Everyone needs to eat! From fast food to four-star dining, food preparation and the culinary arts are big business. Whether you are serving a dish that costs a dollar at a lunch counter or fifty dollars at a chic New York City eatery, a career in cooking can be very rewarding.
There are many types of culinary careers. Chefs and cooks oversee the entire process of meal preparation, and are expert in measuring, mixing, and cooking all the ingredients that make up a delicious meal. They may also be responsible for making menus, selecting food supplies, and supervising the activities of the kitchen staff.
Food preparation workers assist chefs and cooks. They perform tasks that may include slicing vegetables and meats, cleaning the cooking area, washing lettuce, arranging desserts, and much more. Food preparation workers work closely with chefs and cooks to ensure that the kitchen runs smoothly.
Institutional chefs work in organizations that require large volume-for instance, a kitchen at a college or university may prepare a thousand sandwiches to be served at lunch hour in one day. Not only are flavor and appearance important, but so is consistency, because every sandwich must be uniform. Institutional chefs may also be responsible for creating menus, controlling costs, setting budgets, purchasing ingredients, and managing a large staff.
Chefs in four-star restaurants may create imaginative meals using a wide variety of exotic ingredients. They serve a demanding clientele who are willing to pay high prices for exceptional food. At many big-city gourmet restaurants, competitive pressure is intense as rival restaurants strive to present cutting-edge menus and create a trendy vibe.
Private chefs may work for a single family or a business. They may be called upon to prepare three meals a day in small quantities, just like you would do for a family. They may also be in charge of doing the daily grocery shopping.
Fast-food cooks prepare a limited selection of menu items such as hamburgers, fries, and fried chicken. They often follow strict preparation guidelines written by the owner of the fast-food franchise.
Corporate chefs work for major fast-food chains, restaurant chains, and ready-to-eat producers. They strive to create a food or menu item that can be replicated easily and will sell at a profit. For example, when McDonald’s introduces a new sandwich, it is only after years of careful development and testing by McDonald’s professional chefs.
What’s the job outlook? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that during the decade from 2008 through 2018, the job outlook will be good, with better opportunities for people who have training or experience in business as well as culinary arts. Because of the long hours and intense competition, the industry tends to have a high turnover rate, which benefits the person who is well-trained and determined to succeed. A significant factor leading to personal success in the restaurant business is simply having a drive to succeed!
How about training? While it may be possible to enter the food preparation industry without training by starting at the bottom, advanced positions often require career training. Fine dining and upscale restaurants often seek applicants with a certificate, a two-year associate degree, or a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Culinary arts colleges offer professional career education. Typically, culinary schools such as those listed on the Education-For-Careers website offer associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs. The incoming student generally chooses between one of two degree tracks: baking and pastry, and culinary arts. In the world of food preparation, these are two completely different careers. Rarely will a trained pastry chef also have the skill or interest in how to prepare and serve a filet mignon, and vice-versa.
In addition, there are academic subcategories such as wines, hospitality, nutrition, and business. A culinary school will typically offer a wide variety of training specialties including advanced cooking techniques, cooking styles from around the world, courses on restaurant management, and information on the health issues of commercial food presentation.
Beyond the bachelor’s degree level, chefs often participate in longer training programs offered by professional culinary institutes. Executive chefs and head cooks who work in fine-dining restaurants have often had many years of training and experience.
It goes without saying that there is no such thing as an online culinary arts degree. You have to attend school on campus, where you will work side-by-side with professional chefs in real kitchens and on-campus restaurants. Many culinary arts schools also offer externships, where you spend several weeks working at a restaurant, on a cruise ship, or even at a destination like Disney World.
How do you get started? If you enjoy cooking, if you like to work as a member of a team, and if you love the expression on people’s faces after a satisfying meal, then you should explore the career opportunities in culinary arts. You can get free information by logging onto a reputable college directory website. Simply enter the search terms that are appropriate for you, such as “culinary arts California.” You’ll be presented with the colleges and career schools that meet your criteria. In minutes you can compare programs, financial aid options, and flexible schedules. Then just click on the colleges you like in order to get more free information from the schools. It only takes a few minutes to get your training started!