October 28th, 2010
Lots of people love eating. So why aren’t more people chefs, cooks, or other practitioners of the culinary arts? Because it can take a long time to get to the same level of acclaim as the hosts you see on Food Network. For those with the drive and ambition, though, a culinary job could be on the menu.One option for becoming a chef, head cook, or food preparation and serving supervisor is to start at the bottom of the food chain and work your way up. This is common at casual full- and limited-service restaurants. At fine-dining restaurants, these professions normally require some form of formal training, whether through community college, technical school, a 2- or 4-year school, or a culinary arts school. There are a variety of schools in the last category around the world. In America, well-known schools include the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago; the Culinary Institute of America in New York, California, and Texas; the Orlando Culinary Academy; and the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. In addition, The Art Institutes has 46 International Culinary Schools in North America.Each of these schools offers its own experience, and if you attend an institute in another country, you’re bound to obtain different training as well. When choosing whether and where to attend culinary school, you should consider your ultimate culinary goals. Do you want to open your own fine-dining restaurant in Paris, or do you want to cook for a franchise restaurant in America? Both are valid options. Other professions attainable with culinary arts training include restaurant management, hotel food and beverage management, consultants, teachers, food stylists and photographers, and food writers and critics (like A.A. Gill, Craig Claiborne, and Julia Child).In 2008, food preparation and serving supervisors held 88 of 941,600 jobs, while chefs and head cooks held the other 12. Experts predict that employment in these professions will increase by 6 between 2008 and 2018. While this is slower than average, it does mean that those currently attending culinary training have a good chance of finding a job at the end. However, competition is always fierce for chef positions, and only gets more so as the level of dining increases. Besides the stress of constant competition, these jobs also feature a fast pace and long hoursyet another reason why they’re not more widely sought by the general population.The median salary for chefs/head cooks in 2008 was 38,770, with the top 10 percent earning over 66,680. Food preparation and serving supervisors earned slightly lessan average of 28,970 in 2008, with the top 10 percent earning over 46,810.So what do you think? Is a culinary job in the stars for you? If you spend many hours a day watching Alton Brown reruns, and all of the above sounds doable, there are a few sites you can browse to find openings near you. One is the aptly-titled ChefJobs.com. You might also want to check out StarChefsJobFinder.com and IHireChefs.com. If you want to get hired, though, you’ll need to do more than just send a resume. Visit the restaurant or hotel in person and let them know what you can cook up.