How to Become a Chef in Washington, D.C.

As a chef, you will be responsible for supervising lower level cooks and helping ensure that safety measures are being followed in the kitchen. Before finding employment as a chef, you may need to start off as an entry-level cook, developing your skills by learning from executive chefs. You will need to learn about kitchen hygiene, garnishing techniques, seasoning combinations and much more before you can advance to higher levels of responsibility as a culinary artist. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Washington, D.C.

An aspiring chef will need to complete a post-secondary training program or possess some professional cooking experience in order to find employment. Starting off as a cook and learning the tricks of the trade from an executive chef can work as an alternative to earning a degree or certificate. Choosing to earn national certification is another great way to supplement your existing credentials when seeking employment.

A food handler’s license may be a requirement to work as a cook or chef, depending on the city in which you will be working. These licenses will come in the form of a card or permit, which can be obtained online for less than $30.

Washington, D.C. Schools for Chefs

Completing a training program is not a requirement; however, it is a great way to accelerate your advancement within this industry. Consider the options below:

  • University of the District of Columbia Community College offers an Associate of Applied Sciences degree in hospitality management and tourism. The program requires two years of study to complete. Areas of study include principles of psychology, restaurant management and business communications.
  • L’Academie de Cuisine is located in nearby Gaithersburg, Maryland. The school offers a culinary arts program that can be completed in about one year. The program includes a 26-week apprenticeship requirement for graduation.
  • Penn Foster Career School offers a gourmet cooking certificate, which can be earned with less than one year of study. This program takes place entirely online and would be ideal for students with busy schedules

National Certification for Chefs in Washington, D.C.

If you’re interested in earning certification, you can do so through the American Culinary Federation (ACF). This organization offers a total of 16 certifications, including those for culinary artists, pastry chefs, military chefs, students and educators. Nine of these certifications are for culinary artists in particular, and they range from intermediate-level cooks to executive chefs. Each certification can be earned with professional experience, education or a combination of both.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, there will be a 9.7 percent increase in the job market for chefs in Washington, D.C. during the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026. Their data show that, in 2016, there were 1,200 chefs working in the District of Columbia. This number is expected to increase to 1,320 by 2026.

BLS data from 2017 also indicated that chefs working in the District of Columbia earned an average of $30.73 per hour, or $63,910 per year. The top 10 percent of chefs working in D.C. earned $100,030 during the same year.

Working as a Chef in Washington, D.C.

Chefs working in D.C. are among some of the highest paid food service workers in the country. While this is a great place to establish your career, you will need to sharpen your skills first. Choose to seek out an experienced chef to serve as your mentor, find an apprenticeship program or enroll in a training program for culinary artists. Each of these options will help you get to the level of earning six figures per year and working among the most prominent chefs in D.C.

You can choose to work in a casino, private dining establishment, banquet center, local restaurant or entertainment venue. If you’re confident that this is the right career for you, you should consider getting started today.

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