Five Things to Consider Before Becoming a Chef

There are plenty of wonderful aspects to being a chef. For those who love being around food, as well as the preparation and presentation of meals, it is a wonderful career choice. It is also an ideal profession for those who are imbued with a natural flair for creativity and experimentation, as well as those who enjoy teamwork and collaboration. However, by the same token, it is not the easiest career in the world. There are some features of the job that the general public may not fully appreciate, and consequently, are worth exploring in detail.

Adrian McKague chef in kitchen
Adrian McKague, Professional Chef from Toronto, ON

With that thought in mind, the following are some aspects of the vocation to consider before committing to a life as a chef, as presented by longtime culinary industry professional and renowned private chef Adrian McKague.

It’s About More Than Food Preparation

To begin with, although preparing food is an undeniably large part of being a chef, there is more to the job than just that. As a chef, regardless of what your actual title in your organization is, you will effectively be a kitchen manager. That being the case, cultivating superior organization, communication, and interpersonal skills is incredibly important. You will be the leader of a team whose ultimate goal is to feed however many people you are charged with in a timely manner while maintaining a high standard of quality. In reaching that goal each day, you will have to coordinate your efforts with sous chefs, line cooks, cold table workers, dishwashers, and any number of front house staff in order to be successful.

Working in a Restaurant Can Be Stressful

At some point in their careers, if not for its entirety, the overwhelming majority of chefs will work in a restaurant setting. Like anyone else who has ever spent time in the commercial food service industry, Adrian McKague can personally attest the natural state of any restaurant is that of semi-organized chaos. Simply put, it is more often than not a stressful atmosphere. For those who thrive under such conditions, becoming a chef may in fact be a good fit. For those who do not work well under deadlines and a high degree of pressure though, it may be the type of career best left to others.

The Hours are Long and Unpredictable

One unavoidable aspect of a career as a chef are the long and unpredictable hours. The food service industry is one of feast or famine (pardon the expression). Put another way, business happens when it happens, and it may not be at the most convenient time of day. Often, a significant percentage of customers will come into a restaurant late at night, near closing time, and still expect to be served as if it was 7pm. Unfortunately, the staff must deal with such developments accordingly and with good humour in order to keep the enterprise afloat. If you’re the kind of person who does not mind staying later than anticipated at work with very little warning, then becoming a chef might work out well.

It’s Not Exactly How It’s Portrayed on TV

Reality cooking shows and chef competitions are more popular than ever, these days. And with good reason! They’re fun, and can often yield valuable information for viewers looking to increase their culinary knowledge. That being said, they are creations of show business and do not accurately reflect the day-to-day experiences of ordinary chefs. Put another way, reality cooking shows are to being a real chef what James Bond movies are to being a real spy — staged and produced under controlled conditions, and deliberately exaggerated in order to add entertainment value.

It’s a Career That Involves Lifelong Study and Adaptability

Finally, a career as a chef involves endless learning. Now, this is not on its face a bad thing, but it can translate into a fair amount of work. As a chef, you’ll have to keep up on the latest recipes, nutritional studies, culinary trends, and food fads — and that is without mentioning the customer feedback and demographic data specific to your own workplace! Who lives in the area where your establishment is located? Within that group, what kind of people are most likely to frequent your particular establishment and why? Are they hip city-dwellers out for a fancy dinner before taking in a show, college students looking to stretch their monthly food budget, or traditional folks in the market for a meat-and-potatoes meal? A good chef must know all this information. It is for these reasons that adaptability and open-mindedness are two of the chief hallmarks of a capable professional chef.

To conclude, not everyone is cut out for life as a chef. It is a rewarding career, but it is quite challenging, to say the least. As opposed to how it’s portrayed on television, there is very little glory attached to it, and the remuneration — with some notable exceptions, most of whom are household names — is not generally stellar. That being said, for those creative and adaptable types willing to put in the hard work and effort, a career as a chef might just be a worthwhile pursuit.

Adrian McKague is a private chef and veteran of the culinary industry. Even as a young boy, Adrian was drawn to food. He was fascinated by the various methods of preparation and presentation entailed in properly making a meal, and smitten with the near-endless possibilities for flavours and textures.

After graduating from high school, Adrian McKague enrolled in a noted chef’s college in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario. There, he received high marks and glowing praise, including some formal recognition from the school’s internal awards committee. This validation only further fed his desire to pursue a career as a chef. Within a few months, Adrian had obtained a chef’s trade certification and a Red Seal endorsement, as well as a Chef de cuisine certification from the Canadian Culinary Institute of the Canadian Federation of Chefs and Cooks.

In his early 20s, Adrian found employment at a number of the Greater Toronto Area’s most celebrated restaurants, rising the ranks to become the head chef of one such fine dining establishment. After some years in the industry, he left commercial food service and became a lauded private chef.



Adrian McKague is a private chef in Toronto, Ontario CA.

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Adrian McKague

Adrian McKague is a private chef in Toronto, Ontario CA.