If you are interested in a career in the culinary arts, a vocational or trade school may be great place to start. In culinary school, you should not only learn about food preparation, but also the nutrition, sanitation and business management knowledge you'll need to understand the culinary industry.
The wide variety of jobs available in the culinary field include:
- Chef or cook
- Catering chef or manager
- Food service manager
How to become a chef, cook or food service manager
While some food service employees start their culinary careers with on-the-job training as a kitchen worker or server, others who wish to work as chefs and cooks receive formal classroom training while also getting experience working in a restaurant or kitchen. Trade or vocational training may serve to offer valuable experience for those interested in chef careers by teaching menu planning, food preparation and pairing, sanitation procedures and inventory methods. This training, combined with real-world experience provided through the culinary school, may help give some students pursuing a career in culinary arts a broad range of culinary knowledge.
The responsibilities of these jobs vary. Chefs are primarily concerned with preparing food, and food service managers oversee the daily operation of a food establishment, planning menus, ordering supplies and managing the staff. Bakers prepare the baked goods and desserts, while catering managers and chefs prepare food for large groups or meals delivered to off-premise dining events.
Job prospects for those pursuing culinary careers
Jobs in the culinary arts are expected to grow about as fast as the average for other occupations -- about 10 percent by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). The demand for cooks, who generally are paid less and have fewer responsibilities than chefs, is expected to grower by 15 percent as restaurants attempt to lower costs by not hiring as many higher-paid chefs to prepare meals.
The number of jobs for chefs is expected to grow only 5 percent annually through 2022, and competition for the high-paying jobs in restaurants, casinos and resorts will be stiff. Nevertheless, those who have more experience and can prepare more complex dishes for restaurants and hotels may be in high demand, according to O*Net. There is also expected to be high demand for cooks working in institutions and cafeterias.
Salary trends for culinary careers
Chefs, particularly ones who work at fine restaurants, hotels and resorts, tend to be at the higher end of the pay scale. Cooks and chefs earned a national mean hourly wage in May 2013 as follows:
- Food service managers: $25.54
- Chefs and head cooks: $22.42
- Cooks, restaurant: $11.27
- Cooks, cafeteria and institution: $11.86
- Cooks, private households: $13.15
- Bakers: $12.08
States with the highest concentration of jobs for chefs, bakers and restaurant cooks in May 2013 included:
|Career||Projected Number of New Jobs||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||11,300||8.9|
A career as a baker, chef or cook may start at a vocational, trade or technical school. Learn more about training for a career in the culinary arts at RWM.com.
Bakers, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes513011.htm
Bakers, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/bakers.htm
Chefs and Head Cooks, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes351011.htm
Chefs and Head Cooks, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm
Cooks, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/cooks.htm
Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes352012.htm
Cooks, Private Household, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes352013.htm
Cooks, Restaurant, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes352014.htm
Cooks, Restaurant, O*Net OnLine, U.S. Department of Labor, 2012, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/35-2014.00
Food Service Managers, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119051.htm