Fresh out of my politics masters degree I decided to become a vegan chef. Yes, you did read the correctly. I had turned vegan whilst studying for my degree and I fell in love with food and cooking.
I had the passion and the drive but I knew I didn’t want to go to catering college. Not only had I just racked up a load of student debt already, studying two degrees, but I also didn’t want to learn how to cook with animal products. I’m sure no vegan would want to do this.
So I embarked on my own informal vegan chef journey, one that lead me to becoming a confident and skilled vegan chef.
Below I have outlined my particular journey to becoming a vegan chef. Hopefully you can take inspiration from this and kick start your own vegan chef journey!
Step 1: Learn how to be a vegan chef
We may be avoiding catering college but that doesn’t mean we can’t get an education! There are quite a few options out there for passionate wannabe chefs to learn the necessary skills to work in a kitchen (or to head their own!)
Even if you already work in a kitchen but you have no formal training, I recommend starting from this step. You will gain all the knowledge you need to become a better vegan chef. All great chefs know how important it is to keep learning!
Take an online chef course
It is possible to get industry recognised training from plant-based chefs online thanks to Rouxbe, an online chef school. It is because of online vegan cooking courses like these that you can discover your passion for food. You can also learn everything from knife skills and sauce making, to baking and fermentation. All in your own home and your own pace.
I found out so much more about my own abilities and where I maybe struggled a bit more. Thanks to their 1-to-1 online tutoring, you can quickly resolve this and continue learning.
Enrol in a vegan diploma
After you feel confident that you understand more about cooking and your own cooking abilities, I would recommend enrolling for a vegan diploma course at Demuths Cookery School in Bath. You can get hands on help from experienced chefs. You’ll learn how to plate your food, how to make pasta, bread, and pastries, and much much more.
This 2 week diploma gave me the confidence and know-how to start experimenting more with my food and practicing my skills.
Step 2: Practice being a vegan chef
You have nailed the basics of vegan cookery but now it is time to put it in to practice. Without practice your skills won’t get finetuned and your creativity will be stumped.
Try doing one of the following to keep your creativity flowing and to test your abilities.
Run your own supper clubs or pop ups
Setting up your own supper club or pop up is a really fun experience. The people who come along to these kinds of events are looking to try new things and discover new up and coming chefs. So it is a good opportunity to try out cooking your own food and testing yourself.
I loved holding my own supper clubs. They were a great place to test my own ideas and practice doing service for a busy restaurant.
Get an internship
A very common move for any newbie chef is to get an apprenticeship or internship in a kitchen. Even as chefs grow the ranks in a kitchen they’ll often be on the lookout for new experiences in kitchens that they admire.
I found one of the best ways to get opportunities in kitchens is to contact a vegan restaurant directly. That way you can cater your application specifically to a vegan establishment and sell yourself well!
Step 3: Become a vegan chef
This is the final step to becoming a vegan chef, but it should be seen as an ongoing process to becoming the best vegan chef you can be. So finding your first vegan chefs job isn’t the end of the journey, as you can continue to climb the ranks and discover new opportunities.
My biggest piece of advice is to always stay open to learning. Whether that is from your colleagues, your head chef, or your diners.
Apply for an entry level vegan chef role
It is time to get your foot in the door and to start working in a vegan kitchen. I started out in a small vegan burger cafe in Sheffield before moving to a food waste kitchen. After this I found my first proper vegan chef job as a Chef de Partie in Wulf & Lamb, a plant-based restaurant in Chelsea, London.
The process can be slow as head chefs are really looking for chefs with experience and skills. This is why I recommend getting as much education as possible, as shown in step 1 of this guide. And then work your way up by proving your skills in a kitchen.
Stay creative and experiment regularly
When you start working in a vegan kitchen you will likely be cooking the food that is chosen by the head chef. But it is important to keep practicing your own food to keep the creativity flowing.
I set up my vegan food blog whilst working at Wulf & Lamb. I found that by doing this I became a better chef. Food was basically everything and creating tasty dishes was easier this way!
Try out other vegan chef's food
A chef that doesn’t try other chefs food is at risk of going stale. Other people have ideas that you may not have thought of. And the more you challenge your own ideas, the more you can get creative.
I love trying out all the different pop ups and vegan restaurants around London. It allows me to discover new flavour combinations and trends that are popular.
Why not start chatting with other vegan chefs, you may find ways in which you can even work together, like a joint supper club event.
It is important to first learn all the necessary skills to work in a vegan kitchen. You can do this by taking a vegan chef’s course, or by starting in an entry level job and working your way up.
I would recommend taking a course first to get to grips with some of the necessary skills and to test whether it is the career for you.
A vegan chef is like any non-vegan chef, in that they work in a restaurant kitchen and will cook food for the guests. Where they are different is that they don’t cook animals, or with any animal by-products.
Vegan chefs work mostly in fully vegan kitchens due to their values and beliefs.