Question & Answers: Vocational Training


If I can’t go to University after finishing school is there vocational training that I can get in Dubai or will I need to go abroad? Becoming a Chef or doing food television is something that I would really like to do. Please advise me what my options are.

Yours sincerely


The French chef Marcel Bolestin, once said – Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements. According to this culinary expert, a passion for the subject is more important than an academic degree in this creative and skill-based profession. However, even though a formal degree in the culinary field may not be essential, it can brighten your prospects and take you to your goal sooner.

In the absence of a formal qualification, one can gain the necessary knowledge and experience in the field by starting at an entry level position and then working up the ranks to become a head chef. If you are looking at taking this route, then it will be helpful to first get an understanding of the hierarchy that most kitchens and restaurants follow. The first rung of the ladder is usually line cooks who are trainees and are new to the field. The next level is commis chef the first level for newly trained chefs. Commis usually work under and provide assistance to a chef de partie also known as a station chef who is responsible for running sections of the kitchen and will supervise as well as cook. A sous chef is next in line to the head chef and therefore, second in command in the kitchen and is responsible for management of staff within the kitchen.

Many aspiring candidates with a passion for food and cooking, start off at the entry level to benefit from the hands-on experience and mentoring from the chef to be able to move to higher roles within the system. On top of the ladder is the Head Chef and is responsible for food that is served. The role involves planning menus, handpicking materials required for cooking, staff training and quality management.

There are plenty of vocational training courses available in the UAE and abroad, that will set you on the right track in order to reach your goal. For e.g. TAFE (Technical and Further Education) culinary courses are vocational programs offered in Australia that provide practical and on-the-job training in this field. If you wish to study in Dubai, I suggest that you explore the courses offered by the International Centre for Culinary Arts, Dubai. The ICCA offers both amateur and professional programs in culinary sciences. The institute also assists in providing internship opportunities and campus placements.Scafa (School of Culinary and Finishing Arts) in Dubai, is also a good choice for those looking for an entry level qualification in order start on their path to becoming a chef. The Scafa professional certificate course comprises of 110 classes involving lectures, practicals and complete participation and is an excellent qualification for those seeking careers as a chef in a restaurant or a catering company, a food TV producer, a culinary journalist or instructor, a food stylist or a private chef. The school is approved by KHDA and offers bespoke lessons.

To get a flavor of the job at an informal and beginner level, you could also visit the Top Chef cooking studio in Jumeirah that conducts interactive workshops and teaches professional techniques required in the kitchen.

To attain success in this career, some of the personal qualities you need are a flair for food and cooking, creativity, ability to work in a team, stamina and ability to work long hours and manage stressful situations.

A good qualification combined with experience will get you off to a good start in your career and will help accelerate your progress up the food chain. Once you carve a niche for yourself in this field, you can diversify into managing restaurants, publishing books, doing television shows, working on cruise lines or establishing a career in hospitality.

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