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Become a chef

There is no single, straight and narrow path to becoming a chef. Instead, there are diverse paths.

France's Le Cordon Bleu, a leader in culinary education

Takes its name from the medal worn by Knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit whose feasts were legendary

Literally means 'blue ribbon'

Awarded famed U.S. chef Julia Child her toque (chef's hat) in 1950

Today has schools in 15 countries attended by 18,000 students

What leading chefs have in common is the fact that they absorb and use everything ;they learn about food, wherever they learn it.

Life, on the line : a chef's story of chasing greatness, facing death, and redefining the way we eat
Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas.
New York, NY : Gotham Books, 2011.
Achatz, "one of America's great chefs" ("Vogue"), shares how his drive to cook immaculate food won him international renown--and fueled his miraculous triumph over tongue cancer. "Life, on the Line" is also a book about survival, about nurturing creativity, and about profound friendship.
     
Cooking dirty : a story of life, sex, love and death in the kitchen
Jason Sheehan.
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
THE GRIT AND GLORY OF RESTAURANT LIFE, AS TOLD BY A SURVIVOR OF KITCHENS ACROSS AMERICAnbsp;Cooking Dirtyis a rollicking account of life “on the line” inthe restaurants, far from culinary school, cable TV, and theMichelin Guide—where most of us eat out most of the time. Ittakes the kitchen memoir to a rough and reckless place.From his first job scraping trays at a pizzeria at age fifteen,Jason Sheehan worked on the line at all kinds of restaurants: aFrench colonial and an all-night diner, a crab shack just off theinterstate and a fusion restaurant in a former hair salon. Restaurantwork, as he describes it in exuberant, sparkling prose, is a wayof life in which “your whole universe becomes a small, hot steelbox filled with knives and meat and fire.” The kitchen crew is afraternity with its own rites: cigarettes in the walk-in freezer, sexin the basement, the wartime urgency of the dinner rush. Cookingis a series of personal challenges, from the first perfectly donemussel to the satisfaction of surgically sliced foie gras. And thekitchen itself, as he tells it, is a place in which life’s mysteriesare thawed, sliced, broiled, barbecued, and fried—a place wherepeople from the margins find their community and their calling.With this deeply affecting book, Sheehan (already acclaimedfor his reviews) joins the first class of American food writers ata time when books about food have never been better or morepopular.
     
Made from scratch : a memoir
Sandra Lee.
Des Moines, Iowa : Meredith Books, c2007.
     
Backstage with Julia : my years with Julia Child
Nancy Verde Barr.
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, c2007.
You’ll love this intimate portrait of the inimitable Julia Child by Nancy Verde Barr, her executive chef and friend for twenty-four years. Brimming with anecdotes, memorabilia, and snapshots, Backstage with Julia conveys Julia’s generosity, her boundless energy, and her love of food and life. This loving memoir celebrates the adventurous, unassuming essence of the chef who seasoned American palates and heightened our appreciation of food.
     

Early experiences with food, and influences by friends and family, become the foundation for future work.

Pleasant memories of combining chocolate and strawberries into a delicious dessert may become a signature dessert in the chef's new restaurant.

There are many great chefs that just have a natural ability. It's not something they learned, instead it's just them. However, for many, attending a cooking school is required.

To get into the culinary arts field a person needs to have the ability to work as part of a team, to have discipline, personal cleanliness, organization skills, and a keen sense of taste and smell.

Median annual wage-and-salary earnings of chefs and head cooks were $34,370 in May 2006.

(from: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Besides these abilities they should have physical stamina and endurance, humility, along with good communication, math, and management skills.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2006-16 employment opportunities for chefs will increase by 11% and the demand for trained chefs will exceed supply. This could result in higher salaries, better benefits, and extra perks.

"Do what you love to do," the experts advise in choosing a career. It that happens to be cooking, then the whole culinary arts field is full of opportunities.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff