Cooking is one of several “Red Seal” trades in Canada, and while apprenticeship programs may vary from province to province, a national exam ensures consistency of knowledge throughout the industry.
“While I’ve worked with many wonderful cooks who don’t have their Red Seal designation, it has become a minimum standard for moving forward in the ranks for many kitchens,” explains Dennis Green of go2, a well-known chef in his own right.
Dennis acknowledges that navigating the ins and outs of certification can sometimes be tricky, especially since there is more than one way to achieve the desired result.
“Some choose to complete a formal apprenticeship (which consists of 5,000 hours of work experience over three years, in combination with three six-week blocks of technical training) before writing the "Red Seal" exam. Others, who have been in the industry for a long while (8,000 hours), but have not served a formal apprenticeship, may challenge the exam. If they pass they’ll receive their Red Seal designation, but won’t receive the Apprenticeship Certification,” says Dennis, who notes that obtaining the Red Seal is a worthwhile endeavor.
“When I see the Red Seal designation on a resume, it immediately demonstrates a commitment to thoroughly learning your craft,” notes Dennis, who explains that the Red Seal is the only national qualification available.
“Keep in mind, Chef is a job title, not a designation,” says Dennis, who points out that after having obtained the Red Seal, cooks should be ready to begin their journey towards becoming a chef.
Once a cook has obtained the Red Seal, he or she should be competent in the craft and able to supervise members of the brigade “There is a real hierarchy in the kitchen; in fact, I’ve often compared it to the military,” says Dennis. “You have many foot soldiers, but only one general.”
Dennis also believes that beyond obtaining certification, aspiring chefs should also work on developing a range of talents, including dexterity, creativity, patience and organization . . . not to mention the crucial importance of leadership skills.
“Knives, fire, food and egos can be combustible components. Effective leadership and a well-honed system are needed to keep everything and everyone functioning smoothly.