January 28, 2021
Your happy place is in the kitchen, you dream about food and you’re looking into doing a chef apprenticeship. High five! Being an apprentice chef is a great way to combine studying your passion and get paid at the same time.
But before you don your chef’s whites and start working on the line, there’s some stuff you need to know. Like what your rights are as an apprentice and how to maximise success in the competitive chef world.
Before you even start your apprenticeship, it’s important to make sure it’s the right job for you. After all, baking your best mate an epic birthday cake is pretty different to plating dozens of perfect desserts night after night.
If you’re not familiar with a professional kitchen environment, it’s a good idea to get some time working there before you start your chef’s apprenticeship. Get a job as a kitchen hand or do some work experience to make sure it’s where you want to be. Still dreaming of the top job? Then it’s time to take the next step.
You need to apply to study at TAFE or a private college to do a chef apprenticeship. What you study will depend on your interests – you could study commercial cookery, specialise as a pastry chef or even a baker.
Your chef apprenticeship will take around 3 years to complete and you will work 4 days a week in a restaurant and 1 day a week attending classes.
Next you need to find a good workplace and it’s important to be fussy. There are low completion rates for apprentice chefs and a big reason for that is because some employers exploit their apprentices and mistreat them. How do you know where is a good place to work? Check out Fair Plate to read up on potential employers before you approach them for a job. Don’t forget to return the favour by leaving your own review once you’ve found a gig.
Before you start studying and working, you need some equipment. Some of it you must pay for yourself, and other things will be paid for by your employer. Don’t forget to keep all of your receipts, you can claim tax on uniform and equipment.
When you start your chef apprenticeship, your employer has to give you a training contract. If you haven’t signed a contract, then you’re technically not an apprentice and they should pay you more.
As an apprentice, they should pay you a fair wage. You should also get annual leave, sick leave, holiday pay and public holidays just like everyone else.
Your pay should also go up each year, so make sure you keep track of it. To find out more about your rights at work ask a question on Mobilise.
If you’ve already paid an upfront fee for your TAFE or college fee, your employer should reimburse for the cost. You may even receive reimbursement for travel costs and accommodation if you’re doing block release training. It’s all subject to you making satisfactory progress in your apprenticeship, so it’s important to work hard.
Part of your apprenticeship requirement is that you have to attend a certain amount of TAFE or college. Your employer can’t stop you from that and must pay you to attend school, it’s one of your rights as an apprentice. Even though you learn heaps on the job, school is really important and if you miss classes you won’t get your certificate.
In a commercial kitchen there is a definite hierarchy and as an apprentice chef you’re down the bottom of the ladder. But that doesn’t mean you can’t speak up if you’re experiencing harassment, unsafe conditions, or any other workplace issues.
You also have a right to join your union, Hospo Voice. You can download our Mobilise app and check you’re being paid the correct wage, record your hours, and even ask us a question if you’re not sure about something. Knowing your rights and how to enforce them is a great way to start your career in the kitchen and will help you throughout your working life.
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