Top 7 Qualities of an Exceptional Chef

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A professional chef is a highly trained individual. They possess a complex blend of specialized skills and information, and they also have the experience that it takes to put it into practice. They may have experience working for Michelin-Starred restaurants, Cozymeal, or other places that only hire professional chefs. This is true for even the simplest line cook, so those who strive for more must truly apply themselves in order to stand out.

Top 7 Qualities of an Exceptional Chef

The sheer amount of training and education required to be a good chef can be staggering, and it might be the work of a lifetime to accomplish something truly great. Perhaps this is why great chefs are so rare. Whether you aspire to be a professional chef or just want to be the best home chef you can be, there’s a lot you can learn by modeling the common attributes of great chefs.  Although there is no one way to be exceptional, here are seven of the most important qualities of an exceptional chef.


The culinary arts require a great deal of coordination. Timing is everything in food and food preparation. Specific actions must be performed at specific moments. Everything must be ready at the precise moment when it is needed, but food cannot be prepared too soon without losing its flavor. Truckloads of supplies must be procured. The best food will require the best ingredients, so the quality of these supplies must be carefully monitored. Employees must be hired, trained, managed and supervised. Strong organizational skills are necessary to accomplish all these activities.


The vast array of tasks facing a chef must be prioritized and addressed efficiently. Running a kitchen takes enormous amounts of energy. Any chef could become overwhelmed without an efficient approach. They must be able to differentiate between tasks of varying importance. Critical tasks must be carried out first, which means that secondary tasks must be de-emphasized. A great chef must always seek for the better way, but they must also look for the easier way. Exceptional chefs do not only work harder. They also work smarter.


The greatest works of culinary art are the product of collaboration. The chef is the leader, and a great chef does a great job of telling their followers what to do. Communication is key to cooking with other people. Every single part of the kitchen must work in close partnership with the whole. The only way to accomplish this is to hone communication skills and practice strong teamwork techniques. The truly exceptional chef will be able to express their culinary vision to their coworkers. Then, and only then, their team will be able to help the chef to bring that vision to life. Any chef who can facilitate teamwork among their kitchen staff will have a powerful tool at their disposal.


An exceptional chef should have an encyclopedia of culinary tricks and techniques in their mind. They should be filled to the brim with food facts and figures. They must have an insatiable hunger for knowledge, and the only way to satisfy it is to study as much as they can. What is more, they must study as many things as they can. The cuisine of other nations will require particular attention, but there is always something new to learn about the food close to home. The chef who strives to be exceptional should read books, attend seminars, interview experts and swap trade secrets with other chefs. They can never know too much about food.


There is a lot of hard work and careful study that goes into being a chef. It can become quite a chore. However, the greatest chefs find a way to keep the fun in what they do. They explore, take risks, make mistakes and carry on. Spontaneity can be a consistent source of inspiration for the chef. It can allow them to take ideas from the world around them. The adventurous chef can incorporate these new and interesting inspirations into their cooking. Adventurousness grants the chef the capacity to let “happy accidents” into what they do. Although they have achieved the skill of the master, the great chef will still take time to play. This makes things fun for everyone. The ability to improvise can also save a tremendous amount of effort. After all, greatness can sometimes lie in knowing which corners to cut.


A chef is only as good as their last meal.  No matter how adventurous and spontaneous they may be, they must deliver quality food every single time. The great chef must find new ways to arrive at the same result. That result is a delicious and nutritious meal.


An agile and active mind is the best thing that a chef can have. Perception and accuracy will play into every decision they make. The chef must be as willing to try new things as they are determined to make every meal great. It is a balancing act, and it can only be maintained through great cleverness. Education can give the chef every option in the world, but only a quick wit can let them choose the right one. It takes a clever person to be a truly exceptional chef.

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Tags: baking, chef, cooking
Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an author and sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s writing about country living and artisan culture.
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