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This is what it takes to become a chef in Ireland today

There’s a shortage of chefs in Ireland at present, and people who have an inherent passion for food as a vocation are urgently needed writes Patrick Flanagan.

Patrick Flanagan

WHEN I FIRST started in the industry, I was one of 40 chefs in a kitchen. Today, the average number of chefs in the restaurant kitchens across Ireland has dramatically reduced, most now operate with only five team members.

Various factors impacted on our sector momentously over the past few years and in order to survive restaurateurs and chefs had to re-adapt, some changes were for the betterment of our industry but some have the potential to throw our reputation as a good food nation into question.

One of the reasons we at the School of Food decided to create a professional chef training course was to help tackle the shortage of such chefs in Ireland. Recent figures from the Restaurant Association of Ireland revealed an urgent need for 5,000 new professional chefs each year by 2020.

In 2014, over 24,000 chefs were employed in Ireland and the majority of jobs in the hospitality sector directly relate to the food services sector so the fact that each year, just 1,800 chefs qualify from certified culinary training programmes – it’s worrying for the industry.

The right stuff

However the main reason we wanted to develop this course was to provide our colleagues; the restaurateur, the hotelier, the Head Chef / Owner, with actual kitchen-ready individuals who can continue to grow upon our excellent food reputation.

shutterstock_167718560 Source: Shutterstock/Cristi Lucaci

What does it take to become a Chef? First of all, the reality of being a chef reaches much further than creating picture-ready, aesthetic looking food master-pieces that rocket their way through social media channels. All chefs need a high degree of training and professional experience before they are able to manage and maintain their own operation.

The only option at the moment for a professional qualification as a chef is via the academic route where most students pursue a culinary arts degree with an Institute of Technology or Vocational Community College.

These courses, by nature, tend to be based upon an academic outlook; prospective chefs take modules in culinary techniques, pastry, baking and desserts, food and nutrition, food science, meal service and international cuisines to name a few.


Becoming and being a chef, a real hands-on and in-it-to-win-it chef, is not for the faint hearted. To a degree, it involves putting on your thick skin each morning and persevering because you believe in what you are doing and have a constant hunger to keep improving, learning and cooking food that makes people go mmmmmm! The greatest qualities an individual entering into the industry can have are stamina, dedication, patience and a strong threshold for stress!

It’s a vocation. This is one of the few industries that you can’t apply a ‘fake it, till you make it’ philosophy. The passion is inherently there and that’s why it’s so important we commit to ensuring those entering our kitchens receive a solid and practical foundation, based on what those in the industry are telling us we need.

shutterstock_115400449 Source: Shutterstock/White78

Although formal programmes are a great source of training, much of a chef’s education comes from on-the job experience and mentoring. It is through their professional experience that chefs develop their keen sense of taste and smell and cultivate their creativity and skills.

Would-be chefs need the type of skills that will allow them to hit the ground running in the real world environment of a kitchen. This course will act as a pipeline for hotel and restaurant kitchens dedicated to food excellence.

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Training Programme

The School of Food training programme will be 70 per cent work-based learning, where we will be teaming up with restaurants across the South East to place our students and 30 per cent classroom based theory.

This is the type of training programme our industry is demanding and as a small community-led initiative, we’re proud to launch an internationally recognised and certified course where students will get a real taste of life on the kitchen front-line.

We are very much a learner focused centre and our students will be equipped with the skills and confidence needed to make a seamless transition into the workplace. Our students will succeed and make a genuine contribution to the industry because of our competency based approaches to learning and training.

Patrick Flanagan honed his culinary skills in the kitchens of Marco Pierre White and Michel Roux Snr.

He will be operating as the School of Food’s lead chef tutor from this October.

More information regarding the school’s professional chef training courses can be found here, or by emailing info@schooloffood.ie.

Read: There’s a massive shortage of chefs in Ireland

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About the author:

Patrick Flanagan

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