Chefs are responsible for the planning, preparation and presentation of food in restaurants and hotels. They must know for whom they are catering and plan the service and menu accordingly. Their work may vary from the preparation of traditional dishes to take-aways and also depends on the nature and size of the restaurant, hotel or guesthouse.

Chefs plan and develop menus, decide on the day’s speciality and estimate the amount of food needed. They compute the cost of food, purchase food supplies, prepare food or supervise and coordinate the preparation of food by cooks and other kitchen staff and then check the quality of food prepared. They give instructions on the sizes of the portions and supervise the arrangement of the food on platters and plates. They organise the cleaning of the kitchen and ensure that high-quality service and food are provided at all times, while maintaining hygienic standards.

They may be required to hire and train the cooks who work in the kitchens with them. The ‘Chef de Cuisine’ or head chef is in charge of the kitchen and is also responsible for the preparation of food, cost accounting, for compiling lists and ordering perishable and dry products; and to see to it that all equipment is clean and in working order.

The ‘Sous Chef’ or second chef assists the head chef and the ‘Chef de Partie’ is a departmental head in charge of a team of cooks and kitchen workers. The ‘Chef de Partie’ is responsible for the preparation of all meat dishes and sauces, as well as all vegetables and associated foods such as salads, cold foods, cakes, fruit dishes and various types of soup. This chef also approves every dish that leaves the kitchen and decides what the day’s speciality should be.

Smaller restaurants usually have only one chef or cook, who prepares all the food with the help of a short order cook and one or two kitchen helpers.
Although today’s freezing facilities and microwave ovens allow for partial preparation of dishes beforehand, special dishes require special skills from a chef. Many chefs have earned fame both for themselves and the hotels and restaurants where they work, because of their skill in creating new dishes and improving familiar ones.

Personal Requirements

  • flair for and interest in baking and preparing food
  • creative and artistic talent
  • keen sense of taste and smell
  • physical stamina to stand for hours at a time
  • high regard for personal hygiene and cleanliness
  • able to use initiative, with minimum supervision
  • organisational ability, but also flexible
  • interested in learning and adapting to an ever changing market’s expectations
  • work well with others
  • work well under pressure
  • communicate ideas clearly
  • good memory and eye-hand coordination

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Appropriate courses can be followed at universities, universities of technology, TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges, private or correspondence colleges.

Chef and Assistant Chef courses are offered at Northlink, Professional Cookery courses at False Bay and Northlink, Kitchen Skills at False Bay, Food Management / Services at False Bay, VUT and CPUT, Food Technology at DUT, CPUT, TUT and UJ, Catering Studies at Boland, SW Gauteng, Maluti and Vuselela.

Hospitality Management courses are offered by DUT, VUT, UJ, S Cape TVET College.

Hotel Industries Training Board (HITB) offers in-service training, including:
Hotel management (3 years)
Commercial catering and restaurant management (CBMT)
IR course for middle management
Supervisory course
Facilitator’s course
Professional cookery (3 years)
On-the-job instruction course
Several cooking schools offer appropriate training, from one to three year courses.

It is important for students to know where their talents and interests lie, because some schools focus on innovative cooking skills, whereas others offer a more rounded approach to cooking, service and catering management.


  • hotels
  • restaurants
  • guesthouses
  • hospitals
  • schools, universities and universities of technology with hostels
  • contract caterers
  • government departments
  • self-employed

Further Information

FEDHASA (South African Hotel Association)
Surrey Circle Office Park, Block D
337 Surrey Avenue
Randburg, 2194
Tel: 0861 333 427

South African Chefs Association (SACA)
University of Johannesburg
School of Tourism & Hospitality
Cnr Bunting & Annet Road
Auckland Park 2092
Tel: (011) 482-7250

Getting Started

  • learn how to cook and practise at home
  • find vacation or part-time work as a kitchen assistant or cook
  • speak to chefs about this type of career and ask to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions


Related Occupations

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