Do you know your way around the kitchen? We don't mean whether you can find a bowl and a spoon for cereal. We're talking about serious pots and pans action. Can you cook up a delicious meal from scratch?

Or would you prefer to eat out at a restaurant where a professional chef does all the work? If you've ever eaten at a fancy restaurant, you know that chefs take their work very seriously. They elevate the planning and preparation of meals to an art.

But how do you become a chef? Everyone can cook, right? Well, everyone can feed themselves when necessary, but cooking a gourmet meal takes skill, training, and lots of practice.

Thousands of years ago, people became chefs by becoming an apprentice to someone who was already a chef. By working alongside a chef for months or years, an apprentice could learn all about planning and preparing meals. Eventually, the apprentice would know enough to become a chef and teach others.

Today, you can still be an apprentice to a chef. You can also go to a special school for chefs. We call those schools culinary schools, because they teach the culinary arts, such as food preparation, care and use of kitchen equipment, and menu planning.

Being a chef can mean a lot more than just cooking. Head chefs sometimes spend most of their time planning menus and supervising kitchen staff that does most, if not all, of the actual food preparation. Kitchen staff can include a variety of different types of chefs. Some common types of chefs you might find at large restaurants include:

  • The head chef or executive chef runs the kitchen and is responsible for creating the menu and overseeing all the kitchen workers.
  • The sous chef is the head chef's assistant and shares those duties. The sous chef is likely to have more direct oversight of kitchen workers and may also help prepare food daily.
  • Station chefs — also known as line cooks or chefs de partie — are in charge of particular food preparation duties. Many restaurants have multiple line cooks that specialize in different food preparation areas.
  • Depending upon the restaurant and its specialties, there may also be several specialty chefs that focus on particular aspects of the menu. These can include sauciers (sauces), poissoniers (fish), entremetiers (vegetables), rotisseurs (roast meats), and pâtissiers (pastries and desserts).

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