What Traits Are Necessary to Be a Chef?

by Clayton Browne
A good chef is part artist, part meticulous craftsman, and more than a bit fanatic about food.

A good chef is part artist, part meticulous craftsman, and more than a bit fanatic about food.

Anyone who has spent much time in a kitchen can testify that cooking is an art. By the same token, it takes more than just many years of training and a lot of practice to become a chef. It also takes a certain personality; someone who is creative but organized, demanding but patient, and most of all, someone who really loves food.


Creativity is essential when it comes to food. No matter how well-prepared or delicious, no one wants to eat the same food every day, so a chef must be able to think creatively to come up with new dishes as well as unique variations on classic favorites. The best chefs are willing to think outside of the box, but have an innate understanding of how to push culinary boundaries without going over the top.

Love of Food

Loving your job is the key to be being good at it, and for a chef that means loving food. True food lovers appreciate a wide variety of cuisines and are not afraid to try anything once. For a chef, trying new foods is like learning a new instrument or a playing style for a musician; the experience enables you to expand your horizons and create novel culinary or musical masterpieces.

Sensitive Palate

A chef must have a sensitive palate. The ability to smell and taste food ingredients and foods at various stages of preparation is essential to the work of a chef. It is the ability to differentiate between a perfectly ripe tomato or peach and one that needs just one more day to get there, or to get the ideal amount of vanilla in your creme brulee that separates the merely competent from the great chefs.

Manual Dexterity

Good coordination and manual dexterity are also important traits for a chef. A chef not only spends a great deal of time cutting, chopping, and dicing, she also has to stir, sautee, rotate or flip over food at various stages of preparation. Experienced chefs make feats like cracking eggs with one hand or flipping eggs in a small frying pan look easy, which requires both good coordination and a lot of practice.

Highly Organized

Chefs must also be highly organized and have strong time-management skills. Busy restaurant kitchens are very much like assembly-line operations. A chef has to be prepared and have the kitchen set up so things all come together at the same time. This is no mean feat, and requires strong organizational skills as well as advance planning. Organizational skills are even more important for head chefs and executive chefs.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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