Catering Chef: Career Profile, Employment Outlook and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for catering chefs. Get the facts about possible earnings, education requirements and job responsibilities to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Catering Chef?

Catering chefs plan, direct and help to prepare appetizers and meals for events, meetings and parties. They are responsible for making sure the food and ingredients they are using are fresh, working spaces are clean and kitchen safety standards are maintained. As supervisors of kitchen staff, they also coordinate activities of cooks and food preparation workers, develop recipes, determine how to present dishes and plan menus. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required No degree required; associate degree and certificate programs are available
Key Responsibilities Oversee food preparation and transportation for events; create menus; coordinate logistics, including the set-up and clean-up for the event
Certification Optional certifications available from the American Culinary Federation and the National Association of Catering Executives
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% (for all chefs and head cooks)
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $45,920 (for all chefs and head cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Catering Chef?

Many catering chefs are self-employed, but some are employed by catering firms, banquet halls or restaurants. If you're self-employed, you'll manage all aspects of the business, including advertising, employee hiring, accounting, menu planning, inventory purchasing and food preparation. You'll also need to transport meals to the venue, set up and clean up after the event.

If you work for a company, you'll be in charge of food preparation and may be responsible for other logistics. You'll create a menu that meets the client's specifications, including meals, refreshments and snacks. You'll be expected to work long, irregular hours days before and during an event, which may be held in an indoor or outdoor setting.

How Much Can I Earn in This Career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual salary for all chefs and head cooks was $45,920 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Supervisors of food preparation and serving workers, which may also include caterers, made an average of $33,330 a year during the same period.

The BLS expects job growth for chef positions to grow by 9% from 2014 to 2024, while those for food service supervisors is expected to increase by 10% during the same period. Competition is expected to be high among the more highly paid chefs during this period. Competition is expected to be high among the more highly paid chefs during this period.

What Education Do I Need?

There are no specific education requirements to become a catering chef. You can receive culinary training through food service employment or through formal study at a culinary school, community or technical college or university. Depending on your job duties and responsibilities, it is useful to have knowledge of business administration and financial planning.

You must be able to work well with others under stressful conditions, provide excellent service to customers and be versatile in your menu offerings. Also, you'll need to be able to cope with the physically demanding aspects of the job, including standing for long periods, lifting heavy objects, transporting food and equipment to venues.

To become a caterer, you may consider an associate degree program in culinary arts or a certificate program in catering. The American Culinary Federation offers voluntary certification for personal chefs and chefs. The National Association of Catering Executives offers a Certified Professional Catering Executive designation to those who complete the examination of the seven core subjects.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Bakers have many of the same responsibilities as catering chefs, such as insuring the quality of ingredients, maintaining equipment and making food presentable. Cooks and food preparation workers typically work under a chef or head cook. They are responsible for preparing the food and making sure their work station is clean. Food service managers do many of the same tasks as chefs but focus on the daily operations of restaurants and make sure customer satisfaction is met. All of these options generally have a minimum of a high school dipl

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