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Career Information

Professional Culinarian

Working in a commercial kitchen or food facility requires good physical health and a positive attitude along with the ability to work well with others. One skill that is valued more than creativity is reliability, this along with professionalism and paying attention to details are the keys to success in this profession.

A Day in the life of a Chef

Chefs are responsible for directing the activities of others, and in menu planning, recipe creation, food and supply ordering, training and specific cooking duties. They are typically the most senior member of the culinary staff. While chefs and cooks share similar duties, chefs typically have more training than cooks, including culinary degrees.

The exact duty performed by a chef or cook often depends on the type of establishment that employs them. For example, a large restaurant, hotel, or resort may have both kinds of workers, with separate staffs for differing food types. A smaller restaurant may have a single cook or chef, and several helpers. In this case, the cook would be responsible for preparation of all types of meals. A Personal Chef of a household or a company's R&D (research & development) Chef may be the only culinary staff member in their employ.

When hiring chefs and others in advanced cooking positions, employers prefer training after high school. These training programs range from a few months to 2 years or more. Longer programs leading to a certificate or a 2 year degree train chefs for fine-dining or upscale restaurants.

Culinary Careers Job Outlook

The US Department of Labor reports that there should be plenty of job openings for chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers through 2016. Many current cooks are reaching retirement age or are leaving the workforce, causing a great need for talented employees. In addition to needing new chefs and cooks to replace retiring workers, employment in the food service industry is expected to expand, as more Americans spend their leisure time in restaurants rather than cooking themselves, and travel more, staying more nights in hotels.

The largest demand for skilled cooks and chefs is expected in sit-down restaurants, which offer more varied menus. As the population ages, people are less willing to put up with fast food restaurants, and seek a more personal experience.

Employment change. Employment of chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers is expected to increase by 11 percent over the 2006-16 decade, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This occupation will have among the largest numbers of new jobs arise, about 351,000 over the period. Growth will be spurred by increases in population, household income, and demand for convenience that will lead to more people dining out and taking vacations that include hotel stays and restaurant visits. In addition, employment of chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers who prepare meals-to-go, such as those who work in the prepared foods sections of grocery or specialty food stores, should grow faster than average as these stores compete with restaurants for people's food dollars. Also, there is a growing consumer desire for convenient, healthier, made-from-scratch meals.

Culinary Career: Industry Statistics

For many aspiring chefs, this is the right time to think about starting a culinary career. The restaurant industry is booming. As the second largest employer, behind only the government, the restaurant industry employs 13.1 million people, in both front-of-the-house and kitchen positions, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). And both the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the NRA predict that this number will continue to grow over the next decade.

Typical Jobs

  • Entry level Culinarian
  • Restaurant Cook and Baker
  • Upscale Supermarket Cook and Baker
  • Gourmet Store Cook/Chef /Manager
  • Restaurant Manager/ Area Restaurant Manager
  • Personal Chef (Household)
  • Restaurant Chef (Theme, Casual, Fine Dining)
  • Sales Manager Catering/ Water Park
  • Hotel Chef/Executive Chef
  • Club Chef
  • QSR Chef (Quick Service Restaurant)
  • Food Production Chef (Cruise Ships, Airline Catering, Adult Living Communities, Military Bases, Business and Industry Cafeterias and Executive Dining Rooms)
  • Pastry Chef (retail and institutional)
  • Wholesale Food Sales Associate (street sales)
  • Food Broker/Special Event Planner/Rental Consultant
  • Food Stylist/ Food Photographer/ Food Journalist
  • Catering Entrepreneur/Cooking School Teacher
  • Party Chef/Catering Chef
  • Chef Instructor/Culinary Program Director
  • R&D Chef/Regional/Corporate Chef

Employers

  • Independent Restaurants
  • Chain Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Sport Venues
  • Theme and Amusement Parks
  • Destination Resorts
  • Cruise Ships
  • Airline and Train Caterers
  • Adult Living Communities
  • Institutional Food Service Contract Providers