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After finishing secondary school, students are faced with a tough decision: what to take up for their tertiary education. With plenty of colleges to potentially attend, and even more courses to choose from, students who don’t already have a career path in mind would have a hard time deciding.
Although there’s no way to accurately predict what the future holds and determine where you can succeed, you can narrow down your options by considering your passion and what you do best. After all, tertiary courses are meant to prepare you for your future career.
For aspiring culinary students, answering a few simple questions may be a good starting point when making this decision.
Do you adore eating and preparing food? Are you inclined to take pictures of the food you prepared and share it on social media? When you dine at a restaurant, do you notice how the dishes have been plated and think about doing it differently?
If your answer is yes to all of these questions, then you are likely to be suited to becoming a great chef.
Still, if you’re currently torn between training as a chef and taking any other career path, here are five signs that could help you determine whether culinary arts is the right choice for you.
- You love to experiment with different dishes.
To become a great chef, you must have a passion for cooking. If you enjoy preparing dishes, perfecting recipes, and adding your own “flavor” to them, then this career path may just be perfect for you.
Keep in mind that all chefs begin their journey fueled by their love for food. From there, they work their way up in following and experimenting on various recipes until they are able to create their own.
To do this, you need to have plenty of knowledge about various aspects of cooking, including how to combine spices, the effect of different cooking temperatures on food, and so on. Of course, following known strategies is only half of it; you must also have the courage to break barriers and use your creativity to develop new recipes and techniques in cooking.
2. You work well under pressure.
Although most careers do have a certain level of pressure attached to them, working as a chef can be more daunting than most. You see, as an aspiring top chef, you’re bound to be pushed to your limits and judged constantly based on the dishes you prepare. And that is only the beginning.
From there, you will be graded based on your speed in preparing and serving those dishes. Even your mistakes will be noted, and you’ll be reminded of these more frequently than you might like.
Of course, all this will depend on the chef you’re answering to. The point is to prepare yourself, avoid taking things personally, and maintain your faith and confidence in your skills.
3. You manage your time wisely.
Contrary to what you might be imagining, chefs don’t work on a single dish at a time. In fact, most chefs in some of the world’s most prestigious kitchens work on an average of three or four dishes at once.
This means that they will constantly be on the move: taking dishes out of the oven for one dish, mixing ingredients together for another, and plating the third one before it is delivered to the table. All these will be happening simultaneously, which is why a great chef needs excellent time management and multitasking skills.
Remember that kitchen work will never stop or slow down. You must be able to balance your time well and keep all your dishes moving from the first through the last step fluidly. Not only will this keep you from burning anything, but it will also help you keep restaurant-goers satisfied.
4. You have a natural interest in everything about food.
Passion and interest go hand-in-hand in nurturing the greatest chefs in history. This is why, before you decide to take up a cooking course, you must already have an innate love for all things related to food.
This isn’t limited to wanting to eat them, of course. Preparing ingredients and cooking should make up a big chunk of your passion for food. You should also have a constant urge to learn about the history of food and the different methods of making them.
An appreciation for food can help you grasp concepts and theories and apply all that you learn about cooking.
Also, you must remember that while it is indeed possible to work for or even open a restaurant without a culinary degree, taking cooking classes can definitely give you an advantage for the culinary career to come. Cooking fundamentals can prove to be helpful tools you can use to learn more methods of cooking and baking that you would need to learn on your own if you skip school and immediately jump into a restaurant gig.
5. You have careful hands.
Whether it’s for handling food or using kitchen appliances like ovens, stoves, and refrigerators, a great chef would need to have careful hands. Remember that improper handling of these appliances can lead to premature wear and tear, which can be a challenge to overcome when they break down in the most inopportune times.
Plus, careful hands will allow you to make your food more presentable, not to mention prevent injuries while handling cooking tools, like knives.
Also, you must keep in mind that being a chef is not only restricted to performing tasks related to food preparation. In some cases, being handy in the kitchen can also prove to be useful in keeping the restaurant up and running smoothly, and diners satisfied and full.
When choosing a tertiary course to take up after high school, you must take into account the career path you can follow using such a degree or diploma. For this very reason, learning about the qualities of a great chef can help determine whether you’re cut out for culinary school or not. Think about the long-term perspective using this article to assess your chances of succeeding in the world of culinary arts.
Sunjeh Raja is Director and CEO of the ICCA Dubai, a world-class culinary training centre established in the year 2005. He is a recipient of several international awards and recognitions and has been consistently raising the standards of culinary training and foodservice across the region.Shanaaz Raja, Director of Courses, International Centre for Culinary Arts – ICCA Dubai.