So You Want to Be a Chef?

So you aspire to be a chef? Do you have the patience to spend 15 hours in a hot, stuffy and greasy kitchen cooking up a storm for your customers? Are you able to create innovative and tasty dishes? Do you understand food ingredients well enough?

Will you remain passionate enough to go on, even after receiving criticism from demanding customers? Do you value your food?

If your answer is a resounding Yes!, you may have what it takes to be a chef.

Being a chef is not just about cooking. It’s a job that requires hard work, creativity and passion. Chef Jonathan Koh, head chef at Miss Clarity Café says, “A good chef has to love and respect food. Proper treatment of food is important to ensure that the end result is good. Food has to be packed and stored properly to maintain its freshness. Timing is also vital. The time spent on preparing and cooking the food will affect its taste.”

Chef Koh also feels a good chef has to be patient, humble, focused and strong in the mind. He has to be able to endure hardship as cooking is definitely not an easy job. Chef Koh himself works from 9 am to 12 midnight every day.

Jonathan Koh, 27 started his cooking career at 14 in hawker centres and fast food outlets. His family has long been involved in the food business, starting with his great grandparents who ran a coffeeshop selling coffee and toast.

Jonathan later worked in top restaurants such as the Raffles Grill (located in Raffles Hotel), Les Saison (now defunct) and Saint Pierre. He then went to Provence in southern France, famed for its Mediterranean food, where he trained at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, Les Jardin De Sens.

Back in Singapore, he joined Miss Clarity Café, a family chain of cafés started by his mother and uncle. The first outlet was at Purvis Street and the second outlet along Thomson Road.

The café, named after his cousin Clarity, specializes in pies and pizzas. Chef Koh expanded the menu to include Mediterranean and Asian specialties. The new menu became a hit with customers.

Jonathan says his greatest joy is in seeing his customers enjoy his food. He cannot imagine himself doing something else as he is obsessed with cooking and fascinated with the beauty of food.

Requirements of a chef
To be a chef, you would need a recognised Culinary Skills diploma. You can find out more about culinary courses from the following schools:

- Global Chef Academy
- Temasek Polytechnic

Personal attributes include passion, tenacity, creativity, patience and attention to details. You will need to start off as a cook or kitchen hand before becoming a chef. It is a arduous journey so you will need to put in lots of time and hard work. It takes about 10 to 18 years for a cook to rise to the level of Executive Chef in a 5-star hotel.

As a kitchen hand you may start at $500 per month, but when you become a hotel’s executive chef, you can earn up to $10 000, depending on skills and experience.

The above article has been reproduced with permission from MyeCitizen (, a one-stop lifestyle portal featuring personalised eService offerings from the government and the private sector.

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