The Culinary Career Guide
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Career Guide / Culinary & Cooking Careers

The Culinary Career Guide • Why Studying?

What does it mean to study culinary arts?

Culinary career paths are as diverse as food options, and include certificate and degree programs. Gaining culinary experience includes working in jobs away from the stoves; even big-name chefs had humble beginnings that helped them in their careers.

Culinary Arts Studies Offer Well-Rounded Education

Today, culinary arts is a vast field that embraces some of the best things in life: food, wine, coffee, cocktails, baked goods, nutrition, and more. Although the field has become a rapidly-evolving and largely inclusive one, this was not always the case. In ancient times, fine dining was generally reserved for kings and other royalty. Even then, dishes tended to be simple whole-food ingredients. Although it is estimated that people began consuming pistachios around 7,000 BC and fish long before this, it is doubtful that ancient people were cooking up pistachio-crusted halibut with a white wine sauce back then.

The Wide World of Culinary Arts Studies

There are many paths to completing your culinary arts education and starting your career, including:
- Community colleges, for certificates and associate's degrees
- Undergraduate colleges, for bachelor's degrees
- Technical schools, for certificates and associate's degrees
- Professional culinary institutes/independent cooking schools, for certificates and degrees

Certificate and degree programs are usually completed in culinary arts or hospitality. Associate's degrees usually take two years to complete, while bachelor's degrees usually require four years of study.

Certificates can be completed in as little as one year. The path you choose depends on your ultimate career goals. For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to become an executive chef, head cook, or sous chef in a fine dining restaurant, extensive training/education and experience is necessary.

While culinary programs vary, your studies should include many or all of the following:
- Proper use of kitchen equipment, including appliances and knives
- Nutrition and sanitation
- Menu planning and portion control
- Food storage procedures, including how to use leftovers to minimize waste
- Plenty of supervised cooking/baking time

Some programs include internships with local restaurants; such experience can be a great way to gain valuable experience and professional contacts.

Beyond Studies: What Can Help Launch My Career?

In addition to completing a career-focused education program, gaining real-world culinary experience can help you advance in your career. Diners and big chain restaurants have a big need for prep cooks; cafeterias in hospitals and schools are struggling to meet healthier mandates, and are seeking trained chefs; head chefs need assistants.

It's important to remember that even the most successful chefs started humbly. Famous Thai-chef extraordinaire Ian Chalermkittichai began his culinary career scrubbing pots and pans. Up-and-coming New York Chef David Chang bussed tables. The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver, began working in his parents' restaurant at the age of eight. You don't need a family restaurant or even a willingness to scrub pans to gain valuable experience. Before or during your studies, working in the field in any capacity might help your career. Culinary jobs include:
- Servers
- Hosts/hostesses
- Bartenders
- Managers/assistant managers

Your career may go more smoothly if you possess certain traits. Strong leadership and motivational skills, stamina for long hours, creativity, and a fantastic sense of taste and smell are important. You also must keep a tidy and clean appearance, since health inspectors are just as much part of business as commercial ovens. A well-rounded culinary arts program can teach you everything you need to know about creating fabulous dishes and keeping your kitchen running like a well-oiled machine.

Candice Mancini

David Chang (Chef) - Aug 18, 2010 • The New York Times

Timothy France - Bangkoks home-grown, Waldorf-trained, world-famous chef - Jul 26, 2010 • CNN International

Jamie Oliver Biography • jamie's kitchen

Chefs, Head Cooks, and Food Preparation and Serving Supervisors - Apr 20, 2010 • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Culinary School Directory

Students may search Culinary programs by location, subject area, and even degree type. Our interface makes it easy to research Culinary schools and compare different programs side by side.

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We make it easy to request free information and catalogs from Culinary schools. Simply contact the school through the "request information" links available.

Learn more about your Culinary Career

Culinary Careers - Future Outlook
Find out about possible business careers and learn more about the future outlook of:
- Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers
- Bakers and pastry makers
- Hotel and restaurant managers
[...] read more

General Career Information: Culinary & Hospitality Jobs
Celebrity chefs are only one aspect of the new waves hitting the culinary and hospitality world. Your culinary and hospitality studies could help you find a traditional role in the field or launch you into one of the latest culinary trends. [...] read more

General Outlook - Job Openings & Education Requirements
Projected job growth varies widely by education and training requirements. Education is essential in getting a high-paying job. In fact allmost all of the highest paying occupations require a college degree [...] read more

How to get required Education
Learn more about how to get the right education for your Culinary career plans. Learn about selecting the right school that offers the required Culinary degree [...] read more

 

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