Culinary Arts Education Requirements

Job Openings & Education Requirements – General Outlook

Careers in the culinary field can evolve from education programs and entry-level work experience. While becoming head chef in fine dining is a wonderful goal, most chefs must work their way up. Your culinary studies and early work experience can help you toward this goal.

Job Openings & Education Requirements – General Outlook

Most chefs start out humbly, as prep cooks, assistants, even dishwashers. Julia Child, though, followed her six-month culinary education in France by forming a cooking school with two other chefs, called L’Ecole de Trois Gourmandes (The School of the Three Gourmands). The trio then went on to sell the famous best-selling cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Such immediate success is rare, but by taking the right steps–including completing culinary education and working entry-level jobs–you can gain both experience and contacts. You might or might not achieve chef stardom (although the number of chef stars has certainly risen), but making a career out of your culinary passion should be possible.

Culinary Careers: Taking it in Steps

Many culinary students dream of finishing their studies to land a head chef job in fine dining. While this is a great goal, most chefs must work their way up. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fine-dining jobs of head chef, executive chef, and sous chef are among the most competitive in the field.

While finding entry-level cooking jobs does not necessarily require the completion of culinary education, the BLS points out that, for top positions, many years of training and experience are required. Training can be gained at two- or four-year colleges, independent cooking schools, and professional culinary institutes. And the BLS recommends culinary students to augment their studies with business courses, especially those who might work in restaurant chains.

To gain experience (and contacts), you can follow your studies with entry-level jobs, including:
Prep cook, pastry assistant, line cook, chef’s assistant

In smaller restaurants, you might be given more opportunities to work in a variety of stations at once. But working one station at a time (for instance, on the cold appetizer station) can help you to master each level as you go, which can help as you move up in your culinary career. You should think of your early cooking jobs as paid continuing education opportunities.

Less Common Culinary Paths

By completing culinary studies, your job options might be more diverse than the traditional employment options of restaurants, hotels/resorts, and cafeterias. Less common culinary careers, one of which offers great entry-level opportunities, include:
Airline or cruise-ship chef, Bed-and-Breakfast owner, caviar producer, food and restaurant critic, food radio host, chewing gum or coffee taster

Especially when you’re just starting out, or while a culinary student, it might be fun to gain experience by, say, taste-testing coffee or gum.

Culinary Job Prospects

According to the BLS, although employment of chefs, head cooks, and food preparation supervisors is anticipated to increase by just 6 percent between 2008 and 2018, job prospects should be good. This is because of high turnover in the field. Also, the BLS notes that trends toward dining out are on the rise, which should lead to increases in jobs. The National Restaurant Association supports these findings, and their 2010 Restaurant Industry Overview reported record-high 2010 sales for American restaurants at $580 billion, with further growth anticipated.

No matter where you want your culinary career to take you, the right amount of education and experience could help you find your way. Learn more here.

Candice Mancini

Irena Chalmers • List of Food-Related Jobs • Global Gourmet






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