your resume shows that you spent three summers at a BBQ joint in your hometown. But you also took several pastry classes in school and are now applying for a bakery; you would want to highlight those courses.
- Advanced Wedding Cakes and Sugar Artistry
- Advanced Pastry: Mousses, Doughs, Plating and Sauces
- Artisan Breads
In a world where you will be handling food, cooking food and serving food to other people, health and safety certifications will always look great on a resume.
State Food Safety offers a handful of certifications ranging from food handling to alcohol server. The CDC through Environmental Health services offers a training, EATS, aimed at assessing and handling a foodborne illness outbreak.
The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) is another resource for food safety certifications and training.
SInce food safety, like other safety and licensing programs, vary state to state, it is recommended you seek out your state’s specific requirements before signing on and paying for any certifications.
Many certification sites are approved in several states, so if you plan to move or live in an area like the North East where states are close by, it may be beneficial to seek out a certification that is recognized in multiple states.
Because working in a kitchen is faced-paced it can also be dangerous. And if you’ve ever watched a cooking competition series, you know accidents happen. Having a First Aid/CPR certification will never hurt in any job.
- Certified Food Protection Manager
- Food Safety HACCP for Retail Food Establishments
Complete Chef resume sample
Now it’s time to look at a real job posting for an executive chef position. This posting highlights restaurants are looking for at the top of the field.
Following the job posting is a complete sample resume to give you a cohesive look at how your completed resume might look!
This job posting is about as detailed as they come. The employer is specifically looking for someone with culinary education and 5+ years in the field.
In addition to the food prep and cooking skills, you will see that this post also requires the soft skills mentioned towards the beginning of the article.
They need to possess HR skills, communication skills, be self-motivated to meet deadlines and perform admin tasks.
Experienced and creative chef seeking a new position where they can put their expertise to use designing and serving one of a kind meals to guests. Exceptional customer service skills make it possible to get to know the guests and tailor menus and meals to their tastes. Skilled at running fast-paced kitchens and overseeing quality assurance and safety in all areas of the kitchen.
Ability to manage others | Able to handle and diffuse high-stress situations | Skilled pastry chef | Knowledge of ordering and inventory | Knife cuts & different knives | Extensive knowledge of various cooking styles
Il Figlio Enoteca
Executive Chef, 2013-2020
Worked in collaboration with the owner to conceptualize a new menu and prepare one of kind, delicious dishes for the guests. Relied heavily on local influence in the creation of meals while using creatively to make them unique. Ran a fast-paced kitchen for a seating capacity of 110.
- Thrived and succeeded in a high-stress environment
- Successfully delegated tasks to kitchen staff
- Excellent communication skills
- Maintained inventory and worked within budget
- Designed unique menus for private events
Tapia’s on Main
Head Chef, 2008-2013
Designed and prepared meals on a daily basis, at times tailoring meals to fit guests specific tastes or dietary needs. Skillfully ran the kitchen by assigning tasks, keeping stock of inventory, assuring food freshness and ensuring appealing and consistent meal plating.
- Interacted with guests each service
- Complied with all health and safety regulations
- Experimented with dishes and ideas to add to the menu
- Ensured food was prepared and delivered to tables in a timely manner
York Woods LLC
Private Chef, 2006-2008
Meal planned, shopped for and cooked 2-3 meals a day for a private Lodge. Prepared meals for 2-6 people daily. Created healthy meals using a variety of natural and in season ingredients.
- Excellent people skills
- Budgeted meals and maintained stock room
- Used local ingredients as much as possible
- Self-motivated and extremely creative
- Received praise for meals numerous times from guests
Cook, 2000 – 2006
Assisted lead chef in the preparing of healthy and delicious meals for those in the community in need. Assisted in training classes for individuals wanting to learn cooking skills and provided a safe and healthy environment for all guests.
- Maintained a healthy and sanitary food prep area
- Assigned kitchen tasks to volunteers
- Assisted in weekly meal planning
- Provided a warm and hospital environment for guests
- Food Manager Certification
- Food Allergy Awareness Certification
- FIrst Aid & CPR certified
New England Culinary Institute
Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts, 1994-2000
Being a chef is a high-stress, fast-paced position, but if you possess a passion for designing and creating food then you are in the right place!
There is debate over whether or not you need a 4 year degree or any degree at all, if you are looking to get into this career take a look at all of your options and consider what your end goal is.
If you’ve been in the restaurant industry for some time and are looking to move up the chain, consider the experience you already have and what you may need to enhance that to land your dream job.
- Patience and hard work are a necessity according to top chefs
- There are a variety of cuisines out there, figure out which ones inspire you
- Be prepared to use important soft skills alongside your technical skills
Tips from Experts
“When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.” – Thomas Keller, Chef
“If you want to become a great chef, you have to work with great chefs. And that’s exactly what I did.” – Gordon Ramsay, Chef
“In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child, Chef
“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.” -Guy Fieri
The world needs chefs because dining and the enjoyment of food is not going anywhere!
Chefs have been a part of human existence for a very long time, even if we did not call them that.
If you have a drive and passion to create new things, a sense of adventure, and a lot of patience and dedication to the craft, you are already on the path to become a one of a kind chef.