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Learning how to deseed a red bell pepper or braise a skirt steak might seem like basic culinary skills, but cooks and chefs have to do much more than simply prepare food. A list of culinary skills includes food preparation, but kitchen professionals will also need to master related skills that include maintaining a safe, sanitary cooking environment and presenting food attractively. Various cooking schools and culinary organizations maintain their own lists of requisite culinary skills, but these checklists share several key components.
Chefs and cooks need to understand prep work in the kitchen before creating meals. Culinary skills include checking for freshness in food ingredients, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Virginia’s Career and Technical Education Resource Center states that chefs need to wield basic knife skills to prepare meats, fruits and vegetables for use in the kitchen. Using weight and volume knowledge, cooks might convert standard recipes to larger or smaller batches. Preparing basic sauces or soups for use in more complex recipes is another essential culinary skill.
Cooks and chefs must master a basic list of cooking techniques, according to the Home Baking Association. For example, cooks learn to shell and separate eggs efficiently. Kneading dough, peeling vegetables, folding in ingredients, simmering, boiling and creaming are other examples of culinary skills. Broiling, barbecuing or searing also contribute to basic cooking. For some budding chefs, learning specialty techniques related to regional or international cooking might be desirable. For example, culinary skills might include creating sushi rolls or gelling meats.
Cooking can’t safely happen in an unsanitary environment, so culinary skills include basic hygiene and sanitation. As part of some certification processes, chefs need to be able to analyze a kitchen or storage area to ascertain whether food preparation will be safe and sanitary, according to the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Chefs also must analyze the food preparation processes taking place under their supervision to ensure that they meet legal health requirements for safety. Attending to personal hygiene, including washing hands, cleaning pots and pans appropriately, storing soiled kitchen laundry and storing food at safe temperatures, are all examples of culinary skills.
Artistry and Business
Other culinary skills relate to artistry and business. For example, chefs learn how to present food attractively so that dining is a pleasant aesthetic experience for guests. Planning menus involves using seasonal food items to maintain a reasonable kitchen budget while making the most of ingredients in multiple recipes. Reflecting on taste, flavor and time management becomes crucial. Food must not only be palatable but must be ready at the proper time. For example, chefs time preparation so waitstaff can deliver appetizers to a table before entrées.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Chefs and Head Cooks
- Virginia's Career and Technical Education Resource Center: 2013/2014 Competency-Based Task/Competency List
- Home Baking Association: Cooking Skills Checklist
- American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences: Family and Consumer Sciences Credentialing Center
- Erie County Technical School: Culinary Arts Duty/Task List
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.
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