So you want to be a chef?

You watch the food network religiously and love to cook, why not? Myself, I fell into it long before it was hip to be a cook….I say cook, because it took me almost 10 years to get my chef designation. Today, I would like to take a look at how to get started, basically a classical framework to becoming a chef and beyond. Read on below the image.


In The Beginning

The journey from apprentice cook to chef is a long road. You might in fact compare it to getting your masters degree, it takes just as long. First off have a look at this VIDEO for fun. Now if you like, head over to the see the occupational standards for red seal cook, I’ll give you the shorter version in a nutshell. Three year apprenticeship with two 15 week blocks of school, or in some cases a day release format. In todays system some of the hours are credited by full time attendance in a culinary program. I have my thoughts on this, but I’ll keep them to myself…lol. Following completion of the three years or 6000 hours, in the case of pastry, it’s 8000 hours or four years, you can challenge the red seal exam. Basically a 200 multiple choice questions, cost is $100. In theory any monkey that can read, could pass this exam. That being said, your next five years will be hell. The expectation is that once you are a red seal cook, it’s time to aquire management experience, working your way up in the kitchen. Lets have a look.

Some individuals never become Executive Chefs. That’s not a bad thing, in larger hotels a sous chef position is still admirable, and comes with a lot of responsibility. And justifiable, the compensation is usually pretty good. So after five years (8 total) now, you can apply to challenge the Certified Chef de Cuisine examination. This process varies somewhat in other countries, but Canadas model follows the French CAP. Here is a link to the CCI, all the information on the C.C.C certification is here. This exam is a three phase exam, all parts must be completed at 70% or higher to gain certification.

The program consists of three components:

  • Theory classes and a comprehensive theory examination.
  • Practical Examination # 1 (Office Day) – Menu Design and Development:
  • Practical Examination #2 – Menu Preparation and Execution.

Canada has introduced it’s own Certified Master Chef examination as well. As you can imagine, this one is very difficult to obtain. Currently there are only five chefs in Canada with this designation.


So, were do we go from here? Many cooks never become Chefs, and likewise many Chefs never become cooks. Sound silly, I know, but it’s true. A Chef is a manager “en francaise”, managing people and products….that’s it in a nutshell. A cook on the other hand is a craftsman, using both working knowledge of fundamental skills and creativity. In todays covid 19 situation things have changed a lot in my industry. many hospitality folks are out of work due to lock downs and related business failures. I would like to share a point of optimism in spite of the overwhelming negativity. There is always a silver lining, and I believe our industry will come out better and stronger once this blows over. There will be many opportunities presented to those seeking a spot in our industry. I currently am offering a business model to those interested in getting involved in a private chef & meal preparation service. If you think you might be looking to get to work, doing something you have always wanted to do….have a look. Follow this LINK to have a look! Cheers, and happy cooking!