I'm 20 years old, looking to become a professional chef without experience

Joined Oct 9, 2017
I studied something completely different in high school and spent a year working retail and useless jobs like that trying to figure out what i want with my life, since I realised i've always had a passion for cooking (more specifically mexican and japanese cuisine) and have spent most of my free time watching celebrity chefs and reading cook books for inspiration. At this moment, I'm working one useless job (in terms of career) and i really want to get my footings in the restaurant business.

Where should i start? Should i go back to school and go with the restaurant programme for 50 weeks (starts in January) or should i brute force the restaurant jobs by asking chefs if i can be their apprentice? I don't know how attractive I'll be to the chefs if i show up with 0 professional experience. I've watched countless of food videos and tried out a lot of stuff at home, but i imagine that is very different to the fast paced cooking that restaurants/hotels require. For context I am stationed in Stockholm, Sweden.
Joined Jan 31, 2012
Theres an old saying...
You can't become experienced without a little experience.

In other words, if experience was required to get started in this business,
no one would get started in this business.
What you CAN bring to the table is enthusiasm, a displayable knack for learning
the trade, and above all...a willingness to actually work.

As to education, since you mentioned the school program, and not some expensive
exploitative culinary school, I would say why not do both?
Seems to me they would compliment each other, and working with a chef while
taking classes could provide valuabe feedback from him or her about what youre
being taught in school.
Joined Oct 9, 2017
I would say why not do both?
Seems to me they would compliment each other, and working with a chef while
taking classes could provide valuabe feedback from him or her about what youre
being taught in school.

Good thought! That's the perfect middle ground for my dilemma. Thanks for the reply. =)
Joined Mar 3, 2017
Start washing dishes anywhere. Once you build up speed in the pit use all your free time to help prep and assist the cooks.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
The thing to remember is, no one cares more about your career than you do. If you do the "Work for experience" idea you will have to be in a position or mind set that a Chef will train and move you through each area of the kitchen. This may look good on paper but not in the real world.
I walked into this business with no experience thinking I would be the best at everything so as to move quickly through the ranks. I figured I could impress my managers with my speed of learning to get promoted. In my cases it worked because I was so freaking cocky. My GM and other upper management moved me to other positions to watch me fall on my ass. I enjoyed doing it this way because I sucked at school. I was able to learn by seeing and hands on work. Later in my career I was able to take classes at CIA Napa valley.
The thing to watch out for in doing it yourself is. A chef could hold your progress back because they want to keep you in a position you excel at. Every chef just wants to have their kitchen run smooth. God only knows there are many days this doesn't happen. Lets say the chef has you trained and working in a position he/she has had problems maintaining a quality atmosphere. If you were put there and everything was great, what incentive would the chef have to move you to another position. I have found myself doing this. If I have a great line cook why should I think of moving this person into a Sous position and lose my shining star on the line. This could also be said for any position in the kitchen. Trying to learn everything by working in a restaurant could work but you need to have a real plan to succeed.......Good Luck! ChefBillyB


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Have you ever worked in a restaurant kitchen before? If not, then I would just worry about getting an entry level job to see if you even like it before you think about schooling or other apprenticeship. Just because you love to cook does not mean that you will love the restaurant business. Cooking at home and cooking in a restaurant are 2 completely different beasts. If you have no experience, try it out before you jump in with both feet, only to find out, after you've spent considerable money, that you really don't like cooking in restaurants.
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