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School leaver to award-winning chef


At just 22, Ashley is already a qualified chef with a big plan to open his own restaurant. He got started when he discovered the only thing he loved at school – the hospitality class. He was also great at it. He graduated with NCEA cooking credits, landed a job in a kitchen and started an apprenticeship. 

In just a couple of years he became qualified as a chef, earning and learning on the job.

Now he has a great job, no student debt, and a career that could take him anywhere in the world.

Cookery Circle Hero

How to become a chef

There are no specific secondary education requirements, but cooking credits are useful to show an employer that you have kitchen skills. Numeracy and literacy is also valuable since cooking involves weighing and measuring ingredients, and many chefs will also order supplies and cost menus. There’s more to being a chef than you might think.

You can become a chef by getting a job in a kitchen and getting your employer to place you on an apprenticeship, as Ashley did. Many chefs start out in other kitchen jobs, learning the basics and how a kitchen works before starting their training.

Where a chef works 

A chef can work in kitchens in restaurants, cafés, hotels and resorts, cruise ships, stadiums or any of the tens of thousands of places that food is prepared and served in New Zealand, or millions around the world. Chefs can also take their skills into other exciting areas. For instance, one day you could have your own restaurant, manage a hotel, write cook books or even have your own TV show.

Other jobs you might like

Hospitality offers many other exciting roles too, all of which can give you the opportunity to earn and learn, and work anywhere in the world. These include highly skilled Baristas, Waiters and Bar Attendants. 

If you enjoy working with food, you might also consider becoming a baker or a butcher. And if you like working with people and making them happy, you could:

  • work in retail sales
  • be a travel agent
  • work in tourism as a guide or in the office
  • provide airline passengers with outstanding customer service at the airport or in the air
  • work in accommodation, whether front desk or behind the scenes, to make visitors from all over the world feel at home.

What do I do next?

All of these jobs are available to school leavers as well as anyone looking for a change of direction, and all offer you the opportunity to build a long, rewarding and satisfying career. Better still, they all let you learn on the job while earning, so there’s no student debt or training cost to you.

Prepare for your first, or next, job with these tips on how to get a job.