There has never been a better time to get into the culinary industry. With a projected $558 billion in sales this year, is there any question why it is one of the largest private sector employers in the U.S.? About one-third of all adults experienced their first jobs in this industry, which has consistently grown from year to year. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry, and about twenty-five percent of all food and beverage establishments are owned by women. This industry, however, is very labor intensive and is not always as glamorous as the cooking shows on television portray it, but if you love food and have a knack for business, this could be the right career for you.
There are four main areas of concentration for culinary education, and while hands-on experience is valuable, a formal education will ensure that you have an edge in this industry.
Culinary Arts is the art of preparing meals that are just as pleasing to the eye as they are to the taste buds. Cooks and chefs generally fall under this category, which may also require knowledge of food science and nutrition.
Baking and patisserie is the art of creating breads, confections, pastries, cakes, and custards. This type of culinary art requires patience and attention to detail.
Diet and Nutrition is a more scientific approach to culinary arts. This area focuses on the nutritional aspect of food, such as preserving foods or manipulating foods for health benefits.
Restaurant management and hospitality is a more business approach to the industry, which requires some knowledge of marketing, finances, and management.
Qualities and Skills
Professional cooking experience is not a prerequisite for entering a culinary arts program. If you love the art of food, you’ve probably whipped up quite a few meals in your own kitchen. A culinary arts program will give you hands-on experience as well as more detailed training depending on what area of the industry most interests you. You may focus on business operations courses, such as economics, mass communication, or accounting; or you might concentrate on food preparation, learning cooking techniques, knife skills, sanitation requirements, or baking concepts.
Chefs and cooks can range from a line cook, such as a fry cook, to an executive chef. Food preparation has many facets, and positions in a kitchen vary, although many cooks are cross-trained to work several stations. The management path also has several levels, including shift supervisor, assistant manager, and general manager.
Salaries in the management track vary depending on title and experience. Cooks and chefs generally earn less than those in management, and earnings are dependent on sector (private household, institution and cafeteria, and restaurant). Chefs and head cooks generally earn more than food preparation workers. The highest-paying positions usually exist in upscale restaurants and hotels.