How to get your foot on the catering ladder

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If there is one thing that people can’t live without, it’s food. It’s an essential part of our everyday life and most of us are pretty passionate about what we like and don’t like when it comes to dining. As food will never go out of fashion, catering can be regarded as one of life’s reasonably reliable career choices. With the likes of Masterchef, Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and more increasing its popularity even more, there is healthy competition out there for great roles in catering. Getting the best industry grounding possible can certainly put wannabe chefs ahead of the game.

 Roles within the catering industry are varied and there is more than one route to getting a foot on the ladder. Vocational qualifications are regarded by some establishments as key to new recruits, whilst there are also opportunities to gain a first step through basic kitchen jobs for those who don’t have the necessary qualifications.

 A qualified route

 When trawling the positions advertised by catering recruitment agencies, you’ll notice many will note required qualifications. These may be the roles that are a step or two from the bottom rung and qualifications can help you bypass those first rungs on your way to your dream career in catering. There are plenty of catering courses available in local colleges. Students under 18 can often qualify for these free of charge, whilst adults retraining can usually access courses on a part-time basis at a low cost. Discuss your requirements with your college to ensure you can attend a course that meets your career goals. As well as cooking based courses, food safety and hygiene are essential elements of a catering career, so consider these qualifications too, as they will only serve to strengthen your position when applying for positions.

 Starting right at the bottom

 Catering is also a great career choice for those out there who don’t have any qualifications, as long as you are prepared to start at the bottom rung of the ladder and work hard. Anyone can discover a hidden talent for food with the right effort. If starting at the bottom, be prepared for roles such as kitchen porter, cleaner and stock control. The good news is that many establishments encourage staff to take training both on the job and part time at college.

 The skills you can’t live without

 Whilst a knowledge or passion for food is essential for a career in catering, there are plenty of other skills that are necessary to succeed. A reasonably good level of fitness is needed as kitchen work can often involve long hours on your feet and working at speed requires being pretty nimble. You’ll need to be highly organised and able to keep more than one ball in the air at a time. Coping under pressure is essential as many kitchens are frantic behind the scenes.

Geoffrey Candon began his working life in the kitchens of several high profile London hotels and took advantage of catering recruitment agencies. He now writes for several blogs and publications specialising in cookery and catering businesses.

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