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A catering chef prepares food for special occasions and celebrations. The menu items she makes are chosen in advance by the client who hires her. She directs a staff of kitchen and wait personnel in serving the food, attending food stations or setting up buffet tables.
Excellent cooking, baking and food presentation skills are necessary to be a catering chef. He must be well organized in planning the menu, assigning duties to staff and preparing the food. Math acumen is required to ensure the cost of the food stays within prescribed budget guidelines. Good communication abilities are required to help the client make menu choices, negotiate the terms of the catering contract and direct and motivate staff.
Preparing quality food and presenting it in an attractive manner are the main goals of a catering chef. She is required to follow safe food storage and handling guidelines and monitor her employees to make sure they comply as well. Recipes she creates must be standardized and accurate to guarantee conformity for each client. She is expected to be resourceful and creative to effectively handle problems related to food shortages, food preparation mistakes and extra guests.
Venues for catering chefs vary. Some work for hotels or restaurants and use the same kitchen for every event. Others travel to homes, public meeting halls or reception locations and have to use the kitchen equipment and tools available to them. A catering chef has to have stamina and be in good physical shape as she spends many hours on his feet. The job requires heavy lifting, bending and stretching, so he must be strong and flexible. Hours are frequently long and usually include evenings, weekends and holidays. A catering chef is expected to wear attire appropriate for a chef, including a hat and disposable gloves.
No formal education is required for this position. A number of chefs are formally trained at cooking or culinary schools but many learn the trade through on-the-job training gained through positions as prep cooks and sous chefs. Some catering chefs are self-taught through cookbooks and online resources.
Salary and Advancement Opportunities
In large hospitality or food service organizations, a catering chef may aspire to a position as a head chef or food and beverage manager. Smaller companies normally offer few chances for advancement. Catering chefs who are self-employed can boost their incomes through increasing their customer bases. According to the job and salary information website JobMonkey.com, the annual salary range in 2010 for a catering chef in the United States was $35,000 to $75,000 depending on experience and demographics.
Cassie Damewood has been a writer and editor since 1985. She writes about food and cooking for various websites, including My Great Recipes, and serves as the copy editor for "Food Loves Beer" magazine. Damewood completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Miami University.