1. Workplace training and experience
This may seem obvious, but the best resource you have available is to work in an active kitchen under a team of solid cooks and chefs. Start off bussing tables or washing dishes. Volunteer to help out doing the jobs no one else wants or has time to do. Do whatever is asked of you and then go beyond, and don’t complain. Pay attention to every person, every role and the energy in the kitchen. Learn by osmosis. Try to replicate meals at home with the same ingredients.
If you work hard, observe and absorb everything around you, you will learn the skills necessary to move up and be successful in the field. If your goal is to be one of the best French cuisine chefs in the world, don’t spend your time working in Italian restaurants. Consider your employment to be part of your long term education and plan it accordingly – even when you’re washing dishes.
YouTube might not be a website you inherently think of when it comes to being an aspiring chef, but there is a lot to be learned. There are some great ‘how-to’ videos on knife skills, charcuterie, wines, breaking down a poultry, cleaning fish and many, many more. Practice them! They are skills you will use throughout your career. Make sure the video is from a trusted source though.
3. CareerOneStop (formerly Career Voyages)
Everything from assessments to see if you really are suited for work in a kitchen to career paths and plan development. Want to know what the career outlook and median salary is for a chef in New York or Idaho? They have it. Are you interested in knowing what education you should acquire, the skills needed and what tools you’d be using? They have that too. CareerOneStop is a great place to start when you’re thinking about culinary arts as a career.
ChefDesk is a neat resource if you need a tutor. They have Skype sessions available for live assistance for budding cooks from an experienced chef. There is a cost involved ($9.99/mo.), but if you need help with perfecting a mother sauce you need to replicate on your final exam, and breaking the sauce means failing – the cost of a Skype call versus the cost of another semester of courses seems pretty reasonable.
5. The Cooks Thesaurus
Unsure what a prickly pear is, how to trim it out or what it tastes like? What about a substitution? The Cooks Thesaurus has you covered. The give you an explanation of thousands of ingredients, as well as tools, and how to use them in your cooking.
Foodservice.com is a one-stop shopping website for all you need to know about the culinary industry. From employment opportunities, articles, resources, and even market reports on things like the cattle industry to active communities and forums.
7. Farmers Market Online
An online cooperative of farmers where you can buy directly from the grower or vendor. Search by your area for local vendors or search by product to find that specialty item you need. A responsible and sustainable practice for any budding or experienced chef.
8. Prochef Smart Brief
Smart Brief teamed up with the CIA to bring you the latest industry news sent directly to your email box. You’ll receive information on trends, activities and headlines sent to you daily, No more having to sift through multiple sites or performing generic research!
9. NYT Dining and Wine section
The New York Times Dining and Wine sections provide are a cutting edge guide to the latest and greatest in the world of culinary arts. New York City is a hub of culinary dreams come to fruition, and has a varied base of flavors and history.
10. Higher Education
While education beyond high school is not a requirement in many areas of a restaurant, if you want a solid foundation for your career it’s highly recommended. If you have aspirations of owning your own restaurant someday, you absolutely need business training in addition to you culinary degree.
11. Your family and friends
It may seem cliché, but you really do need the support of your family and friends. Having their support will help you maintain your drive and focus, especially on the days where you are physically and mentally exhausted. They can be supportive of your dreams, help you financially, assist you with studying and planning and even do prep work for you while you practice. Most are pretty willing to eat the mistakes too! Besides, who else will you test your skills on?