Career in the Culinary Arts


Working in the field of Culinary Arts can be a rewarding and satisfying career especially if you like receiving instant gratification. That’s because you’ll often know how well you are doing as a chef immediately after preparing the dish.

Chefs and cooks usually follow a recipe to prepare and cook all types of foods. They use standard kitchen equipment found in restaurants and other food service establishments. Working as a chef can be a fun career if you’re comfortable working in the kitchen and enjoy cooking.

Culinary Arts Education and Training

Those planning to pursue a career in the Culinary arts often attend a formal cooking school. These individuals become chefs in advanced positions and may need to become certified through the American Culinary Federation. However, there are many opportunities for cooks who have not met the typical culinary career requirements. On-the-job training is often provided for those working in fast-food and for food preparation workers.

Duties of a Chef

Chefs and head cooks spend their time coordinating the work of the other kitchen staff. They often act as executive managers. Others spend their time creating dishes and preparing meals. Short-order cooks work to prepare the food by measuring, cooking, and mixing ingredients. Food preparation workers perform routine tasks supervised by chefs and cooks. They get the ingredients ready for cooking by measuring, stirring, and slicing.

Chef Work Environment

Individuals pursuing a Culinary Arts Career can expect to work in a kitchen setting, spending most of their time standing and bending. Most chef’s and head cooks work in restaurants. Short order cooks and those at lower paying positions work in fast-food restaurants and other food service establishments like hospitals and cafeterias.

Culinary Arts Career Information

Do you love cooking? If so, perhaps one of the many culinary arts careers are something to consider.  However, the term “culinary arts” means more than just cooking – it can involve creativity, spatial design, and management skills as well.

And while working in the culinary arts may involve cooking at any food establishment, the term “culinary arts” typically refers to workers in higher-end restaurants. Workers in the culinary arts are usually divided into three categories – chef, cook, and food preparers.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to become a chef, then keep reading to find out if it’s the right career for you.

Chefs may work in a variety of culinary areas, including preparing appetizers and soups, making side dishes and entrees, and preparing desserts. In fact, chefs may receive extra training in any of these areas if they choose to specialize.

If you love cooking, consider pursuing a career in culinary arts.

Chefs may also cook entire meals or oversee a small staff of cooks, and they often get the chance to create their own special recipes. Some chefs may even choose to open their own restaurants.  Overall, chefs have more administrative and managerial duties than cooks and food preparers.

Cooks have many of the same duties as chefs do, but they generally work under a chef. In small restaurants, a cook may perform many different duties; while in large eating establishments, a cook is usually assigned a specific section of the menu – such as salads, side dishes, or desserts.  Head cooks often perform the same roles as chefs or serve as deputy or sous chefs.

Food preparers may not actually cook anything. Instead, they’re in charge of peeling vegetables, cutting food into portions, cleaning work areas and ovens, fetching various kitchen tools, and other duties as directed by the chef or head cook.  The tasks they perform are often repetitive and may seem like basic grunt work to many.  However, their duties are very important, especially in large, busy restaurants where everyone in the kitchen is moving at a fast pace and cooks need their ingredients measured accurately and prepared for cooking.

Interesting Facts About Culinary Arts

In large restaurants, the hierarchy of chefs and cooks is a little more varied. Cooks may be fry cooks, vegetable cooks, or other specialized cooks, and each cook may have his or her own work station with a stove, oven, and set of tools.  Each chef may also have a dedicated food preparer or two to assist him or her while cooking.

Large restaurants also typically utilize head cooks and executive chefs. These individuals are in charge of the kitchen – meaning that they direct the other cooks and oversee the entire operation.  Executive chefs are generally given more administrative tasks – especially if they happen to be the owner of the restaurant as well.  In addition to cooking, they may decide what to put on the menu, order ingredients and food, determine the portion size, and much more.

One of the major downsides of working in a kitchen is the heat. After all, the expression, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” had to come from somewhere.  Many modern restaurants are designed with this in mind and have better ventilation, but some older kitchens may not be as well equipped.  Cooking is a very fast-paced job, and you’ll find yourself under constant pressure to have meals ready as quickly as possible, while still making sure that they taste good.  However, if you’re able to set these minor inconveniences aside and let your love of good food shine through, you’re sure to succeed in the culinary arts.

Opportunities in the Field of Culinary Arts

Culinary arts offers ever expanding opportunities for exciting careers ranging from chef to sommelier. Not only are there a variety of careers to choose among, you can work in a number of venues including restaurants, cruise ships, and hotels. With an Associate’s Degree or special training in culinary arts, you can even move between the culinary industry and the hospitality industry domestically or globally.

Creative Cooking Careers!

People who choose to enter culinary arts studies often do so because they enjoy working with food and beverages while using their creativity. Careers in this field give you a chance to express your passion for dishing up great recipes while serving others which is what the hospitality industry is all about. You can pursue a career as a:

  • Restaurant chef
  • Bakery or Patisserie chef
  • Convention center food coordinator
  • Sport arenas food and beverage director
  • Café chef
  • Catering director
  • Instructor in culinary arts
  • Sommelier
  • Fine dining chef
  • Cruise line chef
  • Corporate event coordinator
  • Food arts director
  • Country club chef

This is just a sample of the types of jobs you can qualify for once you complete your studies in culinary arts. You will notice that many of the careers involve much more than just cooking in the kitchen! You can assume positions as a chef, department manager, events coordinator and entertainment director also as your career progresses. Chefs usually oversea the preparation of food, supervise kitchen staff, manage food and kitchen budgets, and coordinate with other facility managers.

A Great Career Starts with Education!

There are several educational paths to choose from when you wish to begin your studies. Some students choose to attend a vocational certificate program at a culinary school that takes approximately a year to finish. There are programs at prestigious culinary institutes, or you can also pursue a 2-year Associate’s Degree in.

Culinary Arts or Food Services Management at an accredited university or college. Students can also earn Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Culinary Management or Hospitality Management with culinary arts being a core component of the program.

Today you can attend a traditional school or you can take some classes online. All programs are a blend of learning and hands-on instruction.

The online programs are often accessed by people who need classes for degree completion and have completed required cooking lab work elsewhere or are seeking continuing education. But there are online culinary arts programs that use technology such as live webcams and web based instructional videos for program delivery. In those cases the degree can be earned online.

Pick a Career Path that Suits You

A typical career path would be to begin working as a restaurant cook or kitchen worker, progress to a lead cook position, become a chef, earn a promotion to a lead chef position or specialize as a pastry chef, Sous chef and others. Executive chefs manage kitchens with large staff and high meal volumes.

The salaries for beginning chefs or cooks are good, and you can quickly increase your income with experience and continuing education and specialization. What is interesting to note is that the salaries in the various hospitality businesses are similar. That is good news for you because it makes it easier to seek a position across industries and find the ideal job.

If food and beverage preparation and management is the career you want then a culinary arts degree is a great choice!

What Working as a Chef is Like

Do you love to cook? Are you feeling inspired by the movie Ratatouille or all the food-based reality TV shows on air today?  If so, working as a chef may just be for you.  However, before you rush out and sign up for culinary school, be aware that working as a chef isn’t all glitz and glamour.  There’s a long ladder to climb before you reach the rank of executive chef at a top restaurant.

Should You Attend Culinary School?

The first question that many prospective chefs have is whether or not they need to attend to culinary school in order to become successful. The short answer is no – it is possible to develop your cooking skills on your own, or to work your way up the ladder from a position as a prep cook or line cook.  However, if you are able to invest in a culinary school education, it’s definitely a good idea.  Culinary school will not only introduce you to other elements of a chef’s career – like sanitation and kitchen management – but will also help you develop connections that can help get your career off the ground.

Entry-Level Positions in the Culinary Field

Your first job as a chef will likely be at the bottom of the ladder. If you attended culinary school, you may find that you’re able to start out as a prep cook in a nice restaurant, while chefs without this degree may find employment as short order or line cooks in smaller restaurants and diners.  Expect to work hard in these positions – you’ll put in long hours on your feet, schlepping heavy pots and pans around a steaming kitchen.  And don’t expect to be paid much – chefs in these positions typically earn about $26,000-$32,000/year.  However, it is in these positions that you’ll have the chance to learn from more experienced chefs and to prove yourself ready for higher-level positions.

Moving Up the Ladder

Competition for chef positions can be fierce, but if you’ve proven yourself to be talented and creative, you may be invited to fill a sous chef or assistant chef position. You may also be able to leverage your experience to move from a smaller, unrenowned restaurant to a rated restaurant in the culinary capitols of the world.  But don’t expect that the work load will let up.  If anything, these positions are more demanding that the entry-level positions, since you’ll be responsible for more of the kitchen operations and for ensuring customer satisfaction.  In addition, one common complaint of chefs working these positions is the hours – working popular meal shifts may leave little time for socializing outside of the restaurant.

Owning or Managing Your Own Restaurant

With time and experience, you may eventually be able to earn the title of executive chef at a prestigious restaurant or finally fulfill your dream of owning your own eatery. It should go without saying that these opportunities are even more competitive and demanding than work at any other level of the chef hierarchy.  You’ll be expected to provide the creative vision for the restaurant, coming up with new and innovative dishes to please your patrons.  In addition, you’ll also be responsible for the overall management of your entire staff and all the kitchen operations.  Because of all the stress involved in this career path, it isn’t uncommon to see talented chefs leave the restaurant industry behind for calmer options, like catering or restaurant buffet management.  However, most people in the industry will tell you that despite the utter chaos of their profession, there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing.

Requirements to Become a Chef

Getting a job in the culinary arts may require many years of training – or none at all – depending on the area of the culinary arts you want to go into.

If you’re looking for a career in the fast food or short-order industry, you won’t need any education past your high school diploma, since you’ll receive most of your training on the job. However, if you would like to become a chef and work in an upper-level restaurant or open your own restaurant, you’ll need to attend a professional culinary arts school.

Requirements for Becoming a Chef

Generally, you’ll need to earn a certificate or even a two- or four-year degree to be a head chef or own your own restaurant. You can pursue these programs from any culinary arts school, although not all of them are accredited by the American Culinary Federation.  These programs usually last a year or two, before you move into an apprenticeship that lasts another few years.

Few graduates go directly to a head cook or chef position; most must spend a few years gaining experience in the kitchen before they meet the requirements to become a chef in a higher-level position.

If you’re anxious to begin your culinary arts career, you may find that some of these programs offer accelerated degree options. In these programs, you’ll take longer classes over a shorter period of time – rather than taking a handful of classes each semester.  While these programs do enable you to enter the workforce sooner, they can be intense – be sure you’re up for the challenge before you enroll.

In addition to education, there are a number of other qualifications for becoming a chef. You will likely need to demonstrate these qualification in order to gain employment. Working in a kitchen is a hot, high pressure environment, and it takes a certain kind of temperament to withstand that kind of stress day-in and day-out.  You’ve got to be ready to work quickly while juggling a number of orders and tasks.  With practice, you can become more efficient – although working chefs may have limited patience if this is a skill you don’t inherently possess.

Another qualification for culinary arts professionals is manual dexterity – you’ll have to be able to cut, slice, and chop various foods during the day without cutting yourself. You also need a good sense of taste and smell to know when dishes are done and if they taste like they should.  If you’re planning on becoming a head chef someday, you’ll also need to be creative with your food.  Restaurant menus and specialty dishes are often created by the head chef or owner, so you may be called on to create your very own dish to serve.

Finally, you need to have a sense of cleanliness because kitchens must adhere to the strictest of health codes and requirements. Many culinary arts education programs offer classes on food safety protocols – it’s imperative that you be familiar with these, especially if you own your own restaurant.  You may also find it useful to know a foreign language since many restaurant staff members are international.

In addition to these qualifications and education, there’s one very, very important thing you must have to really make your mark in the culinary arts – passion. You have to be passionate about your cooking and the food you create.  The culinary arts field is one of those areas in which a person’s enjoyment of their job is truly reflected in their work.  If you’re passionate about cooking, your enthusiasm will show through in the quality of the dishes you create and prepare.

Culinary School Overview

Getting an education in the culinary arts is a bit different from other jobs. First, the amount of education you need depends on what type of cooking you want to do. For those who work in fast food, work as a short-order cook, or work as a food preparer, culinary degrees just aren’t necessary. Workers in these positions usually receive all of their education and training on the job. However, if you’re looking for a position as a chef in a larger restaurant, you’ll likely need to attend a cooking school or at the very least take some culinary art classes.