Believe it or not, being a chef isn’t only dancing on the rose petals and cooking delicious meals when you feel like it. If you are unaware of this and are considering a career as a cook, or already are one, and you are looking up whether the heated situation is exclusive to your restaurant, I have bad news for you. There are downsides to being a chef as well.
However, don’t get discouraged because there are downsides to nearly everything in life. If you have the right attitude, working as a chef is great and fun, especially when your skills get better, among other benefits to the chef’s profession.
I know this extremely well because I’m a chef, and let me tell you that I got aware of the downsides after I was well into my culinary school studies, yet I love chefs’ work today. Enough about me, you are here to learn about what downsides there are as a chef, so I’ll give it to you. Let’s get started!
1. Starting Salary Won’t Make You Rich
In most cases, when beginning to work in the kitchen, your salary will be roughly $10-$12 an hour. This varies between locations, employers, whether you have a culinary school education or are a self-taught chef. and persuasion skills. After you receive your paycheck, you need to pay rent, bills, food, and something to keep you entertained so you won’t grow rich overnight.
2. Your Social Life Will Decrease
Depending on whether you work only day shifts at a lunch restaurant or in an A La Carte Restaurant that is open 24/7, your social life will diminish more or less. If you work only day shifts, your energy will be drained out after the day, and you have only little energy to see your friends, family or do something you love.
This goes even further when you work weekends and evening shifts, and let’s face it, most restaurants where you can actually build the customer’s meal on a plate are open during weekends and nights; therefore, you should be prepared to work when your friends are out having a good time.
On the plus side, if you are flexible, so will your employer, so it’s not like you’re doomed to work every weekend.
3. Working as a Chef Is Stressful
Working as a chef isn’t just building meals at your own pace. When it’s Saturday night, and it’s a beautiful day outside, let me tell you that +50 orders will give you something to think about, especially when coming more consistently. The key to being a good chef is to keep your nerves cool even when it’s the busiest moment of the week.
Also, there are allergies such as gluten, peanut, milk, and some special diets such as vegans that you need to be aware of. Failing to remember these aspects can lead to a hospital trip for the customer, and believe me, it happens. Allergies will increase the stress levels as well.
4. Unpredictable and Long Working Hours
Chef’s work isn’t like some office job where you can leave exactly when your shift ends. Sometimes in the kitchen, you will need to take extra hours to your day when someone calls in sick, or there is a higher volume than anticipated. And if you say no, your coworkers will really hate you, so this is something to be aware of. Think about it, if customers are waiting for food, you can’t just leave and say ”my shift just ended bye”.
5. It’s Physically and Mentally Demanding Job
Working in a commercial kitchen is demanding physically because all the countertops aren’t exactly the optimal height for you; therefore, your shoulders and back will get sore. Also, you will be standing 95% of your whole shift, so even when you have proper shoes, your knees and legs will hurt, especially at the beginning. Lastly, there are many heavy bags and a lot of cleaning involved, among other things that will be physically demanding.
Mentally, there are heat and fumes that can be both uncomfortable to your body and really irritating when you need to work at a fast pace in high temperatures. The rush and coworkers will also require mental muscles because it can get really hectic sometimes, and some things won’t go as planned from time to time.
6. You Will Get Injured as a Chef
It’s everyday life for a chef to get some burns from splashing oil or the door of an oven. In addition, some cuts from a chef’s knife will also happen when you cut your finger.
Another thing to be aware of is the slippery floors when some oil gets to it; therefore, using proper non-slip mats and safety shoes is a must in a kitchen.
Much more could happen in a kitchen, so it’s always important to say ”behind” when going behind someone because sudden movements with knives on hands can be hazardous. Proper cleaning, especially of the floors, is important as well so that everyone could be safer when walking in the kitchen.
7. You Don’t Have Much Privacy
Like in many jobs, being a chef isn’t different in terms of privacy. Depending on the size of your kitchen there are always 1-200 eye pairs on you whether they are your coworkers or customers if you are working in an open kitchen.
For me personally, privacy isn’t a problem nearly ever with my coworkers; however, if I were to work in an open kitchen, it would make me slightly uncomfortable because if everyone could see my every movement 24/7 and probably someone would always look at my work.
This do greatly vary between people and someone might even enjoy it, whereas another couldn’t do it.
8. The Work Can Be Monotony
Again, this depends on the restaurant, but most restaurants follow strict recipes and plate models that you shouldn’t alter at your will. At first, it could look like fun, but when you are crafting the same dish for the thousandth time, it will begin to feel monotony and creativity limiting.
Luckily the menus are usually changing consistently so there are something new to look forward!
9. Real Advancement Will Be Really Hard
If you know from the start that you want to be a famous head chef in a Michelin star restaurant, you must acknowledge that it will take tremendous effort, skill, and dedication to reach those goals. However, it isn’t impossible by any means.
There are so many chefs and restaurant workers globally, giving that it is one of the most popular professions, so there will be fierce competition, especially when talking about the more high paying quality spots.
10. Sometimes Your Coworkers Don’t Do It Right
Personally, this is probably the most annoying thing on this list for a couple of reasons. It’s understandable that if a chef is new and doesn’t know everything yet, that isn’t what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about those slacker people that make so much effort to do so little. Especially in a commercial kitchen, the team must play well together, and if not, one person can end up doing nearly everything while the other doesn’t do anything.
It’s more okay to slack at work if your actions don’t affect others; however, when your work burdens another, then it’s beginning to be a problem. Therefore be prepared for coworkers that are hard to work with.
11. You Can Be a Pro Somewhere and a Beginner In the Other
For example, if you have worked in a large lunch restaurant and go to make a shift in a high-paced a la carte restaurant, you will face some problems such as higher tempo than used to, bigger multitasking needs, and need to see the bigger picture better.
The same principle goes vice versa when transitioning from a high-tempo a la carte restaurant to a huge catering kitchen. There would be equipment that you haven’t ever seen before, a lot of calculating with ingredients, and different practices than you have used to.
12. Customers Can Be Rude Sometimes
Another con when working as a chef is mean customers. Sometimes, a customer will yell at you, so you must know how to deal with rude customers and not take it personally because there are some mean individuals out there.
The best way to think about it is that it isn’t personal, and you don’t know what is going on in his or her’s personal life, so the rude customer might need to unload it on someone. It doesn’t give you the right to yell at an innocent person; however, you shouldn’t give them the power to ruin your day.
If you are considering a chef’s career, know that it is customer service yet mean customers are infrequent, and if you work in a kitchen in the back of the house, you probably won’t ever encounter them.
13. If You Aim High Then You Should Go to Culinary School
Last but not least, if you want to work in a fine dining restaurant, for example, you might need a culinary school diploma because the most high-end restaurant doesn’t even look at the applications that don’t show a culinary school education.
However, there are exceptions to the matter, and most chefs acknowledge that you can be a skilled self-taught chef; however, the culinary school gives better opportunities and opens more doors for you.
14. Chef’s job isn’t just cooking
If you think that chef’s job is only cooking and preparing delicious meals, you couldn’t be more wrong. There is a saying for this: ”working as a chef is 20% cooking and 80% of cleaning,” which is more true than false.
There are some things that you need to clean every day to keep the fruit flies away, in addition to the obvious daily cleanings and cleanliness maintenance. In addition, you might need to wash dishes nearly constantly if your restaurant doesn’t have a specific dishwasher or a kitchen steward.
15. You Need To Take a Shower After Work
Working in a kitchen isn’t like working in an office with casual working clothes and cool air temperature. Chefs are constantly moving in high temperatures surrounded by cooking steams, odors, and grease. This is why you will always want to shower before going anywhere, unlike in an office job where you can hang out with your friends or see your family straight from work.
For nearly every coworker that I have ever worked with and me personally, this is a major disadvantage because of the things above but also when you came out of the shower, you are too tired to go anywhere, which will lead to diminished social life.
As we can see, there are quite a few disadvantages in the chef’s career; however, there are disadvantages to every profession, so if you desire to become a chef, don’t let these discourage you but only be aware of them.
I know chef’s career because I have worked in dozens of restaurants in many job descriptions and many types of restaurants. I’m happy and proud to be one, so believe me when I say this, there are some great advantages and positive sides. But more on that another day!