The Red Seal exam is a standardized test taken in Canada by people interested in becoming cooks. To pass the Red Seal, you'll need to know not only how to cook food, but also food and workplace sanitation techniques, occupational skills and management techniques. Once you pass the Red Seal exam, you receive certification to work as a chef anywhere in Canada. Until then, only certain restaurants and bistros allow you to work for them.
Read through the National Occupation Analysis for cooks in Canada. The NOA explains all of the tasks you need to know, as well as any skills or abilities you may need. For instance, you'll need to know how to mix certain drinks, as well as the differences between cuts of meat. See the Resources section to find a link to the NOA for chefs. To attempt the Red Seal, you need 5,000 hours of work experience over a three-year period, as well as three six-week blocks of technical training (provided by colleges and some universities). If you have not taken an apprenticeship or completed any technical training, you need 8,000 hours of work experience to challenge the Red Seal exam.
Find people who have taken the Red Seal chef exam and ask them about their experience. Find people who have recently taken the test, as they will have more up-to-date information because the test changes on a yearly basis. Talk to the head chef at various restaurants, as many likely have taken and passed the Red Seal exam. Also, talk to any coworkers about their experience with the test. Chef Talk also has a forum where you can ask other chefs about their experience with the Red Seal exam (see Resources).
Study workplace sanitation as well as cooking techniques. Sanitation is an often overlooked study area, but is on the Red Seal chef exam. The Red Seal exam is based primarily on the "On Cooking" textbook, linked in the Resources section. Study techniques both by performing cooking tasks in your own kitchen, working with a mentor at a restaurant, and by reading the "On Cooking" textbook. Consider making flash cards to help with your memorization.
Purchase a practice exam or an old Red Seal exam from a website (see Resources). The practice exam costs $49.99 as of February 2011, but features questions that have appeared on previous Red Seal tests.
Form a study group with other cooks preparing to take the Red Seal exam. Teaching others something you know solidifies it in your mind and ensures that you'll be able to express it when you take your Red Seal exam.
- Depending on your province, the Red Seal test contains either 150 or 250 multiple-choice questions. You only get two chances to pass the exam, and you must answer 70 percent of the questions correctly to pass.
Alex Zang has been freelance writing since 2004, specializing in sports and technology. His work has appeared in "The Calgary Herald" and "Western Canadian Condos & Resorts," as well as online. Zang studied film production and screenwriting at Mount Royal College.