How To Become A Chef In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how they can become a chef in Australia and how long it takes.


Do you love cooking and have creative skills and a flair for flavour? Then, a career as a Chef could be worth exploring.


Chefs are skilled professionals with expert knowledge in cooking various dishes and experimenting with cuisines. They take care of the food safety standard in the public/commercial kitchen while maintaining the proper taste. 


You usually need a Certificate IV in commercial cookery to work as a Chef. This course is completed as part of an apprenticeship. Senior roles such as Executive, Head, and Sous Chefs usually require additional study, like a Diploma in Hospitality Management.


In this blog, you will learn Chef's responsibilities, salary, requirements, qualifications, apprenticeships, what you must study, how long it takes, and steps to become one in Australia, so keep reading.



1. What Is A Chef?


A chef is a professional cook trained in various aspects of food preparation. They prepare a variety of ingredients and dishes in the kitchen.


Chefs also provide direction to the kitchen staff. They develop new menu items and collaborate with the general manager to establish business objectives.


Chefs are also responsible for ordering the restaurant's weekly food supply and maintaining vendor relationships.



2. What Are The Different Types Of Chefs?


Chefs are classified into four main types based on their seniority and role:


  • Station Chef/line Cook/Chef de Partie: They are in charge of a particular kitchen station, such as the salads, sauces, or deep fryers, and work under the supervision of senior chefs.


  • Sous Chef: They supervise station chefs and ensure dishes have the desired look and taste.


  • Head Chef: They create menus, supervise the kitchen, communicate with suppliers, and oversee budgets.


  • Executive Chef: Executive Chef is the highest rank in the Chef profession. They are responsible for managing large restaurants, specifically those with various outlets.



3. Primary Duties And Tasks Of A Chef


The Chef's rank and the type and size of kitchen they work in determine the duties of a chef. 


Chefs working in small-team kitchens typically carry greater responsibilities compared to those in specialised positions within large commercial kitchens.


Some of their pre-service, service, and post-service tasks and duties include:


  • Plan menus 

  • Checking kitchen inventory and ordering food, equipment, and supplies (when needed). 

  • Prepare, cook, freeze, and preserve food.

  • Demonstrate different techniques to cooks. 

  • Explain and enforce hygiene regulations.

  • Talk to the wait staff about food orders and dinner requests

  • Clean the kitchen before and after use to meet health and safety standards.

  • Discuss food preparation issues with dietitians, managers, and other staff members.

  • Supervise kitchen assistants, hostesses, and waiters.

  • Oversee subordinates involved in food preparation in the kitchen.

  • Do bookkeeping work for their restaurant

  • Monitoring food quality from its preparation to presentation. 



4. Skills To Succeed In A Chefs Role


You must have a range of technical skills and soft skills to become a successful chef:



Technical Skills


  • Manual handling skills: To work with various cooking appliances and cooking utensils.

  • Cooking skills: To know the best ingredient combinations, the best ways to treat ingredients for the most promising results, and the best cooking times and temperatures to create delicious dishes.

  • A good understanding of food safety regulations and hygiene standards: To ensure their food is cross-contamination free and safe for consumption.



Soft Skills


  • Strong communication skills 

  • Teamwork

  • Excellent Time management skills

  • Physical stamina

  • Creativity

  • Always learning attitude



5. How Do I Qualify As A Chef In Australia?


You usually don't need any formal qualification to be a Chef. However, most Chefs complete an apprenticeship in a commercial kitchen and obtain a related vocational qualification to work in this role.


Here are the steps to qualify for this role:


  1. Complete your Year 10 education.

  2. Complete a TAFE chef apprenticeship that resonates with your cooking interests. Some good options to consider are a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery (SIT30821), Certificate III in Bread Baking (FBP30421), or Certificate III in Patisserie (SIT31021).

  3. Consider working in an entry role to gain kitchen experience and expertise in cooking skills.

  4. If you wish to specialise in a cooking style and progress in senior-level roles, consider completing a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery (SIT40516), a Diploma of Hospitality Management (SIT50416), and a Bachelor of Culinary Management. 

  5. Before working as a Chef, you must obtain a chef-certificate in Australia, such as a food handling certificate and a food safety supervisor certificate.

  6. Becoming a member of the Australian Culinary Federation is beneficial.



6. Steps To Become A Chef In Australia


Follow the steps below to become a chef in Australia:



Step 1: Gain Work Experience In A Kitchen


Before becoming a chef, gain work experience as a kitchen hand as a waiter, dishwasher, or cook or take up any other role to get a feel of the industry. It will help you understand what it takes to work in the hospitality industry.



Step 2: Enrol In an Apprenticeship


What qualifications do I need to be a chef in Australia? Technically, no specific qualifications are required to work as a chef in Australia.


However, most chefs complete a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery (SIT30813) as part of an apprenticeship and get a vocational degree after the training.


Depending on the type of Chef you want to be, there are different types of apprenticeship and chef courses you can undertake in Australia:


  • Pastry chef – Certificate III in Patisserie (SIT31016)

  • Pastry chef – Certificate IV in Patisserie (SIT40716)

  • Cook – Certificate III in Commercial Cookery (SIT30813)

  • Chef – Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery (SIT40516)

  • Baker – Certificate III in Retail Baking (Bread) (FDF30610)

  • Catering operations – Certificate IV in Hospitality (SIT40416)

  • Diploma of Hospitality Management (SIT50416)

  • Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management (SIT60316)

  • Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management

  • Associate Degree in Hospitality Management


You need to obtain your Year 10 School Certificate to begin your apprenticeship. As the criteria for various states and territories may vary, check with your local TAFE or career counsellor.


Specialised culinary schools and universities are other alternative options for obtaining cooking qualifications. Many Australian institutes are well-known in the culinary arts industry and have fantastic campuses to help you learn.


Like chef apprenticeship TAFE courses, culinary institutions demand a combination of classwork and practical industry placement. The fees and admission requirements for chef courses in Australia may differ, so do proper research before choosing the course.



Step 3: Work In A Chef Apprentice Role While Studying For Your Qualification


In Australia, completing your training and transitioning from apprentice to trained cook takes about three years. Generally, this training comprises:


  • Working at a food establishment, like a restaurant, four days a week.

  • Attending classes at an accredited college or TAFE once a week.


Most apprentice chefs complete their full three-year apprenticeship at the same restaurant. However, moving from one restaurant to another is common to work in diverse conditions and get exposed to different cuisines, culinary methods, and flavour profiles.


As an apprentice chef, you might do the following tasks:


  • Assisting with menu planning

  • Food preparation and cooking

  • Garnishing and plating

  • Cleaning

  • Ordering food supplies and equipment


You will learn a lot as an apprentice, so be prepared to assist in all areas of the kitchen.



Step 4: Consider Specialisation


You will obtain a nationally recognised chef certificate or diploma qualification after three years as an apprentice. It will allow you to work as a certified professional chef in the country.


You should specialise in a niche to level up your career. So, after you gain experience as a Chef, you can focus on a particular cuisine or specific aspects of cooking, such as baking, pastry making, etc., and pursue the below-specialised roles:


  • Chef de Partie

  • Commis Chef

  • Demi Chef

  • Second Chef 

  • Sous Chef



Step 5: Work Your Way Up To The Top


Your real job begins now! Like any other profession, being a chef requires you to put in all the effort and work your way up to the top from station line cook or station chef to sous chef, head chef, and finally, becoming Executive Chef.


While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a chef, you can follow the steps below to become a successful chef:


  1. Keep up with the most recent food trends.

  2. Find a chef you admire and trust to be your mentor.

  3. Train with different types of chefs in other kitchens.

  4. Experiment with various culinary ingredients, techniques, and cooking styles.

  5. Train with a variety of chefs in a variety of kitchens.

  6. Travel around the world and draw inspiration from everything you see.

  7. Discover unique flavour profiles from all around the globe.



7. Chef Courses at TAFE In Australia


The best way to start is to study to become a Chef in Australia at TAFE. Here is a list of TAFE institutions that offer entry-level Chef courses in Australia:


The courses equip students with sound knowledge of basic kitchen operations and develop cookery skills to join the kitchen as an apprentice chef. Completing these courses will prepare you for a fast-paced career in commercial cookery.




8. What Are The Work Conditions For Chefs?


Chefs usually work in high-pressure and fast-paced work environments in commercial kitchens. The standard settings include restaurants, hotels, pubs, cafes, clubs, and coffee shops.


You must have high physical stamina to work in this role, standing in a hot kitchen for several hours daily.


Besides being physically challenging, it can also be mentally draining. You work long hours, with the utmost attention and focus, to prepare high-quality food on time.



9. Common Workplaces For Chefs


Qualified kitchen chefs can choose from several food establishments, such as:


  • Private institutions, including dining restaurants, hotels, cafes, hospitals, cruise ships, large corporations, entertainment venues, food trucks, etc.

  • Public institutions such as public hospitals and government schools. 



10. What Equipment Do Chefs Need While On An Apprenticeship?


  • Chefs must operate with specific trade tools to accomplish their job. 

  • You must have good quality equipment like Chef's knives and wear Chef's uniform as specified by your TAFE or college. 

  • It includes a chef jacket, apron, hat, hair net, trousers, and comfortable, covered shoes.



11. Job Outlook For Chefs In Australia


ANZSCO Code: 3513 (Chefs)


Australia has a massive travel, tourism, and hospitality industry that thrives constantly. Multicultural influences in the country have resulted in a rich culinary culture.


The availability of premium-quality ingredients, including high safety standards, has always set Australian Cooks ahead of their counterparts. The demand for chefs has skyrocketed over the past five years.


Considering the continued demand for culinary experiences, the Australian government estimates a robust future growth rate of 13.9% in this profession. It expects to create 11,200 new job openings for Chefs over the next five years.



Working Arrangements


Around 72% of employed Chefs work full-time hours for an average of 46 hours per week in their primary job.



Employment Percentage In Industries


Around 82.9% of workers work in Accommodation And Food Services. Some also work in:


  • Health Care And Social Assistance

  • Manufacturing

  • Arts And Recreation Services



Employment Percentage Across Australia


New South Wales and Victoria have high employment percentages of 32.8% and 26.8%, respectively.


  • Queensland: 18.7%

  • South Australia: 6.2%

  • Western Australia: 10.5%

  • Tasmania: 2.0%

  • Northern Territory: 1.0%

  • Australian Capital Territory: 1.9%



Worker's Age and Gender Profile


The average age of Chefs is 35 years, with most between 25 and 34 years.


Females constitute 25% of the workforce which is 23 percentage points below the average of all jobs, i.e., 48%.



12. How Much Do Chefs Get Paid In Australia? 


Chef is a moderately-paying career; most people pursue it for its immense creative satisfaction, excitement, and variety. According to PayScale, the average Kitchen Chef's salary is AU$54,758 annually.


The salary of a Chef in Australia varies based on the below:



Rank/ Speciality/ Seniority in a Kitchen's Role


As they gain specialised skills and experience than station chefs and work in senior chef roles, they can expect to earn higher than the average salary:


  • Sous chef: AUD102,053 per year

  • Head chef: AUD111,537 per year

  • Executive Chef: AUD147,050 per year



Type of Food Establishment


Chefs at hatted restaurants generally earn higher than those employed at non-hatted restaurants.





  • Entry-level (<1 year experience): AU$23.15 per hour

  • Early career (1-4 years of experience): AU$23.91 per hour

  • Mid-career (5-9 years of experience): AU$24.93 per hour 

  • Experienced (10-19 years of experience): AU$24.82 per hour

  • In their late career (20 years and above): AU$25 per hour. 



Work Location: Highest Paying Locations for Chefs in Australia Are:


  • Perth: AU$106,405 per year

  • The Rocks: AU$98,790 per year

  • Sydney: AU$97,136 per year

  • Port Melbourne: AU$95,748 per year

  • Brisbane: $95,457 per year

  • Cairns: AU$94,837 per year

  • Melbourne: AU$94,784 per year

  • Newcastle: AU$94,553 per year

  • Geelong: AU$93,591 per year



13. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



Can I Become a Chef Without Qualifications?


Yes. If you need more time or budget to join a culinary school, do not worry! Imagination can help you get out of even the most difficult situations. Use whatever resources you have and attempt to find new ways to put them to use, depending on your requirements.


Remember, your kitchen is your best friend. This space is all you need to develop all your creations. It is the best place to start practising until you can work in a professional kitchen.


You can make it work with what you already have in your kitchen. You can work with essential equipment, such as cutting boards, knives, and other tools that you believe are required.


When working on recipes, do not expect perfection from the start. Always keep in mind that practice makes you perfect. The more you keep practising, the more possibilities you will have to improve.


You can also benefit from the internet and make the most of its material. You can even discover autobiographies, recipe books, and videos by world-famous chefs on the internet.


You will also find several online classes to learn step-by-step recipe preparation procedures. Depending on your level of understanding and the type of cuisine you prefer to cook, you will find the best option for you.


Social media can be beneficial for cooking and becoming a chef. You can follow industry-relevant profiles on Facebook and Instagram and learn from them. Typically, these accounts post quick hacks and videos that consume only a little of your time.


Additionally, you will find a lot of visual content on the internet, including exciting data and ingredient substitution methods. This way, you will continue polishing your chef skills in a fun way without going to an institution.



How Much Does It Cost To Become A Chef in Australia?


Generally, completing a Commercial Cookery course in Australia takes AU$ 3,000 to AU$ 15,000. The exact cost depends on the course duration and whether or not extra materials are needed.



Is 30 Too Late To Become A Chef?


No. There are no age limits to pursuing this career so you can become a chef after 30. Several successful chefs entered a culinary career at later stages of their professional life.


So, going to culinary school and beginning a new career path is never too late. However, you must know that it can be a physically challenging career path with a highly steep learning curve. You must be capable of working long hours on your feet, which can sometimes become difficult as you get older.


If you are old and still interested in pursuing a culinary career, a career as a personal chef or research chef could be worth exploring.



What Is The Hardest Part of Being A Chef?


Being a Kitchen chef is a hard job. It is physically exhausting as you will have to remain on your feet in a hot kitchen for most of the time and may lift heavy objects too.


It is also mentally challenging as you often require working long hours with total concentration to get the meals out on time.



What Is The Hardest Dish For A Chef To Make?


 Beef Wellington is the most complicated dish, even for a chef, and involves many steps. Additionally, you have to carry out all steps with perfection:


  • Prepare demi-glace

  • Bone squab

  • Prepare forcemeat

  • Make veloute from squab bones 

  • Prepare chaudfroid from veloute

  • Poach the squab

  • Coat the squab

  • Prepare wine aspic

  • Glaze the already-coated squab

  • Prepare jam

  • Zest citrus

  • Prepare Cumberland sauce 



What Is The Lowest Position of a Chef?


You will most likely start your career as a "Kitchen hand" in a commercial kitchen.


While working in this role, you are responsible for cleaning and assisting everyone else in the kitchen. As you accumulate skills and experience, you will begin progressing to higher ranks.


Here are the Chef Rankings and the Kitchen Hierarchy (top to bottom):


  • Executive Chef, Avg. salary: AU$124,475 per year

  • Head Chef, Avg. salary: AU$98,102 per year

  • Sous Chef, Avg. salary: AU$90,399 per year

  • Chef de Partie, Avg. salary: AU$83,352 per year

  • Kitchen Chef, Avg. salary: AU$35.68/hr

  • Chef Assistant, Avg. salary: AU$33.18/hr

  • Kitchen Hand, Avg. salary: AU$29.48/hr



What Are Chefs' Least Favourite Foods?


Some of the least favourite foods of professional chefs at high-end restaurants are:


  • Truffle oil

  • Coconut milk

  • Boiled eggs

  • Sea urchin

  • Chocolate ice cream

  • Bell peppers

  • Oatmeal

  • Eggplant

  • Ranch dressing

  • Onions

  • Cauliflower

  • Natto

  • Sweetened desiccated coconut

  • Bananas

  • Foie gras

  • Wasabi

  • Hummus



What Is The Easiest Food To Cook?


Steamed Rice is the easiest food to cook in the world. Some other easy-to-cook food recipes are:


  • Boiled eggs/Scrambled eggs

  • Oatmeal

  • Avocado toast

  • Italian pasta salad

  • Lentil soup

  • Fruit custard



What Is The Rarest Dish?


Here is the list of the rarest dishes worldwide:


  • Wild - Murnong - Southern Australia

  • Cereal - Olotón Maize - Mexico

  • Vegetable - Geechee Red Pea -USA 

  • Meat - Skerpikjøt - Denmark

  • Seafood, Shio-Katsuo - Japan

  • Fruit, Kayinja Banana - Uganda

  • Cheese, Salers - France

  • Alcohol, Qvevri Wine - USA

  • Sweet, Criollo Cacao - Venezuela    

  • Donkey cheese - USA

  • Sea cucumber - Japan

  • Checken, Ayam Cemani - Indonesia

  • Matsutake mushroom - Japan

  • Fish, Fugu - Japan

  • Wild fungus, White truffles - Italy

  • Manuka honey - New Zealand



What Is A Chef's Best Dish Called?


The best dish or Chef's specialty is called a Signature Dish.



What Is a Female Cook Called?


A cook, whether male or female, is called Chef. There is no distinction between the gender in this profession.



Why Do Chefs Call Each Other Chefs?


It is a professional title that connotes respect. It is gender-neutral and an easy stand-in for "bro," "dude," and, when plural, "guys." It is also surprisingly helpful in settings like meetings where you forget your colleagues' names.



What Do Chefs Say When Food is Ready?


When the food looks and smells great, professional chefs use different phrases to indicate meal is ready for the servers to take to the guests.


Here are some of the phrases that indicate an invitation for others to come and enjoy the food:


  • The food is ready

  • It is good to go

  • It is the time to eat

  • Dig in

  • Bon appetit

  • Enjoy your meal

  • Pick up followed by table number, i.e., Pick up, table two – This means dishes for Table 2 are ready. 



How Do I Start My Career as a Chef?


Aspiring kitchen chefs often attend culinary and vocational schools to learn their trade. A Chef apprenticeship is the most typical study pathway education choice for most of them.


Cooking courses at specialised colleges and culinary schools provide an alternative study path that helps them learn new techniques and cuisines. Once you start working in the role, you can enrol in a cheffing course at these providers.


Experience chefs can consider taking a management course, such as a Diploma of Hospitality Management, to prepare for promotion to leadership roles such as head chef or executive chef roles.


Once qualified, they usually begin their careers as Kitchen hands in a commercial kitchen. They work under the supervision of an experienced chef and receive on-the-job training.


Working on the job equips them with a comprehensive understanding of food preparation and presentation. At this stage, Chefs can consider specialising in a specific type of cuisine and owning their restaurants.



How To Become A Chef in NSW?


Though you don't need to complete any qualification to work as a Chef, achieving a relevant VET course will improve your entry into this role.


Certificate III in Commercial Cooker is the ideal qualification to prepare for this role. Consider undertaking the course at TAFE NSW in On-Campus or Combination study modes. You can complete the course in 12 months of full-time or two years of part-time study.



How To Become A Chef in Sydney?


You require a formal qualification from an RTO to qualify for Chef's role in Australia.


Le Cordon Bleu is an internationally recognised training institute with branches in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Melbourne. Graduates from their courses can work everywhere worldwide.


You can find culinary arts programmes to help you prepare for Chef's role:


  • Certificate III in Commercial Cookery

  • Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery

  • Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management

  • Grand Diplome (Certificate III in Patisserie and Certificate III in Commercial Cookery).


The above uniquely designed programmes integrate classical French culinary methods. They help you learn about contemporary cuisine and essential practical skills to work as a qualified chef in Sydney.



What Are The Weaknesses of a Chef?


The main drawback of the Chef's profession is its lack of work-life balance.


Moreover, it is a stressful job that requires a high level of energy and focus. Over time, working in this profession could take a toll on the mental and physical health of a Chef.



How Long Does It Take To Become a Chef in Australia?


Aspiring Chefs must be ready to invest time in learning culinary skills to make an impactful start in this profession.


Though a professional qualification isn't required to enter the profession, gaining relevant cookery courses and work experience improves your employability.


You can complete a Certificate III and IV in Commercial Cookery in one to two years, based on your study mode (full-time or part-time).


The best part is that the qualifications are available through apprenticeships and work placements. Thus, it enables you to earn and build commercial cooking experience while working.


If you follow the above learning route, you could work in Chef's role in less than three years. With hard work and perseverance, you could advance into a Head Chef or Executive Chef position in time.



How To Become A Chef in Australia for International Students?


The demand for Chefs is evident as most restaurants employ foreigners as chefs in Australia.


This occupation is listed on the Immigration and Border Protection Medium to Long Term Strategic Skills List.


So you can apply for independent general skilled migration (Permanent work visas) - Skilled Independent (Subclass 189), State Nominated (Subclass 190), or Regional Nominated (Subclass 491 visas).


As an overseas student, you may also be eligible for student visas, working holiday visas, employer-sponsored visas, and Temporary Graduate Work visas if you study these courses in Australia.


Overseas students can work in Australia when they meet specific education requirements. They must study for a relevant cookery course as an international student in Australia or hold an international equivalent qualification.


Required courses to become a skilled and qualified chef in Australia are:


  • Certificates III & IV in Commercial Cookery

  • Diploma of Hospitality Management


Note: Unluckily, overseas students can't undertake an apprenticeship in Australia. However, they can enrol in an international college that offers a course that enables them to work as a qualified tradesperson in Australia.


Furthermore, international students don't require licensing to work as a chef in Australia. Most of them launch their career as a cook helping with simple dishes and working their way up to different level chefs. They may become qualified to work in this role within two years.



Do you Get Paid For Being A Chef Apprentice?


Yes, Chef apprentices in Australia are eligible to earn an apprentice's wage during their apprenticeship period of 3 years.


For example, a first-year apprentice (below 21 years) working full-time earns AU$ 16.77 per hour under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 (MA000119).


Their hourly pay rate increases as they advance through the apprenticeship. The salary varies based on age, where they work, and what award they are contracted under.



Is Being A Chef a High-Stress Job?


Yes. The job can be stressful for three main reasons:


  • You must always be on your feet cooking and preparing food. It can cause physical stress while working in the role. 

  • Speaking with unhappy and displeased customers and helping transform their dining experience into a happier one can be challenging. 

  • Working long hours in a busy schedule for around 6 to 10 hours daily can be tiring. Based on the restaurant's requirements, sometimes you may also require working late nights, holidays, and weekends.



Is A Chef's Career Worth It?


It depends on whether your personality traits match the requirements of the role.


Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself to decide whether it is the right career path for you:


  1. Are you a big-time food lover? 

  2. Do you feel excitement and joy when cooking for your friends and family?

  3. Are you passionate about cooking and interested in cooking, baking, and other culinary tasks? 

  4. Do you love sharing your friends with your close ones?

  5. Are you comfortable working in a fast-paced environment and thriving in a bustling kitchen?

  6. Are you comfortable working under the other's instructions and supervision? It is essential as commercial kitchens have a hierarchy, and you will require following the command of those above you. If you struggle with authority, Chef's career might not suit you.

  7. Are you creative and seeking a career where you can use your creativity to make and cook dishes?

  8. Do you want a career where you can experiment to create new things to fit customers' requirements? 

  9. Do you dislike a typical 9 to 5 job and want a career with plenty of scope to learn, grow and advance to senior positions?

  10. Are you seeking an in-demand career with a positive outlook and ample job opportunities across Australia?

  11. Do you want a job that allows you to work part-time, full-time, or even self-employed in various settings? 


If you answer "Yes" to most of the above questions, Chef's career can be emotionally fulfilling and rewarding.



14. Conclusion


Now that you know everything about becoming a chef in Australia, you are ready to make your culinary dreams come true!


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