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Commis Chef jobs
What's it really like?
George Smith is 19 years old and has been working as a Commis Chef for one year. Between shifts he is studying catering full-time at college.
George, tell us a how you became a Commis Chef. What were you doing before you started working in a kitchen?
I was studying A-Levels at college. They were actually unrelated - History, Biology and PE but then I began working as a Kitchen Porter part-time and got into catering that way.
What is a typical day like in the life of a Commis Chef?
I begin the day with vegetable preparation, a lot of chopping. From here I go on to prepare the garnishes - small salads, lemon wedges and coleslaw for example. Right now it's summer so at service I'm outside, in the beer garden on the barbecue. I grill sausages, burgers etc and have to set up and check the machinery too. That means cleaning the barbecue and checking the gas canisters are full. After service I have to check the fridges - decant produce from larger containers to smaller to save space, throw out old food and generally clean up.
Aside from all of this, I go to Catering College 5 days a week. I'm working towards NVQ Level 3 with a diploma in Catering at Westminster Kingsway College. The times of classes vary, as do the subjects studied. Right now I'm on a pastry rotation, which means I'm doing pastry for the next three weeks. After that we will move onto something else such as sauces or pantry.
What are your favourite things about being a Commis Chef?
It is an active job. There is room to be creative, though possibly more so in the future. It is challenging, hard work but despite this you can have fun and good banter in the kitchen. It's not always a serious atmosphere.
Are there any things you dislike about working as a Commis Chef?
The hard work can become very tough at times. The pressure, while not necessarily a bad thing, can lead you to make mistakes. Sundays are particularly busy and leave me feeling pretty tired.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Commis Chef?
I would say only do it if you really like it. Only do it for passion as it is hard work.
Where do you see yourself moving on from here, in terms of career progression?
I am trying to work towards becoming a Chef de Partie.
Do you have any other insider tips for potential Commis Chefs?
You have to really pay attention to what people tell you in the Kitchen. Listen to the Head Chef and the other chefs.
A Commis Chef is a trainee chef who learns about all the different aspects of cooking whilst working in a kitchen.
A Commis Chef is essentially a trainee position which will be held for a number of years before progressing to the next step. Much can be learnt about food preparation in school or college but only direct experience will ever prepare you for the rigours of working in a commercial kitchen. For this reason a Commis Chef will learn the vast majority of his skills 'on the job', while a day release at college may cover the theoretical and procedural syllabus. Being a Commis Chef can be an exciting and rewarding experience; the learning curve is huge and performing new skills under pressure is a challenge.
Kitchens are busy, hot places and the really searing action is jammed into tight windows of service times. It is not a job for couch potatoes but, for people that like the excitement, there is no substitute. If you are passionate about creating great food, then it could be the place for you.
Commis Chefs can expect to earn from between £12,000 to £18,000 depending on location and experience. As chefs are expected to remain in the role of Commis for 4 - 5 years there is a wide discrepancy in wages according to experience.
A Commis Chef is in the kitchen to learn about cooking techniques through practice. For this reason his duties will vary over the course of his career and even throughout a single day.
Although a Commis Chef is learning on the job, the sauces, veg and any other cooking ingredients that he prepares will be served to customers. Therefore it is vital that close attention is paid under instruction; a busy commercial kitchen cannot afford repeated mistakes.
No qualifications are required to be a Commis Chef 'per se', though you may be expected to gain some national certifications while you are on the job. However, it is a good idea to have a couple of GCSEs such as English, Maths, or Catering. Depending on the employer, these may be a prerequisite.
Some College courses offer placements during your course and are a great way to enter the industry.
While Working as a Commis Chef you may be required to gain NVQ level 1 & 2 in Catering.
Actual cooking skills are learnt on the job as a Commis Chef and you are not expected to know them before you start. However, to succeed as a Commis Chef, you will need to concentrate on the following general skills and abilities.
No experience is required to be a Commis Chef though it would be natural to show some inclination towards cooking. Many Commis Chefs are promoted from Dishwashers or Kitchen Porters, as these two positions often involve basic veg prep or plating responsibilities.
Major employers of Commis Chefs are restaurants and hotels, of which there are literally thousands in the UK alone. Big hotel groups such as the Marriot, Hilton and the Four Seasons employ dozens of chefs in any one location. Additionally, you may be able to travel within the organisation. Applications may be made through local newspapers or online.
Another way to get a job cheffing is to work through an apprenticeship. Check out this website for more information.
The next logical step for a Commis Chef is to be a Chef de Partie who is solely responsible for one area of the kitchen and all the chefs working in that area. This could be the hot section serving up the mains, the pantry, desserts, starters, pastry or a number of other sub-sections depending on the particular kitchen. In order to qualify for promotion, a Commis Chef would be expected to have served 4 - 5 years in a busy kitchen and have an NVQ level 2 or equivalent in catering.