Chef: Job Profile and Role

You probably know Sir Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay and maybe you love watching Masterchef or Hell’s Kitchen. Maybe being a chef is your dream job even though you may not advance to the celebrity status of these two pillars of British cheffing (and one important tip already: appropriate language may be an important competency to have).

In the following sections, you will find out if the job of a chef is the right fit for you. You will get all the information you need, including annual salaries, employers, working hours, and what is required of you to become a chef. To give you an idea of a typical working day, we will explore three typical tasks a chef has to perform. To send you on your way as a successful chef, you also get three valuable tips for thriving in this job.

Short Summary

  • As a chef, it is one of your most important jobs to come up with interesting and popular menus.
  • As a chef, you are responsible for staying on top of your kitchen’s inventory and stock take. This way, you ensure that every chef in your kitchen has the ingredients and tools needed to perform their jobs.
  • As a chef, you should be able to work under pressure and remain calm in even the most stressful and volatile situations. This includes controlling your temper and stepping away from your hotplate and/or tools.

Job description

It is your job as a chef to plan and develop menus, know all the tools and ingredients you are working with inside out, and adhere to the health and safety and food hygiene regulations at all times. It is also your job as a chef to ensure a pleasing presentation of the dishes you prepare and to do quality checks before a dish leaves your kitchen. As a chef, you are also in charge of inventory management. And you should always be the master of your emotions – especially during high-pressure peak times in your kitchen.


  • Creative Food Presentation
  • Creating Preparation Lists
  • Health/Safety Compliance
  • Food Hygiene Regulations
  • Mentoring Culinary Team
  • Inventory Management
  • Kitchen Management
  • Food Preparation
  • Quality Control
  • Menu Planning

Different types of Chefs

  • Line Cook
  • Sous Chef
  • Pastry Chef
  • Private Chef
  • Garde Manger


If you work as a traditional chef, you can expect to be paid between £21,000 and£30,000 per year. Depending on your role as a chef, you can also earn more, for example, as a sous chef or head chef. Here, you can look forward to annual salaries ranging from £25,000 to £34,000 and £30,000 to £42,000, respectively (sous chef/head chef). Your role is not the only salary-influencing factor. Your yearly wages will also be decided by your employer (restaurant/hotel size) and your employer’s location.

Working hours

As a chef in the UK, you will be expected to work between 40 and 45 hours a week, typically in shifts. Note that these shifts can range from early morning shifts to late evening shifts, meaning that you should be prepared to give up your free evenings once in a while. You also need to keep in mind that you will work weekends – again, your shifts can take place at any given time of the day. Furthermore, your working hours as a chef can increase during typical hospitality peak times, such as the run-up to Christmas.

If you work with the forces, you should also keep special dos in mind, for example, bespoke dinners for the Officer’s Mess. These events can also increase your working hours as a chef


You can find your future employers in various industries and sectors. Naturally, as a chef, you can find employment in cafés, bars, restaurants, hotels, and B&Bs. Besides, you may also want to look for a job in the health sector, in schools, and any business that runs a canteen, or even the military. The latter does not mean that you have to enlist in the army since you can also work as a civvie chef (or civilian chef, to be a bit more formal).


There are four different ways for you to become a chef in the UK. You can either work towards this role which usually does not require specific certifications, or do a college course, an apprenticeship, or even a university degree. These last three options come with entry requirements which include GCSEs and/or A-Levels. 

The number of both GCSEs and A-Levels varies depending on your approach. The same goes for the GCSE grades. Currently, the following entry requirements are one to three A-Levels for a university degree or a college course, and four to five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for either a college course or an apprenticeship.

Besides, you should complete your health and safety and food hygiene certifications, be familiar with stock-taking software like Upserve and know your way around an Excel spreadsheet.

The job as a chef could be suitable for you if you have one or more of the following qualifications:


Great people skills, communication skills, and even numerical skills will make your life as a future chef a lot easier. They are three of the skills that enable you to juggle all the different situations and tasks that make up your working days. The three skills we will now explore in detail can also be among those you need to be a successful chef. Nevertheless, you should always check the respective job posts for the skills required of you by your future employer.

Is the chef job a good fit for you? Typically, a chef should have or develop the following skills:

Anger Management

It is not a cliché that chefs are prone to temper tantrums and to quite literally throw their kitchen toys out of the pram. Working in a kitchen can be a high-pressure job, and it’s not only the cooking temperatures that can reach boiling point. Therefore, you should work on your anger management. This helps you to keep a cool head in even the most heated situation. It also helps you to survive your working days without blowing a gasket. By the way: if you need to blow off some steam, that is also ok. Just try to do it somewhere where no one can hear or see you (especially not your customers).

Stress Management

You will master your anger management a whole lot better if you also have strong stress management. As we have said, being a chef can be a high-pressure job where you deal with sometimes temperamental colleagues as well as with stroppy customers. Add to that the fact that you need to cook and bake food to perfection, and you may well crumble under all this pressure. Also, you will be on your feet all day which also takes its toll. If you have the appropriate stress-management tools, your job should become a lot easier for you.


Your job as a chef is also all about efficiency. Therefore, you should always work on your mise-en-place which is nothing else but the ability to have all the tools and ingredients at the ready before you start your day as a chef. This way, you will be able to prepare and cook meals in almost record time. This skill also ensures that you will not be run off your feet any more than you already are when working in the fast-paced world of a kitchen.

Career Path

As a chef, you will start your career with an entry-level job, for example, as a station chef. You can advance to more senior positions with the appropriate level of work experience and training. The next steps on your career ladder can be the following jobs: sous chef, head chef/chef de cuisine, and executive chef. You can also become your own “chef boss” by opening your own restaurant/kitchen.

Educational Background

It is your choice how you approach your career as a chef – whether it is by completing a college course, an apprenticeship, or a university degree. Let’s take a closer look at the respective options you have.


If you want to complete an apprenticeship, you can look into a commis chef intermediate apprenticeship, a senior production chef advanced apprenticeship, or a chef de partie advanced apprenticeship. Note that the mentioned number of GCSEs is required to enter one of those apprenticeships.

College Course

Completing a college course is option number 2. Here, you can look into the following courses: a Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery, a T Level in Catering, or a Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts. 

University Course

Option number 3 is doing a university course, even though this is probably the least used approach to becoming a chef in the UK. However, an academic degree might improve your career prospects. If this is an approach you want to consider, you can look into a foundation degree, an HND (higher national diploma), or a degree in culinary arts or professional cookery.


A chef is a chef is a chef is a chef – not! There are numerous fields within the chef profession that you can become an expert in, depending on your preferences. For instance, you can become a pastry chef or a head chef. Both jobs/positions require further training and qualifications which vary from those you have to earn if you want to work as a sauté chef (saucier, sauce chef) or a meat chef (rotisseur). Let’s take a look at the training you need to complete to work as a pastry or head chef.

Pastry Chef (Patissière)

If you want to work as a pastry chef or patissière, you can complete different apprenticeships, for example, the Level 3 Advanced Pastry Chef Apprenticeship or the Pastry and Confectionery Level 2/Level 3 Apprenticeship. If this is your preferred job as a future chef, you can apply for the appropriate courses at Le Cordon Bleu or Westminster Kingsway College, for example.

Head Chef (Chef de Cuisine)

The job of a head chef is one of the most senior positions you can have in a kitchen. You can progress to this position by earning further degrees and qualifications. Completing an HND in culinary arts, hospitality management, or professional cookery can be university approaches. You can also train for this position by completing a Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts (college) or a senior culinary chef higher apprenticeship.

Continuous Learning

As a chef, you need to spend a considerable amount of time improving your qualifications and skills. You already have the information on further training. But your professional development should not be limited to this side of your job as a chef. You should also look into necessary and helpful qualifications, such as updating your health and safety and your food hygiene certifications.

Moreoever, you should be familiar with useful software, such as so-called kitchen display systems (KDS) like TouchBistro and Lightspeed KDS, kitchen inventory software, such as BevSpot and MarketMan, and temperature monitoring apps like MonikaPrime and BluePrime, for example.

Kitchen Hierarchies in the UK

The English have always had a very special relationship with the French. To this day, it is a French system which defines the hierarchy within British kitchens, thanks to Monsieur Georges Auguste Escoffier’s French Brigade System which sets out the different types of chefs with military precision. Here are some of the chef positions from top to bottom: executive chef, head chef/chef de cuisine, sous chef, chef de partie (senior chef), fish chef (poissonier), meat chef (roast chef/rotisseur), and pastry chef (patissier).

A Day in the Life of a Chef

Have a cup of camomile or lavender/valerian tea – your day as a chef is about to start! Calm nerves and inner zen may be required for the tasks that lie ahead of you. Let’s have a look in this section at three daily tasks you will perform as a chef.

Prep Work

Prep work is one of the first jobs in your daily life as a chef. You need to chop the needed ingredients, such as vegetables and fruit, defrost meat and fish or ingredients needed for pastry. Your prep work can also include preparing sauces, marinating, and setting dough aside that needs to rise.

Menu Planning

Naturally, you also need to plan the menus that feature your prep work and meals. Usually, this task is the responsibility of a head chef who is also in charge of the kitchen. Planning the menus can also involve more junior positions since every chef needs to make sure that he or she knows how to prepare the meals and ensure that all the ingredients are in supply.

Quality Control

Before a dish leaves your workstation/kitchen, you need to ensure that it meets the required quality specifications. Your quality controls are not limited to making sure the dish tastes excellent. You also need to ensure that the dish meets the presentation regulations and, therefore, the expectations of both your establishment and your customers.

Tips for Thriving as a Chef

As you now know, there are various kinds of chefs and positions within this profession. To progress to more senior roles or specialist positions, you need to invest time into further training and dedicate yourself to both training and future jobs. Besides, more ways ensure your thriving as a chef. Three of those ways we will look at in this section:

  • Work on your language
  • Love of your tools
  • Adhere to regulations

Work on your Language

Even though swearing is a) a scientifically proven way of releasing stress and b) a common mode of communication in a kitchen, you should try to work on your language. Constant swearing and shouting can grate after a while. It can affect both your fellow chefs and the front-of-house staff to be exposed to this form of communication negatively. It can result in your colleagues not taking you seriously, being scared of you, and not wanting to deal with you. Also, the more you swear at work, the more likely that this kind of speech will weasel its way into your private life as well.

Love your Tools

It is a fact universally acknowledged that chefs are very particular about the tools of their trade. Never, ever dare to touch a chef’s knife set, never ever dare to mock him or her about the money spent on the respective tools. What may sound like a spleen actually makes sense. To be a good and professional chef, you need that level of attention when it comes to knives etc. If you want to thrive in your profession, you should give your tools all the love and care they need – and this also includes spending a considerable amount of your wages on them.

Adhere to Regulations

You may not need to watch Mr Ramsay in action to know that the kitchen environment can be pretty volatile. Due to the high pressure of the job, it is not unusual for chefs to develop substance abuse. No, this is not a cliché, it is a fact. This proclivity can get you into trouble quite easily, for example, if you work for the Royal Armed Forces. The conduction of CDT (compulsory drug testing) is not unusual – and can cost you both your job and your future career if you are caught. Therefore, always try to adhere to all regulations. And find a way to deal with the stress of your job in a way that is more beneficial for your career and your health.

Other jobs that are similar and might also interest you:

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a chef earn?

Depending on your job description, you can expect the following annual chef salaries: As a traditional chef, you can earn between £21,000 and£30,000, whereas you will earn a higher salary as a sous chef which comes in at around £25,000 to £34,000 per year. If you work as a head chef, you can expect an even higher annual salary which ranges from £30,000 to £42,000. Your chef’s job is not the only influencing factor. Your annual salary will also be decided by your employer (restaurant/hotel size) and your employer’s location.

What qualifications do I need to become a chef?

You need one to three A-Levels or four to five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) to become a chef in the UK. These certifications qualify you for entering either a college course, an apprenticeship, or a university course. You can also work towards this role by starting as a kitchen aid, for example. Moreover, you should be familiar with stock-taking software, such as Upserve, and know your way around an Excel spreadsheet, to name but two valuable hard skills. Also, you should complete your health and safety and your food hygiene certifications which are required to work in a kitchen.

What is the job of a chef?

It is your job as a chef to plan and develop menus that are culinary adventures and swipe your customers off their feet. As a chef, you also need to be creative when it comes to appealingly presenting a dish. Moreover, it will be your job as a chef to do inventory management to ensure that all ingredients needed in the kitchen are in sufficient supply. It is also your job as a chef to keep your emotions in check, especially during high-pressure peak times.