Key Qualities to Becoming a Culinary Chef

Being adventurous and creative can help you become a better chef.

Being adventurous and creative can help you become a better chef.

Not all chefs are created equal. When it comes to having the chops to slice, fry, sear and, well, chop, there are a few qualities you need if you want to rise to the top of the field. Being a chef is a high-pressure occupation, and you’ll have to be ready for a challenge. But the task will be well worth it if you enjoy what you do and love making people smile with every bite.


It may sound simple, but one of the key ingredients in any good chef is a thorough knowledge of food. Cooking is both an art and a science, and you have to be familiar with a wide range of products if you want to advance beyond the ground level of a culinary career. Chefs who understand their ingredients – flavor, texture, aroma, nutrition and purpose -- are able to create both basic and unique dishes more easily than those who don’t know a turnip from a carrot.


Being adventurous and creative is another quality in a good chef. The most loved dishes in the world were once original ideas, and if you’re willing to experiment, you can develop excellent meals that set you apart from the crowd. By thinking outside the box and being willing to make mistakes and take risks, you can discover new combinations and dishes that lead you to kitchen and career success.


With rapid-fire orders coming in at peak meal times, chefs must be able to focus. Being too casual or easily distracted can lead you to make mistakes that have multiple consequences. By messing up orders, you’ll lose both time and money while also making customers angry and less likely to return for your food. Not only will you damage your reputation and lose business, when your mind drifts you also put yourself at a higher risk for injuries such as burns, cuts or stress-related health problems.


In the food industry, everyone’s a critic and the customer is usually right. If you want to be a chef, you’ll have to take the good with the bad when it comes to feedback. Because no two people enjoy the same dishes in the same way, you’re going to get mixed reviews, and will have to be able to handle both positive and negative comments with poise. Good chefs are able to take on an attitude of maturity and humility and avoid overreacting to reviews and complaints. Maturity involves perseverance, hard work, patience and self-control. Learn how to manage your emotions and will be able to better manage your kitchen.

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About the Author

After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.

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