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The Path to Becoming a Chef in Sri Lanka

It is not always easy to combine both life passions and work life. However, there are some career paths that let you earn your bread and butter through working on your interests. One such profession is cheffing. If you love cooking and feeding people, why not make some money out of it as well? 

Well, as with any profession, you have to start from the bottom and go up the ladder to become a chef, too. If you have always wanted to explore this area, keep on reading to get a comprehensive idea about becoming a chef in Sri Lanka.   

1. Go to a culinary school

In Sri Lanka, the first step into becoming a chef starts with following a culinary course in a recognized institute. Following a standard course will expose you to study recipes, ingredients, cooking techniques, terminology, and all from around the world from A to Z. 

There are several hotel schools in Sri Lanka that offer this program. They include Swiss Lanka Hotel School, Win-Stone School of Culinary Art, and the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management. All these institutes offer hotel courses in Sri Lanka. 

Among these, it is considered that the institute that offers the most recognized culinary course to become a chef is the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM), also known as Ceylon Hotel School. That is because the certificate you receive at the end of the programme is issued in affiliation with the government of Sri Lanka. In fact, the Ceylon Hotel School is a semi-government institute. Therefore, when applying for hotels after the program, certificates from the Ceylon Hotel School have much more recognition.

This initial experience at a culinary school is important because it helps you familiarize yourself in a professional environment. Moreover, it will help you build your palate, boost your confidence in professional cheffing, and learn how to use all kinds of necessary equipment. Most of all, this will make you realize that cooking at home and cooking at a hotel are two completely different things. 

culinary courses in Sri Lanka
A culinary course will cover all the essential basics in cooking (Source: Pexels)

2. Culinary Courses Offered by Ceylon Hotel School

Professional Cookery Course 

The first step into becoming a chef involves getting comprehensive knowledge in the area of culinary. The course that you need to follow for this is the ‘Professional Cookery Course’ that is of a 6 months duration. In this course, you will learn theory for 2 months and engage in practical knowledge during the rest of the 4 months. During the four months of practical training, you will learn 40 menus. The 40 menus will include everything from Sri Lankan cuisine to international cuisine. In addition, you will also learn 3 course menus, 4 course menus, 6 course menus etc. During this course, you will gain overall knowledge with regard to what is cookery, cooking methods, cooking sources, starting from the very basics such as how to cut vegetables. Moreover, the institute will also provide you with all necessary equipment including the chef kit. 

Management Degree

There is also the 3 year Management degree which you can follow if you want to widen your knowledge in the hotel management field. This degree will be helpful if you want to explore opportunities in the fields such as food and beverage management. What you need to remember is that, it will be pointless if you opt to only follow this management course without completing the culinary course. The reason is, even to work in the food and beverage management field, you need the basic knowledge with regard to culinary that is taught in the culinary course.  

3. Training Period 

After you successfully face the examinations and complete the 6 month professional cookery course, you need to complete a 6 month training period at a hotel. In selecting a hotel for this training period, you can either go with the hotel that the hotel school will find you, or find a hotel of your preference. This training period is important because it lets you get the overall experience in a real-life context.

culinary courses in Sri Lanka
The training gives hands-on experience in a professional working context (Source: Pexels)

4. The Hierarchy of Ranks

The path to becoming a chef is a journey in small steps. First, you will be joining as a kitchen helper.  

Then you can go up in the ranks as follows:


A commis 3 chef will have to work for around two and a half years to get the expected experience. Then, for about 5 years, you will have to work as a commis 2. After that, you will work as a commis 1 for about 7 years.

Commis chefs are often fresh out of culinary school. So, they come with lesser experience, and work directly under the chef de partie at a particular kitchen station.

Sous chef

Generally implements the head chef’s directives, second-in-command of the kitchen.


After sous chef, you can become a chef. You can choose which area to work in as a chef. Some of the areas include:

  • Pastry chef

focuses on desserts, cakes and pastries

  • Cold kitchen chef

prepares the dressings, hors d’oeuvres, vinaigrettes and garnishes for the food prepared by the hot kitchen chef.

  • Hot kitchen chef / Demi chef de partie

supervises a particular area or station within the kitchen.

  • Carving chef / Carver

focuses on food presentation

Executive Chef

In order to become an executive chef, it is necessary to have an experience of at least 15 to 20 years of working in a kitchen 5 star hotels. Working in other restaurants in places such as resorts or other hotels will not get you these designations. So, if you expect to become an executive chef / master chef someday, make sure you get you experience at recommended places. In addition, if you have experience working in foreign hotels, it will add to your overall qualifications.  

Final words 

By following the professional culinary course and completing the training period successfully, you can pave the way for a career as a chef in Sri Lanka. This a profession that has a never ending demand. Even at the moment, you can find many chef jobs in Sri Lanka advertised on jobs websites. The opportunities are endless. While you can also work for hotels, there are many other opportunities like becoming a restaurant chef or becoming a personal chef that serves selected clients. Moreover, you can start your own catering business to become a caterer, too. So, if this has been your lifelong passion, now you know what to do. Do not wait, grab your dream! All the best!

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