Do you have to do an apprenticeship to become a chef?

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Joined Sep 21, 2020
Hello all,

I have 5 years of further education in unrelated subjects behind me. I spent another year doing a foundation course in professional cookery. This was really just a course that allowed me to work in a kitchen. I currently work as a commis chef and I would like to stay in this profession. I'm wondering what my options are. Is an apprenticeship necessary/important? What is the situation in the industry for those with an apprenticeship versus those without? Have any of you made a career without an apprenticeship/college education in culinary arts? What is your experience? To head chefs/executive chefs: how would you view someone without culinary education?

My concern over apprenticeships stems partly from the fact that I'm finding it very difficult to find an apprenticeship in a vegetarian/vegan establishment. I want to be a vegan/vegetarian chef and doing an apprenticeship elsewhere seems a little pointless. Plus the college part of apprenticeships involves learning about meat, etc. Hopefully some of you can understand where I'm coming from here. Although I would prefer to take the cooking route, I am also quite open minded and flexible and would also like to learn pastry/baking.

I have also been considering doing an apprenticeship as a baker, but this apprenticeship is not offered in my country, Ireland. (Also, pastry and cuisine are one joint apprenticeship here with greater emphasis on cuisine). I have thought of moving to Germany, as I happen to speak fluent German and German pastry, bakery and vegan/vegetarian cuisine is generally better than in the British Isles, and so are the apprenticeships, but that presents another set of challenges. Not to mention, even in Germany the competition for an apprenticeship is rife (in my experience so far)!

I don't know what to do. Any helpful advice and tips related to any of this would be appreciated.
 
717
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
I don't think and apprenticeship is a waste of time. Just because you want to focus on vegan style cooking doesn't mean you can't learn anything from an apprenticeship. They are going to teach you things like proper sanitation, cooking techniques, knife skills and flavor profiles. It will be up to you to branch off from there. I don't see how limiting your experience avenues would benefit you in the long run. Sure you could find a vegan establishment and just work there exclusively but you pigeon hole yourself into only knowing what is available right then and there.
 
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Joined Sep 21, 2020
I don't think and apprenticeship is a waste of time. Just because you want to focus on vegan style cooking doesn't mean you can't learn anything from an apprenticeship. They are going to teach you things like proper sanitation, cooking techniques, knife skills and flavor profiles. It will be up to you to branch off from there. I don't see how limiting your experience avenues would benefit you in the long run. Sure you could find a vegan establishment and just work there exclusively but you pigeon hole yourself into only knowing what is available right then and there.

Thanks for your feedback!

I have thought about this: the fact that it is limiting to not experience and learn a wider breadth of skills which you would in an apprenticeship, but it seems to be the case that getting a job in a non-vegan kitchen will require me to taste meat dishes, as that is a chef's job! The really smart way that you put it makes it sound easy: vegan cooking is a specialism that you can choose once you have learned the basics, but in reality, a vegan can't be a vegan chef without becoming "converted". That is the barrier.

If there were an apprenticeship in vegan cooking only, this would definitely not be a limiting education, as vegan cooking is a whole field of work that most non-vegan chefs are obviously not competent in and would do well to learn about. Unfortunately, a vegan apprenticeship doesn't exist, as the system is rigged a certain way. These days, asking a chef to make a vegan dish is a bit like asking a chef to make pastry which he really isn't experienced in, but may know about in theory because college may have taught them. They may know all about how to make a beef brisket, but when it comes to creating a vegan dish, they simply don't have what it takes. This is the other problem, what would I really be learning in these kitchens? I would be working my butt off for fewer career benefits than others would get, but maybe my mind is just demonising the situation. On the flip side, there is always something to be gained from experience. I just don't know anymore. I have thought that I would simply just cross the bridge of putting it in my mouth when the time comes, but this concept is very difficult to factor into the plan.

I can see that the industry is already very tough. Not doing an apprenticeship is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. Is it all made impossibly tough by being vegan?
 
3,177
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Joined May 5, 2010
Rolypoly, welcome to ChefTalk.
No you don't have to have an apprenticeship to be a Chef.
I must tell you though that Seoul Food is right in that you will only gain knowledge of one small part of the food service industry if you close your eyes to non-vegan cooking.

I don't believe the industry is "rigged" to keep Vegan cooks from learning.
Let me give you a simple example. A chef instructs a cook to make 4 gallons of potato leek soup. The cook has never seen a French leek before and had the Chef not taken the cook into the walk-in and showed them where the leek was, there'd be trouble afoot, yes?
How about the Chef who asks the cook "did you taste this sauce?" To which the cook replies, "I don't eat this stuff."
It is important to learn all factors of food preparation BEFORE you branch off into learning other parts of the industry. I do believe that vegan food is here to stay and you must learn about food preparation irrespective of what you'll do with the knowledge later on.
 
5,436
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
As far as I know,apprenticeships in Germany are part of the national educational system and therefore only available to German citizens.
Look, most employers value experience as much or—in most cases—even more than education. This is a fact I can’t stress highly enough.

I’ve worked with Muslim cooks and their religion forbids them to eat pork or alcohol. That doesn’t stop them from working with these ingredients, they know it’s part of the job, they follow the procedures and recipies and if they they’re not sure, get someone to sample the item first. What I’m trying to tell you is to learn as much about meat as possible—no one says you have to eat it.As you’ve noticed, true vegetarian restaurants are far and few in between, so you’ll have work in regular restaurants at some part of your career.

Hope this helps
 
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