How Do I Become a Chef Specializing in Southern Cuisine?

Research what it takes to become a chef specializing in Southern cuisine. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Baking & Pastry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Southern Cuisine Chef?

A chef who specializes in Southern cuisine plays the role of a supervisor and menu developer in a kitchen where Southern food is prepared. Most often, chefs work in restaurants, but they can also find jobs in other establishments, such as on cruises, or they could even work in private homes. In a restaurant setting, they oversee staff, make sure that ingredients are fresh, monitor the quality of the dishes that are served, and ensure that safety and sanitation protocols are followed. They also test and develop recipes; those who specialize in Southern cuisine typically include dishes that are originated or are popular in states located south of the Mason-Dixon line. Menu options may include fried chicken, grits, cornbread, crabcakes, fried green tomatoes and pecan pie.

For aspiring chefs specializing in this cuisine, check out the following chart to find out about education options, industry certifications and job growth.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Culinary arts
Certification Options American Culinary Federation certification
Key Skills Cooking expertise, knowledge of Southern cooking techniques, creativity
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (for all chefs and head cooks)*
Average Salary (2015) $45,920 (for all chefs and head cooks)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Types of Southern Cuisine Educational Programs Are Available?

Stand-alone and accredited certificate or degree programs specializing only in Southern cuisine do not exist. Culinary programs aim to prepare you for as wide a range of employment opportunities as possible; with this in mind, you'll most likely study classical techniques. You will also learn regional American styles of cooking and other cultural specialties, such as French or European cuisine.

You may want to consider enrolling in an associate's or bachelor's degree program in culinary arts. In these types of programs, you'll study culinary basics, such as food safety and sanitation, baking and pastry arts, beverage service, stocks, sauces and nutrition. You can learn how to plan a menu while controlling your inventory and costs. You may also enroll in one or more courses that cover classical and contemporary American cooking. These courses will give you an opportunity to explore the rich history and heritage of Southern cooking.

What Do I Need in Addition to My Degree?

As an aspiring chef who specializes in Southern cuisine, you'll want to have experience working in a restaurant featuring Southern specialties. A partial list of these delicacies includes chicken fried steak, fried chicken, grits, bread pudding and pulled pork. Since nearly all culinary degree programs feature internship opportunities, you may want to look into programs at culinary schools in the South. This region may provide you with greater opportunities for gaining valuable work experience in a kitchen specializing in Southern cuisine. You'll also get to network with professionals in your chosen niche.

Are There Additional Education Requirements to Consider?

While additional mandatory education requirements aren't in place for Southern cuisine chefs, you may find that earning certification from a trade organization can add to your marketability. Such groups as the American Culinary Federation (www.acfchefs.org) offer a multitude of specific programs and courses designed to appeal to the full range of kitchen professionals. Some designations available through this federation include certified culinarian, certified executive chef and certified master chef. Your qualification will vary according to your education level and experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to get a job preparing Southern food, you might also think about getting a job as a cook or baker. You don't need a degree for one of these jobs, but completing a culinary arts certificate or diploma program can help build your skills. On the other hand, if you're looking for a leadership job in the food industry, you might want to get a job as a food service manager. These professionals oversee the business aspects of a dining establishment, such as hiring and budgetary concerns, and they may also supervise staff to ensure the quality of the food and customer service. You can get this job without a degree, but completing a postsecondary program can help.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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