Female Commis Chef putting final touches on dishes

How to become a Commis Chef?

Overview

Job Role Commis Chef 
Responsibilities Assisting the Chef de Partie with food preperation and serving.  
Salary £9.74  per hour / £19,000 per year 
Dress Code

Top: Usually a chef white (long or short sleeved) or plain t-shirt
Bottoms: Usually black or checkered chef trousers
Apron: Usually a plain or butcher’s striped apron
Shoes: Black kitchen-safe chef shoes
Hat: Chef’s scull cap and/or hair net if required

Handy Hints 

  • If your uniform isn’t provided by the employer, always ask what is accepted
  • Uniform should always be clean at the start of every shift and in good condition (eg. no rips, holes or large stains)
  • Most places of work in the hospitality and catering industry require chefs to have their own knives and basic tools, remember to take yours. If it’s your very first job as a commis chef, ask the hiring chef for a recommendation for your first chef knife and where to buy equipment
  • Always be sure to take water or another drink to your shift and stay hydrated

What do I need to do to become a Commis Chef

A job as a commis chef is often the first step on the ladder in your kitchen career. Whether you want to open your own place, become the executive chef of a leading chain of restaurants or something in between, hard work is the most important thing you’re going to need.

There are two routes to becoming a commis chef: get straight into a job in the kitchen or get some formal training. The benefits of hitting the ground running in a cook or commis chef job is that you’ll be getting paid from day one, and will immediately start gaining hands-on experience. But bare in mind, it may be tricky to persuade the hiring chef to take you on for your first gig. Make sure your enthusiasm and passion will show them that you’re worth investing their time to train you. Remember, a great attitude and work ethic goes a long way, especially in the kitchen.

With lots of education options, your chef training may be in the form of an apprenticeship, a traineeship, a diploma in cookery, an NVQ (national vocational qualification) or a hospitality-based degree.

Choosing to take formal training or not, and then which training route you opt for will depend on your circumstances and preferences. Take your time to decide what route is right for you, and if you know someone in the industry ask for their advice. If your passion is to become a great chef don’t let paperwork or a few rejections stop you. As Julia Child, renowned American chef, once said ‘find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it’.

A great way to find the balance between getting practical experience, pay and training is through an apprenticeship, especially if you’ve just left school. These are structured entry-level jobs, which reach varying levels of qualifications in cookery and hospitality. You can find out more about apprenticeships on the government website.

Whichever path you choose, especially if it’s straight into a commis chef job, you’ll be learning everything from those you work with so choose wisely. Food you’re inspired by and will enjoy learning to make, and chefs who want to teach you are some things to look out for.

And don’t be work shy. Typical chef shifts can be between 8-15 hours so you must be prepared to work hard and remember you’re starting from the bottom. The average salary for a commis chef in the UK is around £19,000, but you can expect higher salaries in London and other major cities; though of course living expenses will often also be higher.

Commis chef jobs may be publically advertised on jobs websites, specialist staffing websites or in newspapers. Sarah Archer, career coach and founder of Career Tree, also advises that: “Employers in this sector often advertise jobs by word of mouth, Facebook or a local advert so get talking to people. Visit hotels and restaurants in the area to enquire if they have any vacancies.”

“Have a great one page CV that shows your passion for cooking and interest in food, plus any qualifications you might have in food hygiene or cookery, and leave it with them. Keep popping back to see if anything has changed,” she says.

And although this is an entry-level role, and positions can be on a casual basis, it’s important to always maintain a professional manner when applying for these jobs.

As this is a hands-on role, and you don’t require formal training, you can expect to be asked to go into the workplace for a trial. This is a great first step and your chance to show the employer you’d be a good addition to the team. It’s also essential for you to see the type of kitchen you’d be working in, what the food is like and who you would be working with. This will usually be for an hour or two. If you will be working for any longer than this, it is reasonable to ask whether you will be paid for your time. It will usually involve a short interview, or ‘chat’ as chefs like to call it, and some time in the kitchen.

To impress the hiring chef or restaurant manager at a trial, make sure you turn up 10-15 minutes early, take your uniform (or something that’s appropriate to wear in a kitchen) and knives if you have them. Before you go, think about how to answer questions like ‘why do you want to work here?’ Have a look at the menu first, by going online or even going in as a customer, if you can, to see what the place is like.

Once you’ve landed the job, there’s a lot to learn as a commis chef. There’s always something to do in a kitchen, and often there’s also lots that needs to be done.

As a commis chef, you’ll often be assigned to a section and work under the guidance of a chef de partie or more senior chef. They will show you how the section should run. You might, for example, start on the sandwich or starters section. This can often be the least busy section of the kitchen so it’s a great way to learn the basics and also observe how other chefs are working.

But don’t expect it to be easy, you’ll have to learn to prioritise jobs, work quickly and cleanly and also be willing to help chefs on busier sections. Even if this means running to the local shop because someone forgot to order carrots! As well as the food preparation and serving side, the less exciting tasks of cleaning, organising fridges or stock rooms and thinking about orders for the next day are also important.

After getting some invaluable experience under your belt in this role, your next step up the ladder would typically be to the role of chef de partie, or demi chef de partie.

Browse the latest commis chef jobs.

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