Is it possible to become a professional chef without any prior experience?
Well, let’s find out! We’ve invited over Chef Bobby Rahman, a chef that specializes in authentic Canadian cuisine, in order to shed some light on the situation.
But first! Let’s start with a ‘recap’ of sorts:
Bobby Rahman | How to Become a Chef!
At age 28, after several successful years of practicing law, Bobby Rahman decided to pick up an old passion of his. The only thing stopping him was his lack of experience.
And so, he went to culinary school to study cooking techniques and learn a little bit more about what it takes to survive the culinary industry.
Now, Bobby Rahman works with other chefs in one of the more prestigious restaurants in Canada (which has recently earned its Three Michelin Stars!) With over a decade’s worth of experience in the culinary industry, he’s ready to share his story:
Why did you decide to pursue this career in the culinary arts?
Bobby Rahman: Cooking had always been a passion of mine. It was my father that urged me to pursue something more in line with what he thought of as ‘professional’ work. I followed through with his wishes and was a lawyer for a while.
But, soon enough, I turned back to the food industry to chase my dreams.
What ‘type’ of chef are you? Are you a Head Chef? Sous Chef?
Bobby Rahman: Right now? I’m a Head Chef (aka Executive Chef or the Chef de cuisine). It basically means that I lead the other chefs in the kitchen. That includes the sous chef, prep cook, pastry chef, line cook, commis chef, and so on and so forth.
It’s not something I’ve ever thought of as important as far as actual standing went though. In the end, all of us are doing the same thing — preparing food to be enjoyed.
Did you attend culinary school? (Where did you learn your cooking techniques?)
Bobby Rahman: I did in fact study the culinary arts in a culinary school. Although optional for some, I believe culinary schools (or culinary programs in general) are the best place to cultivate the culinary skills required to make it in a restaurant kitchen.
Do you think it’s important to attend culinary school?
Bobby Rahman: If you want to become a chef without prior work experience? Then yes. Cooking food requires a lot of skill, and if you can’t get that at a culinary school, then you need to have the requisite years of experience under your belt.
So long as you’re aiming for a career that involves preparing food for others, you need to learn how to do it safely!
What advice can you give to those who want to become a chef but can’t attend culinary school?
Bobby Rahman: If you can’t refine your cooking skills through school, then work experience is really the only way to go. Attending a culinary program is not mandatory, but for a restaurant job, you need practical training.
Anyway, some chefs that I know have only ever attended a community college or hold only a high school diploma. Most started out without experience before they decided to become a chef, and yet now, some of them even have their own restaurant!
What I know from them, and what I can share with you is this: Fight for your first restaurant job! If you’re lucky, you’ll get a sous chef position and learn directly from a master chef or a personal chef, for that matter. If you’re not, and you’re stuck washing dishes, that’s fine too! It is still work experience!
Now that you’ve become a chef, what do you plan to do next?
Bobby Rahman: Some of my family and friends have been encouraging me to open my own restaurant. I might do that one of these days.
But really. I just enjoy cooking. I enjoy trying out my own recipes too. But, most of all, the joy I find in being a chef is cooking for others. As long as I’m doing that, I don’t really mind where I am in the culinary field.
Do you have any other tips for future chefs who may be interested in pursuing your career path?
Bobby Rahman: I’ve said this before, but while culinary degrees or a basic certification are not mandatory, I recommend that you, at the very least, learn new cooking skills (even if it’s from general education classes or classes from community colleges!)
When I was still working as a lawyer, I practiced my knife work on an evening and weekend schedule. Mostly just for fun. (I watched a lot of cooking shows too, but I can’t pretend that was for anything but fun, ha!)
Anyway, my skills translated well, and helped me in landing my first job! And now, here I am, working as a head chef in a fine dining restaurant!