How to start a career in catering

high-volume catering kitchen | BOSASA IFM Blog

Hospitality, high-volume catering, diet and nutrition, food services management, catering administration and the restaurant business are but a few of the career options in the food industry.

You require knowledge and practical experience of:

  • Basic food preparation
  • Safety and sanitation
  • Catering principles
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Culinary arts
  • Business management
  • Customer service

Food and beverage manager

Food and beverage managers typically work in hotels, restaurants, bars and other high-volume food service establishments. They plan, organise, coordinate and control the supplies needed daily and for special occasions, but they are not involved in food preparation. They manage guest relations and ensure profitability.


High-volume caterers serve thousands of meals at a time, for example in prisons. They plan, prepare and serve attractive, nutritious and cost-effective meals that meet all dietary and safety requirements.

Executive caterers serve hundreds of meals at a time, for example at conferences. They meet with clients to agree on the pricing, themes and menus of events. They usually serve meals off-site.

Successful caterers have these skills:Delicious appetisers and starters | BOSASA Catering Blog

  • Designing menus
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Ensuring safe food
  • Overseeing staff
  • Marketing their services


Chefs need theory and practice, so education is the start. You learn the practical skills as a commis chef (an apprentice). From here you can work your way up by qualifying as a pastry chef (baking and desserts), then a chef de partie (overseeing a section of the kitchen) and a sous chef (assistant to the executive chef). The sous chef is in charge when the executive chef is not there. The executive chef holds the highest position in the kitchen. He or she is the business manager, responsible for the kitchen’s reputation and profits.

Do you have what it takes?

Here are some of the personal characteristics you need for a successful career in catering:

  • Keen sense of taste and smell
  • Enjoyment of cooking and entertaining
  • Excellent personal hygiene
  • Good health and stamina
  • Self-motivation and dedication
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Leadership

Courses available

A great variety of part-time and fulltime courses are available in South Africa. Certificate, diploma and degree courses range from one to three years. Here is a selection:

  • SA Chefs offer the National Youth Chefs Training Programme for young unemployed people
  • HTA School of Culinary Art
  • International Hotel School
  • Capital Hotel School
  • Silwood School of Cookery
  • Butlers Hotel School
  • 1000 Hills Chefs School

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