Become a Mexican Food Chef: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Oct 20, 2021

Should I Become to Be a Mexican Food Chef?

Mexican food chefs learn about foods native to the country - including huevos tirados, mole, cochinita pibil, empanadas and tamales - and how to prepare these foods in traditional ways. They can work in any establishment that requires a chef, such as hotels, restaurants and cruise ships. They might also have the authority to supervise kitchen staff, plan menus and order food. Chefs may work long hours and often spend most of that time on their feet.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No degree required; associate's and bachelor's degrees available
Degree Field Culinary arts
Certification Voluntary certifications are available from the American Culinary Federation
Experience Most chefs have experience working in restaurant kitchens
Key Skills Creativity, leadership skills, time management skills, knife techniques, ability to operate meat slicers and other kitchen equipment
Salary (2014) $41,610 per year (median for all chefs and head cooks)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, American Culinary Federation

Step 1: Get Postsecondary Training

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increasing number of chefs are pursuing formal training in the culinary arts, although a degree is not usually required to become a chef. Chefs can choose to pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree. The associate's program can give chefs training in food safety, cost control and nutrition. Students also receive hands-on cooking training and get instruction on the fundamentals of international cuisine.

The bachelor's program may include an internship or co-op, which can give students a chance to work behind the scenes at a restaurant that specializes in Mexican cuisine.

Success Tip:

  • Study abroad. Some schools may have study-abroad opportunities that can give students additional exposure to Mexican culture and cooking. Not only can students learn cooking techniques from citizens of Mexico, but they can also sample a variety of authentic Mexican dishes during their stay.

Step 2: Gain Experience

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) and other organizations work with the U.S. Department of Labor to offer formal apprenticeships. Students interested in the program need to have completed high school and be at least 17 years of age to apply; no previous cooking experience is necessary.

Mexican food chefs can choose from several programs, some of which last up to three years. Students in the ACF apprenticeship program also get paid for their work. The hands-on training includes instruction on 10 cooking stations, including grilling, cold food and baking. Apprentices are also required to participate in some classroom training.

Step 3: Get Certified

Although certification is not required, it can lead to higher-paying jobs and advancement opportunities. Chefs who have two years of experience or have an associate's degree in culinary arts can obtain the Certified Culinarian designation from ACF. The organization also offers the Certified Chef de Cuisine credential to sous chefs with three years of experience supervising at least two other employees. With five years of experience, Mexican food chefs can earn certification as a Certified Sous Chef. After a chef meets the experience and education requirements and gets approval from ACF, they can take the necessary examinations (one practical and one written).

Step 4: Pursue Career Advancement

As chefs become more skilled in Mexican cuisine preparation, they may have the opportunity to become a sous chef or head chef. These chefs are often required to manage a staff, so it's a good idea to get management experience early on. Those who have experience in a supervisory position may be preferred over chefs who don't. It's also a good idea to get as much training and certification as you can if you're aiming to become a head chef.

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