Children in a school being served lunch by chefs

Other Hospitality and Catering working environments

here are many different work environments for a Chef, each with its own unique traits that will suit different people for various reasons. A school Chef job is ideal for someone who likes the continuity of a set daily routine and the security of daytime hours.

What does a school Chef job involve?

School catering jobs usually mean an early start to prepare the food each day in time for lunch, which is most often served between 12 and 1pm. School cook jobs generally require you to be responsible for the various stages of meal preparation, from basic preparation such as peeling and chopping vegetables to cooking the dishes and then serving food. You may even need to operate the till.  

Duties will differ if you work as a private school Chef. Private schools will cater for boarders so you will likely have to prepare and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner meaning a longer day and possibly split shifts. Private school Chefs are also needed to work at weekends and for some special events. 

What are the requirements for a school Chef?

To work as a school Chef or Cook you will need to have some experience working as a Chef in a busy kitchen and many establishments will ask for a qualification such as an NVQ or diploma in a food related discipline. Schools are especially aware of children with food allergies and most have a ban on certain food products such as nuts. As a school cook you need to be aware of allergies and the need to prepare special foods for some children. 
You will be working in a school, so while it sounds obvious, it is preferable if you enjoy working with children. They may not be in the kitchen with you but you will be interacting with them on a daily basis and you need to be comfortable speaking to them and helping them make good food choices. 
School catering staff are required to have a valid enhanced DBS dated within the last 12 months and most positions will need you to have a Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate dated within the last 3 years. 

What are the requirements for working as a Chef in a college or university?

If you work as a university Chef or college Chef the environment will be different as you will be preparing food for adults rather than children.

Universities and colleges often have more than one catering establishment so the types of catering jobs and the necessary requirements for each will vary. You could be a Kitchen Assistant in a cafeteria type environment, a Cook in the canteen of a hall of residence providing meals to the students or Head Chef in a fine dining restaurant, providing food to the public and at university functions and events. 

Who is a school Chef job best suited for?

If you’ve trained as a Chef but want to work in an environment where you know what will happen each day then working in a school kitchen is ideal. You have just a few set menus to prepare for, your shift will start and finish more or less at the same time each day and the kitchen stays at a fairly steady pace. A catering job in a state school is ideal for anyone with a family, as it is only 5 days a week and you finish in the early afternoon. Plus no work in the school holidays!

What are the advantages of working in a school kitchen environment?

Many chef jobs involve long hours and late nights, so one of the biggest advantages of working as a school Chef has to be the more sociable hours. Some Chefs enjoy the fact that in a fast paced restaurant you never know what each day will bring, but if you prefer a more predictable workday then a job as a school Chef is a good choice.

Working in a school kitchen, however, means you have to stick to the menu provided by the catering company or Head Chef, so there is not the same scope for creativity as in some other catering environments.

Top 3 Tips for Working as a School Chef

  • Make sure the food you serve is always fresh and colourful so it is appealing to children
  • Wear a smile and be happy to talk to the children
  • Make yourself aware of any children with allergies or special dietary requirements.

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Other Hospitality and Catering working environments

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