Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month, we explore the role of a chef.

Head chef Istvan Ulmann shares his insights with this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is a chef?

Chefs and sous chefs cook for restaurants, cafés, bars, cruise ships and catering firms. Some also work for specialist food companies, helping to create new products. You will coordinate kitchen activities and supervise the preparation of food by your team of kitchen staff.

Commis chefs are trainee chefs. Sous chefs are second-in-command of the kitchen. They will be required to recruit and train kitchen staff.

Planning new menus and dishes, checking stocks of food and drink and dealing with suppliers are also included in the sous chef role.


Hours are typically 40 per week in a shift pattern and include evenings and weekends. Part-time work can be found. 


Most of your work will be in a kitchen which will be hot, busy and noisy.

Type of work

You will be required to use equipment that can be dangerous if not used correctly.

As you will be preparing food, you will need to wear protective clothing and pay attention to health and hygiene.

Things to consider

Preparing high-quality food that your customers enjoy is very rewarding. 

Varied work
You will have the opportunity to combine creativity with practical skills. 

Unsocial hours or on call
You will work long, unsocial hours.

Inhospitable/hazardous environment
You will be on your feet in a hot and busy environment. 

Most people have GCSEs in core subjects and you will need further professional training

Academic qualifications are not essential to enter this profession as a trainee (commis) chef, although some employers prefer you to have a good general standard of education and possibly qualifications in hospitality or catering. Most training is on the job and you will be taught by an experienced chef whilst you work in the kitchen. It is possible to work your way up to chef level with enough experience.


There are a number of qualifications available that could give you an advantage, for example GCSEs in Hospitality and Catering, a City & Guilds Diploma in Professional Cookery (Levels 1–3) or an NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery (Levels 2 and 3). Further qualifications are also available, including degrees, Foundation degrees and HNC/HNDs in Professional Culinary Arts and Culinary Arts Management.

Salary progression
A commis chef may earn around £15,000 per year. Section chefs (chef de partie) earn £19,000 to £23,000 per year.

Sous chefs usually earn between £22,000 and £30,000 per year.

A head or executive chef could earn anything from £30,000 to in excess of £50,000, depending on their skills and the style of hotel or restaurant.

Top Tip

Once you have sufficient experience in this role, you can progress to head chef. Gaining significant experience may allow you to open your own business or even become a lecturer.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.