One of the most challenging aspects of rebuilding your life after a prison sentence is finding a job, a place that will hire you with a criminal record hanging over your head. Can you become a chef, for instance? You definitely can and, actually, it is one of the fields where you have most chances of finding a position. Here is how you can become a chef in Australia even if you do have a criminal record.

What do you need to become a chef?
First and foremost you must love food. Not as in eating it, but as in preparing it. If you’re not interested in the culinary arts, don’t bother to try as this is a job that requires passion and a certain appreciation for fine foods. A good chef is somewhat of an artist who always strives to create exquisite meals, a process which requires creativity and a lot of work. To set the record straight, the guy that fries burgers at your local fast-food joint is not a chef, but a simple cook.

On the other hand, if you have what it takes to work as a cook you’re setting yourself for a very rewarding career, in terms of personal satisfaction and money, for good chefs are highly paid.

According to Australian law, a criminal record should not necessarily stop you from obtaining employment as a chef in Australia. There must be a correlation between the criminal record and the risks associated in a job role for a decision maker to turn down someone based on their criminal history. If you are working as a chef in a general restaurant, you should not have any issues finding employment. There are however strict conditions in Australian law for persons that work with children or the vulnerable. A person working with children must apply for a working with childrens check and that is generally not granted to persons that have a serious criminal record. Further information about working with children checks can be found on the Australian national character check website. Reference: https://www.australiannationalcharactercheck.com.au/working-with-children-checks.html

What sort of training do you need?

There are no strict requirements as to a certain type of certificate that you need in order to become a chef. You can be entirely self-taught and still find employment as a chef. However, such cases are rare and most people start by doing their apprenticeship with a reputable chef.

For an ex-felon, the good news is that you can start by taking the most menial job in a kitchen and work your way up while taking a course in the culinary arts. If you’re fresh out of jail your number one priority is earning some money. You can very well apply for a position as a dishwasher or waiter to make a living.

The hard truth is ex-felons cannot hope to find a good job as soon as they step out of jail. When you apply for a dishwasher position nobody will care if you’ve been in jail. To you, it makes all the difference as it gives you the opportunity to prove you’re a fast learner and are determined to work hard.

How to get formal training

If you don’t have formal training, now is the time to check with the local TAFE and enroll for a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery. Or you can become a Pastry chef or a Baker, whatever you prefer. At the same time, there are culinary schools that offer training for would-be chefs. Some of these courses cost more than the others so see what you can afford. Keep in mind that you might also have to invest in your own utensils and professional gear, such as chef whites, hair net or shoe coverings.

If you find employment in a restaurant and prove to be hard working you might convince the chef to take you as an apprentice while you complete your formal training and this is often the preferred route.

Completing your training as a chef might take up to three or four years, but at the end of it you will have little trouble finding good employment. Good chefs are very valuable and nobody will ask about your criminal record after a few years of hard work.

Does it pay to work so many years to get a qualification? You bet it does. A head chef can earn between $45,120 AUD and $77,122 AUD per year. Not bad, right?