How to cook your way around the world is probably something you’ve pondered if you’re a young chef, culinary school graduate, aspiring chef, serious home cook, culinary writer, caterer, or even an experienced chef who hasn’t worked abroad. If you love to cook, you love to travel and you mainly travel for the food, then here are some tips to cheffing around the world.
If you’re a chef keen to cook your way around the world, it’s never been easier. Once upon a time you had to have good connections to find a job as a chef in a good restaurant overseas, especially in cities such as London, Paris or New York. These days, all you have to do is search for ‘chef jobs abroad’ on Jooble or a similar job site and you’ll find chef jobs at David Chang’s Momufuku, Michelin starred restaurants in Europe, and luxury cruise ships such as Seabourn.
That’s just what my quick search revealed a few days ago. But if that’s all there was to it, then I wouldn’t be sharing this little guide to how to cook your way around the world. Plus, there are more job opportunities for chefs than cooking in fancy restaurants, and high-pressured restaurants at that, which might not be every chef’s cup of tea – or coffee, most likely. There are also opportunities for cooks who aren’t yet chefs.
Of course, cooking your way around the world isn’t new. Long before aspiring world travellers dreamt of giving up their 9-5 jobs for a life on the road as a travel writer, guidebook author, travel blogger, digital nomad, or remote worker, travel-lovers were heading abroad to work as au pairs, fruit pickers, ski instructors, language teachers, seasonal resort staff, and chefs.
What’s changed for those of you who want to cook your way around the world is how much easier it has become to find work as a chef abroad, and how many more opportunities there are to use your culinary skills and cooking experience, whether it’s in the kitchen of a restaurant, café, bakery, bar, pub, club, hotel, holiday resort, luxury lodge, private residences, or on a private cruising yacht or massive ocean liner.
There are also other cooking gigs and entrepreneurial activities you may not have considered, including working for catering companies, cooking schools, festivals, events, food programmes, and food bloggers, along with opportunities to cook and sell your food online and at farmers markets, to run pop-up restaurants or supper clubs, and to collaborate with other chefs on dining events.
Finding those cooking opportunities and chef jobs abroad has become so much easier thanks to better global job search sites, social media channels such as Instagram, dedicated Facebook groups, specialised recruitment agencies, and greater networking opportunities, all of which has made the world, including the food world, feel smaller.
Plus, there are simply more jobs available, as so many restaurant, tourism and hospitality staff switched industries after losing jobs during the pandemic; restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, and hotels may have closed, but new venues have opened in their place; and many countries have relaxed visa requirements, making visas and work permits easier to get due to staff shortages in the tourism and hospitality industries.
If you’ve spent most of the pandemic working at home – or unemployed at home! – and are itching to get overseas and experience more of our planet while you can, then here’s our mini-guide to how to cook your way around the world.
How to Cook Your Way Around the World – Tips for Travel-Loving Chef on Finding Jobs Abroad
Search for Chef Jobs Online
These days, the easiest way to find opportunities to cook your way around the world is to search online for ‘chef jobs abroad’ and the best place to start is a job search site or even better an international jobs aggregator site such as Jooble. There are similar sites out there but I’ve mentioned Jooble for two reasons.
Firstly, because it’s one of the biggest and best job posting search engines, with job listings in 69 countries, which it collects from thousands of other recruitment sites, making your job of finding a chef job a whole lot easier.
I tested a few job search sites researching this story and I found the greatest number of chef job listings and the best quality jobs on Jooble, such as jobs listed at David Chang’s swanky new Momofuku in Las Vegas; Pompette in Toronto, one of Canada’s best restaurants; and the beautiful boutique Warehouse Hotel and stylish Tanjong Beach Club in Singapore (voted the World’s Best Beach Club).
There were postings for chef jobs in hotels and resorts from Banyan Tree’s Saffron Restaurant (you’ll need to cook Thai for that one) to the One&Only, Crown Plaza, and abundant jobs on cruise lines, from the uber-luxurious residential mega-yacht The World, Residences at Sea, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Silversea, and Seabourn Cruise Line, to the Royal Caribbean Group, Princess Cruises, Viking, and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.
I spotted jobs for every level and specialty, from pastry chefs to executive chefs and the listings are very detailed and most include salaries, as well as duties, and helpfully, the day the job was posted. If you like what you see, you just click through to the site of the recruitment agency, HR company, restaurant group, hotel group, or cruise line, to apply for the job.
There were jobs in the USA and Canada; numerous European countries, such as Greece, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Sweden; in Asia, in Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and China; in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America; in the Middle East, in the UAE and Qatar; and, of course, on the high seas and rivers!
Many of the listings were very specific as to what they wanted, too, whether it was a particular skill, from pastry to butchery, a language needed (from Japanese to French) or a particular cuisine. Japanese sushi chefs, Italian chefs and Indian chefs all seemed to be in demand.
Some of the more interesting jobs that popped up were for positions as commis chefs at the formal private residence and on the cruise ship of a VVIP client, with perks such as international travel and a package that included visa, accommodation, use of a pool and gym, meals, medical insurance; return flights, and 30 days annual leave. Not bad…
The second reason I’ve mentioned Jooble is because it’s a Ukrainian company and Ukraine needs all the help the world can give the country right now. The company is staying in Ukraine to support the economy. Their offices are in Kyiv – which has been bombarded by Russian missiles today. So supporting Ukraine is a pretty good reason to give the site a go as far as I’m concerned.
There are other job sites, of course, and specialised industry sites, such as CatererGlobal and SeasonWorkers, however, my search results on those sites were comparably smaller, and I found more quality chef jobs when I searched for ‘chef abroad’ on Jooble. If you can recommend another job site you’ve used and loved, do let us know in the Comments below.
Ask Your Head Chef for Help
If you’re lucky enough to work in a good restaurant, then one of the best ways to find opportunities to cook your way around the world is simply by going to your boss, the head chef of the restaurant.
Your head chef will most likely be happy to help. They were in your shoes – or Crocs, most probably – and know what it’s like to be young and to be itching to travel the world, working in the finest restaurants, and learning from the best chefs. And probably know most of them.
Never has there been a time in culinary history that chefs around the world have been so connected, thanks to social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook, online platforms such as Zoom – which enabled all kinds of creative collaborations during the pandemic – and events such as ‘chef collabs’, when chefs co-host dinners together.
These days it’s not unusual for a chef and their team to hop on a flight and travel half way across the world to cook a dinner with another chef at their restaurant, for the chance to get creative and do a bit of self-promotion, as much as to experience that destination and explore the cuisine of the place with a local expert.
Some collaborative dinners raise funds for charities and support causes, and promote issues relevant to the chefs, restaurants and the food world – from depression, which a lot of chefs suffer from to environmental issues and food security, such as over-fishing and seafood sustainability.
Other collab events are focused more on challenge and fun of creating, providing chefs with a chance to flex their creativity with foreign ingredients in a strange kitchen with staff who don’t speak their language, while giving diners a taste of the inventive cuisine that is the result of that collaboration.
And that’s what the Grand Gelinaz Shuffle was all about. The organisers pulled chef’s names from a hat and sent them off to cook in the kitchen of a chef in a foreign country whose cuisine they might never have made before.
The images that Terence shot above and below are of Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen who got sent to David Thompson’s (former) Thai restaurant Nahm in Bangkok, while Thompson got sent to Alain Ducasse’s French restaurant in Paris.
Terence and I were lucky to be able to fly from Siem Reap to Bangkok to be flies on the wall for a few days to cover it for CNN. But the young chefs in the Nahm kitchen were even luckier, having the opportunity to cook with Rene Redzepi and his chefs for a few days, as much as to make those contacts.
The Danish chef was so impressed with the young chefs that I’m sure if David Thompson called up Rene Redzepi one day and said “remember that talented young woman from my Bangkok kitchen…she’s looking for a job…”, I’m sure the Noma chef would try to find her an opportunity if he could.
And often a phone call from one chef to another chef is all it takes. That’s how so many chefs get a chance to live abroad, work in great restaurants overseas, and to ultimately travel the world as chefs – thanks to how interconnected the restaurant industry is these days and how social media and events enable chefs to stay in touch and engaged.
International food festivals, cooking competitions, industry conferences, awards nights of best restaurant lists, and networking events are other ways that chefs connect and all provide opportunities for you to cook your way around the world.
Assuming of course that you’ve fulfilled any contractual requirements (even verbal agreements), you’ve done a great job, you work hard, the right attitude and personality, and you’ve got the right skills, knowledge and experience.
But what if you don’t have experience?
Sign Up to a Recruitment Agency
If you’re a young cook just out of culinary school with no or little experience but you have a big dream to cook your way around the world then you might want to consider signing up to a specialised recruitment agency, which will find you an internship in a restaurant kitchen.
As I haven’t had as much experience with recruitment agencies as I have with restaurants and chefs, I talked to Mathieu Tremblay, the Key Account Manager for RMC Asia, a recruitment agency based in Thailand.
The agency works with hospitality and culinary schools in Europe, Asia and Central and South America and Tremblay’s role is to help graduates secure internships in 4- and 5-star hotels and resorts, everywhere from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives to Thailand and Vietnam.
“I think that the internships are a really good experience for their growth, and they learn a lot while they get experience with an international hotel brand,” Tremblay says. “Not to mention, that they will be outside of their comfort zone.”
The paid internship programmes last anything from 3-18 months and typically include visa and work permit arrangements, accommodation, meals, uniform, transport from the intern’s accommodation to the hotel, sometimes flights, insurance, service charges, and tips.
Interns include students as well as recent graduates (up to three years after graduation) who have studied culinary arts, hospitality management or even business administration, depending on what area they want to go into. For instance, a young chef’s ultimate goal might be a career as a food and beverage manager instead of a head chef.
Hotels and resorts will request interns with no experience up to two years’ experience, which can include experience on other internships. When we chatted a couple of days ago, Tremblay had just placed four culinary school graduates in hotel internships in the Maldives and Qatar. So how does it all work?
“Graduates send their resume to the agency and if they are qualified our team will contact them to schedule the first interview with them to discuss what they are looking for, explain to them how we work and how we will help them,” Tremblay explained.
“We give them all the details and then we see if we accept them, as we don’t want to waste time with anyone who is unprofessional, has expectations that are too high, or are close minded, as we will not be able to place them, so we cannot guarantee the placement.”
So, who pays for this? Well, while asking your head chef to help you find a restaurant job is free (maybe you’ll have to shout a dinner one day!), and it costs nothing to search for chef jobs on Jooble (the platform charges recruiters to post job listings), recruitment agencies such as RMC Asia charge potential interns and Tremblay wasn’t shy about pointing this out.
“It is important to mention that the students pay us for the professional services that we are offering them,” he noted. “The first interview is free, of course.”
“We do a vetting on the benefits and the quality of the programme, we visit the hotel, we negotiate the benefits for the interns, we help them to place their resume on the top of the list of HR managers of the hotels we work with, we assist the interns during the visa process, we coach them for their interviews, we review their resumes, we prepare them to travel abroad, giving them cultural information, and talking about possible cultural shock and more.”
And what do the services and expertise of such a recruitment agency cost? Anything from 1000-2000€ up to 5000€ depending on the duration of the internship programme. Tremblay explained that some interns apply for a loan to cover the fees as it’s a long-term investment in their career and a fast-track to a full-time position, with many of the interns getting hired permanently.
So if you don’t need skills or experience to get an internship in a restaurant kitchen at a fancy resort or hotel in a far-flung place such as the Maldives, what kind of personality attributes or attitude do you need?
More Tips to How to Cook Your Way Around the World
“Be open-minded, flexible, passionate about the hospitality industry and discovering new cultures, and be realistic about your expectations,” says recruiter Mathieu Tremblay.
“Be brave!!” advises Australian chef Cate Davey. “I was 27 when I walked into the Sydney Opera House and said “I want to be a chef, I will do TAFE (culinary training), I will show up for every shift and never be hungover, and I don’t want apprentice wages!” I got my dream job in the Bennelong Restaurant!”
Cate ended up working for many of Australia’s best chefs, including “… Matt Moran, Luke Mangan, and Damien Pignolet – and a polo season for Kerry Packer.”
Polo catering… perhaps that’s another opportunity for you to cook your way around the world.
If you have any advice or questions on how to cook your way around the world, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
As advocates of slow, local and experiential travel, we’ve long encouraged readers to settle into places for a while to get a more immersive experience and better engage with locals. It’s not only a more enriching way to travel, it’s also more sustainable and eco-friendly, and there are few better ways to do it than working your way around the world. Next up in this new series on living and working abroad: how to write your way around the world.