Chefs, restaurant managers, nutritionists, and entrepreneurs enjoy lucrative careers in the hospitality industry, but these professionals work long hours and need outstanding food and people skills. Celebrity chefs and successful restaurateurs pay their dues doing what they love, and most culinary careers involve developing technical talent and business skills.
Hospitality industry workers face tremendous competitive pressures because every amateur investor and cooking enthusiast think they can enter the food service with skills they developed at home. The truth shatters the hopes of many aspiring entrepreneurs because most new restaurants fail in three to five years. Culinary professionals need training, but fortunately many schools and programs in the United States and abroad offer practical schooling and guidance.
Bright Futures for Cooking Professionals
The restaurant industry in the United States employs more than 11 million people according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but these job possibilities only scratch the surface. Talented chefs can find jobs in many countries and enjoy the benefits of seeing the world. Cruise ships, foreign branch offices, hotels, and resorts are always looking for new talent in exciting locations.
The demand for qualified chefs has become global because busy professional people prefer to let trained experts oversee food preparation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a healthy increase in demand over the next decade. Culinary careers include the following possibilities.
- Hospitals, clinics, and assisted-living facilities hire dietitians, chefs, cooks, and kitchen staff.
- Schools and universities have immediate need for talented culinary professionals.
- Cruise lines offer culinary graduates chances to see the world and get paid handsomely.
- Pastry chefs and bakers belong to one of the oldest professions known since the dawn of civilization, and artisan bakeries have become enormously popular.
- Restaurants, coffee shops, corporate dining rooms, and cafeterias seek trained kitchen staff for all types of jobs.
- Wealthy families hire live-in chefs, but many people choose the career path of the personal chef, which enjoys greater flexibility and independence.
- Caterers supply food for distinctive events, conferences, weddings, parties, and business meetings.
Culinary Arts Programs Teach the Fundamentals
Kitchen skills make up only a small part of what students learn in culinary school. Chefs need to understand budgets, advertising and promotion, menu development, handling staff, sanitation and food safety issues, portion control, and other skills. Culinary programs offer associate certificates, Bachelor of Arts four-year degrees, and optional master’s degrees.
Savvy chefs study business administration while pursuing their culinary credentials. Developing business and kitchen skills increases success rates for entrepreneurs and restaurant owners.
- Education and hands-on experience teach students to manage safe, clean and profitable kitchens.
- Basic techniques give people the grounding they need to make creative changes by adopting recipes to create vibrant fusion cuisines, healthy menus, and special diets.
- Efficient organization of kitchens, pantries and dining rooms increases profits, safety and food quality.
- Chefs learn to cook dishes from other cultures to expand their range of options.
- Working externships mirror the classic apprentice systems that many countries still follow.
- Students learn leadership skills and how to write and communicate effectively. These talents become increasingly important for professional chefs.
Culinary degrees pay handsome dividends that surpass the salaries of chefs without formal training. The prospect for advancement into management for cooks and chefs without degrees looks bleak, but working chefs can always return to school. Motivated students can get an associate degree in one year, and the diploma gives access to many catering and restaurant jobs.
Chefs in hotels and upscale restaurants command the highest salaries, often bringing home more than $100,000 annually. Cafeterias, fast-food restaurants, and cruise ships pay less, but many people prefer these jobs for other reasons such as convenience, travel opportunities, and job stability. Chefs with business knowledge make more because owners focus their efforts on cutting costs, and the best chefs in the world fall short if they cannot turn a profit.
Entry-level positions average around $35,000, but experienced chefs rapidly qualify for raises based on their performances. According to BLS statistics, the following salary averages apply.
- Head chefs: $44,570
- Top 10 percent of head chefs: $70,960
- Executive chefs: $55,976 – $85,328
- Pastry chefs: $45,610 – $68,326
- Restaurant Manager: $36,778 – $53,916
- Hotel manager: $64,926 – $119,094
Finding schools in any state or foreign country proves remarkably easy. Culinary jobs have become high-profile occupations due to increasing consumer demands, celebrity-chef notoriety, and the online promotion of healthy diets and nutritional benefits. Education and training qualifies cooks and chefs for exciting careers and lucrative salaries.