Becoming a Craftsman

Becoming a Craftsman

There is something fascinating about watching a chef who wields a knife with the dexterity of Jacques Pepin or Martin Yan. They can reduce an onion to a pile of exquisitely even dice within seconds. Acquiring the skills that enable you to handle a knife with authority, to flip an omelet with finesse, or to poach a piece of salmon in a court bouillon that appears to barely quiver is all part of a chef's education.

There are many chefs today who learned the basic of their craft by attending an accredited school. Under the tutelage of experienced chefs, they begin a journey that starts with simple skills, such as dicing onions and peeling carrots, and progresses through the intricacies of preparing French pastries and such elaborate composed dishes. Formal training in a school supplies a solid grounding in basic and advanced culinary techniques. It also is a good laboratory where you can become "fluent" in the language of the trade. There is no substitute for experience, however. It is only with a great deal of hands-on practice that class-learned theory becomes fully assimilated.

Others may begin their training as an apprentice, either in a special apprenticeship program or a self-directed course of study, advancing from kitchen to kitchen, learning at the side of those chefs who are involved in the day-to-day business of running a  professional kitchen.

For most individuals, training is an on-going matter. Whether you learn your trade in school, through an apprenticeship program, or on the job, the responsibility for acquiring that training is yours. It is never fully complete at any point in time. Instead, it is achieved in a variety of guises, all of which are important to your education at various stages throughout one's career.

Continuing education, once initial training has been completed, is equally important, because the foodservice industry is constantly evolving. Attending classes, workshops, and seminars helps keep practicing cooks and chefs in step with new methods and new styles of cooking, or serves to hone skills in specialized areas.

The more you keep abreast of changes and new developments in the restaurant industry, the more clear the need for continuing education becomes.

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