What Does It Take Physically To Become a Professional Chef?
Many people dream of going to culinary school and becoming a chef. Tapping into the creative side as well as the more practical side of hands-on skill building, working in a kitchen is all about moving fast, thinking on your feet, and relying on your senses to create the perfect dish.
The rewards at the top of the chain are high (famed Chef status or celebrity roles), and the job outlook at the mid- to low-range is expected to remain stable over the next ten years, offering professional advancement opportunities in almost every city in the country.
But before you become a cook, it’s important to realize that the job isn’t all about glamor, glitz, and gorgeous meals. In fact, for those who have been working in the field for several years, there can be quite a bit of physical discomfort associated with the job.
Most kitchens have cement or tiled floors, which can strain the feet and back after a hard day’s work.
Long days are a common requirement for chefs and cooks, often between 8 and 12 hours in length, and without many breaks.
Hot burners, fryers, grills, and open flames increase your chances of burns or other fire-related injuries. (In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 12,000 burns each year in the culinary field.)
Back problems are a common complaint for those who have been working in the culinary field for a long time, and may impact the longevity of your career.
Slips and falls happen in a kitchen, due to the fast pace and likelihood of spills that don’t get cleaned up right away.
Even with great knife skills, most cooks slice their fingers from time to time. Although most injuries are minor, it is possible to need stitches or medical attention.
Tensions can run high in the culinary field. Many chefs and restaurant managers tend to take a very authoritarian approach to their management style. High speeds and high stress can lead to yelling, screaming, and name-calling in the kitchen.
However, despite the potential for injury and stress, the culinary field remains stable and growing, and enrollment at culinary schools is reaching an all-time high.
The reasons, most experts assume, is because no matter how difficult the job gets, cooks and chefs have a love affair with food. Like working on a fishing boat in Alaska, there is a sense of camaraderie and joy in the profession that keep people going even when faced with the physical demands of the job.
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.