Culinary training prepares you for a career as a professional chef in restaurants or other dining establishments. Read on to learn more about formal education and training requirements, voluntary certifications and how much you can earn in the culinary field.
Is Culinary Training For Me?
While a degree in the culinary arts is not always required to work in commercial food preparation, formal training and prior experience in the industry can help you advance in the field. Postsecondary training in culinary arts can be found through certificate and degree programs, including those that offer internships in commercial restaurants or catering businesses. Areas of specialization can include cooking, baking or restaurant management, which teaches you how to organize a kitchen, schedule staff and control inventory.
Job Duties and Titles
As a culinary professional, you may work in a kitchen, overseeing food preparation and service in a restaurant or similar establishment, before moving into more responsible positions, such as head cook or chef. To become a head or executive chef, you must display the strong leadership and communication skills necessary to run your kitchen and staff in an efficient and cost-effective manner. In addition, you might develop recipes, design menus, bargain with vendors and order supplies.
Employment and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for bakers, chefs and head cooks nationwide are expected to increase by a slower-than-average rate between 2012 and 2022. As of May 2012, chefs and head cooks earned a median annual salary of $42,480. Bakers and first-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers earned median annual wages of $23,140 and $29,270 respectively (www.bls.gov).
How Can I Work in Culinary Arts?
A culinary arts certificate or training program introduces you to the foundations of cooking and kitchen management. In general, you'll learn about the principles of safety and sanitation while acquiring knife skills and plating techniques. Additional topics in baking basics and the creation of stocks, sauces and soups will also be covered.
Associate Degree Programs
More intensive training can be found through an associate's degree program in culinary arts. As an aspiring culinary professional, you'll pursue additional topics in gastronomy and develop an appreciation for international styles of cooking. Associate degree programs in baking and pastry arts are also available. In addition to training in kitchen safety and sanitation, you'll learn how to create a variety of baked goods, such as petit fours, cakes, custards and cookies.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
In contrast to an associate's degree program, bachelor's degree programs in culinary arts may better prepare you for a career as a chef. Areas of specialization can include beverage service, resort work or sports entertainment. You'll also complete business courses in accounting, hospitality law and marketing. Coursework in ethics, human behavior and psychology may also be required.
Although not necessarily required, a culinary certification could provide you with an advantage in the job market and provide proof of your culinary and kitchen management skills. The American Culinary Foundation offers a number of programs that can lead to a credential as a Certified Master Chef, Cooking Professional or Sous Chef. Each certification is associated with its own level of education and experience and requires a passing score on a written test. Your culinary expertise will be evaluated on how well you do on the practical exam, which can take between two hours and eight days to complete (www.acfchefs.org).