How to Become a Chef: Qualifications, Salary, etc.

If you’re creative, love cooking, and are looking for a profession away from the computer screens, being a chef can be a great choice. Shravan Kumar, a Mumbai-based chef talks about the qualifications, courses, entrance exams, career prospects, and more on how to become a chef!

chef career path long working hours hands on job creativity

1. Role of a Chef

In order to have a better understanding of how to become a chef professionally, let’s first understand what they really do. Chefs are skilled professionals who cook specific food, sometimes develop new recipes, or decide menu items or specials. They may be in-charge of a specific cuisine at a hotel or may specialize in a type of cooking style.

A chef’s important role is that they need to carry out various duties along with cooking. That is, you should develop creative ideas and follow standard procedures of the kitchen policies, and following recipes as set standards from the companies.

Contents: Jump to Section

1.1 Difference Between Chef & Cook
1.2 Is it a Good Career Option?
2.1 Courses Taken: Chef Subjects
2.2 Entrance Exams
2.3 Academic Qualifications/ Chef Course
2.4 License Required
2.5 Internship/ Work Experience Required
2.6 Cost of Tuition and Training
2.7 Competition &  Scope in India for Chef
2.8 General Age to Start Professional Career as a Chef
2.9 Governing Bodies
3.1 Specializations/ Sub-Professions
3.2 Companies & Institutions that Employ Chefs
3.3 Growth Prospects
3.4 Entrepreneurship Opportunities
3.5 What is the Salary of Chef in India?
4.1 Top Universities in India
4.2 Top Universities in World
4.3 Famous Personalities

1.1 Distinction Between a Chef and a Cook

Chef is a distinct profession but sometimes people get confused between a cook and a chef.

1) Chef – A chef is a skilled and trained cook who works at a hotel or restaurant, and has also developed the complex cooking skills, and gone through training.

2) Cook – A cook is someone who prepares and cooks food, either hired at a house, office, etc. They are usually not trained at culinary schools.

become a chef presenting recipes

1.2 Is Being a Chef a Good Career Option?

Excellent career

Nowadays, turning your hobby interests into your profession is gaining popularity and respect in society. If you love food and cooking, you can choose your career as a chef. This profession gives you a good salary and living standard. Being a chef brings great career progress as your experience begins with Comis chefs, Demis chefs, and then you progress to Sous chefs, and then finally Executive Chef.

2. How to Become a Chef in India?

In order to know how to become a chef, let us see the different stages of clearing the entrance exam & chef courses.

1. Graduate 12th: First of all, you need to complete your higher secondary schooling in any of your favorite streams i.e. science, commerce, or arts.
2. Crack NCHMCT JEE: To get admission in a culinary school like IHM or other known institutes, you will need to write an entrance exam (NCHMCT JEE), and based on your merit, you will get selected.
3. Join culinary institute: Then, you have to get admission for a bachelor’s program in culinary or hotel management course at a reputed institute, for example, IHM.
4. Do a diploma or specialization (optional): There is no compulsion in doing a full-time course, you can also go for a diploma program in culinary arts.
5. Join an internship (highly recommended): Along with studying, you get the last 6-month period for internships to gain experience in your curriculum.
6. Go for a master’s program (optional): Later on, one can go for a master’s program where you get different programs, especially for students who want to study a particular subject. This will be helpful if you want to teach, or specialize in a particular cuisine for high-end culinary arts.
7. Apply for a permanent job: After completing your studies, you can directly apply for jobs in government sectors or private companies.
Here are your complete steps about how to become a chef. Scroll down to know more about the same in detail.

2.1 Courses Taken: Chef Subjects

Food plating aesthetics & business administration

A chef career path starts with higher secondary studies where you can take any stream. In addition to this, learning a foreign language of your choice can be a plus point, as it boosts the area of your expertise and provides you the flexibility to practice abroad. Chefs are valued and recognized globally.


There are different levels of courses:

  1. Craft course- These are short term courses where you can choose from food production (kitchen where you learn hot and cold dishes) or the other one which is baking (where you learn the art of bakery and confectionery).

These are 6 months to 1-year fast-paced courses which will only give you training of becoming a chef.

  1. Diploma course- Where you get trained in both cooking and baking, then you may decide which speciality you want to pursue your career in, as a pastry chef or kitchen chef.

The diploma courses in cooking can be from 1 year to 18 months.

  1. There are also full-time Diploma/ Degree courses in Hotel Management (3yrs). The curriculum teaches you about the entire field in and out of a 5-star hotel operation of each department. The main 4 fields are food production, food and beverage services, front office, and housekeeping. Subjects will have both theory and practical studies.

The main subjects that come under this course are generally, maths, food plating aesthetics, business administration, and biology & chemistry. There are many colleges in every city to provide all types of courses. The most recommended is IHM colleges which are under PUSA Delhi Hotel management; the branches of this college are almost in every state of India.

2.2 Entrance Exams


The IHM colleges (Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology, and Applied Nutrition of Delhi) have the entrance exams. The admissions are based on the merits of the entrance exam and the selection is taken for all the colleges present all over India in each state.

National Council of Hotel Management and Catering Technology Joint Entrance Examination or NCHMCT JEE (also known as NHCM JEE) is a national entrance examination conducted as an admission process for students to take hospitality and hotel administration programs. However, private colleges don’t need any entrance exams. They have their own selection process through college applications.

2.3 Academic Qualifications

Chef course

To pursue this course, you need to have a minimum qualification of 10+2 that is higher secondary education or you may enter after graduating or doing undergraduate programs. On completing this requirement you have to pass the entrance exam and you can successfully get IHM institute admission. (See point 2.1)

2.4 License Required


No, there is no license required to practice this profession in India.

2.5 Internship/ Work Experience Required


The internship is included in the curriculum of a full-time hotel management program. The internship of 6 months is mostly to gain practical training in all the departments of a hotel/restaurant, which is in the second year of the hotel management course. The best way to enter the field is internship, which is provided by many known star category hotels.

It is earn and learn process and it is a better option to pursue practical hands-on experience and at the end of the internship, there is a very high chance that the hotel will accommodate interns in their company for permanent positions.

2.6 Cost of Tuition and Training

5-8 lakhs

In India, IHM colleges which are government-granted have 5 to 8 lakhs overall fees and in private it can be from 8 to 30 lakhs for the same course. If you wish to go abroad, then you should mostly prefer countries like Australia, USA, or UK which will costs around 25 lakhs to 50 lakhs.

2.7 Competition & Scope in India for a Chef

As we see the entrance exam has tough competition although getting a job is not as much competitive.

2.8 General Age to Start Professional Career for Chefs

18 years or above

The best age to start or decide for a career in this field is 18 years or above. However, when it comes to being a chef, it depends on how efficient you are in working towards your goals and the number of attempts it takes you to clear the exams.

2.9 Governing Bodies


National Council of Hotel Management and Catering Technology (NCHMCT), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India was established in the year of 1982.

3. Professional Opportunities/ Career Growth for Chefs

3.1 Specializations/ Sub-Professions

Pastry chef, Hot production chef

The chef’s profession has different fields within it. For example, you can be a Pastry chef, Bakery chef, Hot Production chef. Other than these, there are also sub-categories within cuisine chef specialization. You can become an Indian cuisine chef/ French cuisine chef/ Italian chef and so on. Each country cuisine has its own specialization and the option to master the trade.


3.2 Companies & Institutions that Employ Chefs

Hospitality & tourism industries

Companies in the hospitality and tourism industries are the top employers for chefs. You can work with five-star hotels to resorts, restaurants, hospitals, private catering contractors, caterers, cruise liners, and government offices.

3.3 Growth Prospects

Promotion to the post of Corporate Chefs

Chefs can become Corporate Chefs of big chain hotels and partners in the companies. Or they can also become a business owner of their own hotels or restaurants. This requires a lot of hard work and patience.

3.4 Entrepreneurship Opportunities


Yes, chefs can start their own businesses such as cafes, restaurants, catering. One can also become a catering contractor, may open a hospitality institute or institute for cooking courses.

3.5 What is the Salary of Chefs in India?

3 to 25 lakhs per annum

The salary for fresh graduates in India is anywhere from 3 lakhs to 6 lakhs per annum. One can easily get a salary up to 10-15 lakhs per annum with good working experience. However, in some cases, the most experienced chef has an annual income of around 20-25 lakhs.


4. Further Resources

4.1 Top Universities in India

To become a chef professionally, here are some of the top colleges from India for the Bachelor’s and Masters degrees.

  1. IHM Mumbai Dadar
  2. Delhi’s IHM Pusa
  3. Bhubaneshwar’s IHM Institute
  4. Sophia College, Mumbai

4.2 Top Universities in World

You can find a number of universities for the chef course. However, these are some of the top universities to become a chef and gain expertise in the culinary arts.

  1. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, USA
  2. Culinary Arts Academy, Switzerland
  3. Culinary Institute Of America, USA
  4. Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France
  5. The Institute of Culinary Education, New York, USA

4.3 Famous Personalities

Anthony Bourdain, Marco Pierre White

You can look up a few personalities to understand better about how to become a chef. My personal favorites are, for example, Kitchen Confidential is the book written by American Chef Anthony Bourdain and The Devil in the Kitchen is the book by rock-star Chef Marco Pierre White, etc.

So, that was our guide on how to become a chef. Lastly, a chef is a highly valued profession around the world. The post brings in respect, fulfillment and good fortune as well. But at the same time, reaching success is a path of great challenges. However, it’s just a matter of patience, hard work, and focus that makes you reach your goals!


Curated & Edited by Aayushi Berawala (CareerNuts Staff)

Read next:

Chef Career Path: Is Being a Chef a Good Career?

Wondering whether the culinary profession will be suitable for you? Taking up this profession can be a good option for creative people who love food and flavors. Discover all about a chef career path, lifestyle & job role from a Mumbai-based chef with more than 20 years of experience.

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