Please introduce yourself briefly
My name is Anne Overmeer from the Netherlands. I’ve been working as a pastry chef for 6 years now.
Could you tell us more about the kitchen hierarchy? What is the entry level position and what is the highest level?
You need to work hard in the kitchen/bakery, long shifts in the early morning or evening. But you get a lot of adrenaline with the pressure to get the dishes on time to the guest. To start working in a kitchen, you start as a ‘Demi Chef de Partie’. You work with all the others in the kitchen, but you are not responsible for any orders activities or other proceedings.
The next level is de ‘Chef de Partie’. You do the same activities as a ‘Demi’, but now you have more responsibilities.
After ‘Chef de Partie’, you can become a ‘Junior Sous Chef’. Now you are responsible for all the orders around the kitchen supplies, etc. You can also manage the other kitchen staff.
After the ‘Junior Sous Chef’, you’re becoming a ‘Sous Chef’. It`s actually the same as a Junior, but now you are working closer with the Head Chef of the kitchen which is the highest level. If the Head Chef is not in the kitchen, the Sous chef takes over his tasks.
What training and experience are required to become a chef?
There are many different trainings to follow to become a chef. But the most important part is your experience in the kitchen. You learn the most while doing an internship for a good chef.
What are students being taught in culinary schools?
The students are being taught to work with their creative mind. They learn how to create new dishes or pastry. You also learn how to make a good planning of your dishes.
How long does the training take and how much does it cost?
This depends on the different trainings/education. The course at a school to become a baker or a ‘Demi chef de partie’ takes about 4 to 5 years. After school, you can also participate in different training or workshops. For example, the training by Amaury Guichon in Las Vegas (which I would love to do some day).
Where are the best culinary schools?
I would say that the best culinary schools are in France. Especially for bakery/pastry, because most of the pastry shops and chefs are inspired by the French pastry.
For kitchen, France is also a very good country to learn how to become a chef, because a lot of restaurants follow the style of the ‘French Cuisine’.
Is it easy to find a job for cooks without any experience? What is the best way to find a job?
If you want to start working in a kitchen, you can apply in a restaurant without experience. But there is a big change that you need to start in the dish washing area. It’s the place where most of the chefs have started their career. While being there, you can see how the chefs work, and you can also try one day.
Could you please tell us more about how the job interview is like?
If you want to apply for a job in a kitchen, it’s good to have patience. Because you really want to be a good chef, you assume that you can work in the kitchen with the chefs from the first day you start.
Unfortunately, you need to have more patience, show them you are motivated and that you want to learn. If they tell you they don’t want to hire you because of the lack of experience, ask them for an internship, look closely what the chefs do, and then, one day, you will become chef too.
What are the typical working hours and days of chefs?
Most of the restaurants want you to work full time, 5 days a week. This is mostly in the weekend, because it’s the busiest time of the week. In one day you work about 10-12 hours. But the hours you do really depend on the level of the restaurant, the numbers of guests in the evening, and the numbers of chefs you have in the kitchen.
Could you describe your typical working day as a Pastry Chef?
A typical working day as a pastry chef starts with preparing a planning/checklist for the day. Check what we need to do for the evening and to keep a good amount of the stock.
After you are done with the planning, you start with the things that are the most important, for example, preparing the bread.
Then, you go on with you’re checklist for the day, check if you have everything set in the kitchen for the service. When the first guests arrive, you are going to make all the dishes they request.
Would you say being a chef is a highly-stressful job? How do you cope with the stress?
I think it’s stressful at some moments of the evening when all the tickets of the dishes are coming at the same time. But you get so much adrenaline and energy when you can deliver all the orders perfectly at the right time.
At the end of the evening, I always feel satisfied.
Would you say it is a creative career?
For sure it’s a creative career, you can use all your creative ideas to create new recipes or dishes.
What is the most interesting meal/dessert you have prepared?
The dessert I really liked to make is the ‘Chocolate Explosion’. It is a ‘bomb’ of chocolate, filled with different chocolate components such as chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, chocolate caramel, chocolate crunchy, almond cake, fruit, etc. When the guest ordered this dessert, we brought the chocolate bomb to the table, poured in liquid nitrogen (as if there was smoke), then we broke the bomb so the guest could see and taste all the different components.
What is it like to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant vs working in a regular restaurant?
The big difference between a regular restaurant and a restaurant with a Michelin star is the quality. You also see a difference between the focus of the chefs and other staff. Everybody is motivated enough to keep up with the high level. If you work in a regular restaurant you (mostly) don’t have working days longer then 10-12 hours. In a Michelin star restaurant the working hours sometimes go up to 14-16 hours a day. It is a long day, but this is also because of the many components in one dish which you don’t see in a regular restaurant with ‘just’ steak and fries.
Would you say the job is well-paid?
I always say as a joke: ‘If you want to get rich, educate to be a lawyer’. In the kitchen/bakery it really depends on you’re position. But yes the job is well- paid, especially when you work in a kitchen/restaurant, you get the tips from the guest which is really nice as a extra ‘salary’.
What do you like the most about being a chef?
I really like to work with my hands and to use my creativity to make new chocolates, cakes, desserts, and other dishes.
What you don’t like about the job?
This is a hard question, I love my job. If I need to mention something, I would say I don’t always like to work in weekends or late/early hours. But to work in a kitchen or bakery is amazing!