Becoming a chef is not just about being a good cook – it’s about having the right attitude, spiced up with a bit of crazy and seasoned with a bunch of hard work. That’s according to chef Martin Kobald of ChefMLK, a leading food and beverages consulting company.
“The rise of celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, along with shows like MasterChef, has meant that chefs are far more greatly respected as professionals than they used to be,” he says. “However, this also means that school leavers are wanting to become chefs because they’re inspired by the apparent glamour of the job, along with a misplaced desire for fame.”
Whether you’re creating culinary masterpieces or putting out great comfort food, being a success in the kitchen is not just about tossing a few fancy ingredients together to create an award-winning dish in minutes. The reality is that working in hospitality demands 15 – 18 hour days, six days a week, working in confined spaces in hot, noisy kitchens. Cooking professionally doesn’t simply come from inspiration and a three-month cooking show – there’s loads of perspiration and no small measure of old fashioned hard work involved.
“I simply love it,” Kobald says. “I love the extended family that I’ve built, as does my wife, who is also a chef. I find working with food to be the most rewarding, creative profession with incomparable job satisfaction. My career has given me the opportunity to travel and learn about cuisines from all over the world, and I make use of this knowledge every day. I get to connect with the most remarkable people and I simply wouldn’t choose any other career – although I know very well that it’s not the right choice for everybody.”
Kobald recommends that school leavers, or anyone interested in turning their amateur love of cooking into a professional career, should apply to a hotel or restaurant to work in their kitchen for a week, so that they can understand the realities of the job. If their passion for the industry grows during that time, they could look for an apprenticeship to learn on the job, or they could turn to a specialist cooking school.
Chefs in the making can choose how they approach their training, either opting for a full immersion programme that yields a City & Guilds qualification, or they can choose part time courses at ChefMLK’s Cooking School, taking the skills they learn and practicing them between classes.
“Being a successful chef is all about attitude, and understanding that there’s so much more to success in food than holding a qualification,” says Kobald. “You need to have a passion for food and you need to understand how it works. These are not things that can be taught – they’re innate in a person who wears their whites with pride.”