Culinary arts careers can turn your love of food and sense of creativity into a means of lifetime support. The restaurant industry always has jobs, and you’ll never go hungry. But passion and energy is needed to survive.
A culinary arts career is not for the faint of heart. The majority of food service industry jobs require long hours, weekends and holidays. Throughout your career there will be intense moments of pressure and chaos combined with complaints, praises and strong emotions. There will be laid back potato peeling and onion slicing with laughing and groaning.
You’ll also find the food service industry has a powerful camaraderie, and your co-workers will quickly become family. Teamwork is essential to everyone’s survival, and your advancement. You will always be around people, and if you enjoy working with the public as well, you will climb the culinary career ladder faster.
Unless someone has exceptional culinary talents and connections that count, the culinary career will begin at the bottom. Getting your foot in the door is the first step. The restaurant industry employs over nine million people, but there is a lot of competition. There is also a lot of turnover, and much of the turnover is from career advancement. One person’s career advancement is another person’s career advancement.
Beginning at the bottom does have many advantages. If your career path is going to lead you to a management position, chef position or restaurant owner, working from the ground floor up is an asset to your resume. You’ll know the requirements, stresses and advantages of each job, and you will be better able to communicate to your staff to get the results you want. Someone who hasn’t climbed the career path won’t have this advantage, and hiring executives know this. Working up the ladder is an investment in your career.
A career in the culinary arts requires a sense of creativity, as well as the ability to produce consistently in a manufacturing production style. A pastry chef at a quality hotel will be able to design spectacular desserts, but they will be produced for large numbers of people. A prep chef may spend hours chopping vegetables, but they may also create a beautiful display of flowers using their own cutting and paring techniques and talents. I
If you are planning to advance in your culinary arts career to food management, restaurant management, executive chef or restaurant owner, you will also be responsible for controlling food costs and waste. In these positions, basic math skills will be required, and likely some computer data entry, scheduling and purchasing. Working with the public is a must in a culinary management position. If the administrative or “front-of-the-house” aspect of chef management doesn’t appeal to you, the culinary arts has many opportunities for specialists. A signature chef may specialize in pastries, cake designing, vegetables, soups, sushi or ethnic or regional specialties. A signature chef’s career is centered on the art and science of food.
Culinary arts careers are varied and many. Starting at the bottom as a line cook or prep cook will work your way to the top. Even starting as a dishwasher can put you first in line to get behind the line. But you won’t get promoted unless you are a team player and you prove yourself. Make a career plan first, and on your way you might discovery some unhidden talents or new cooking obsessions. You must always be willing to learn new things. If you have the energy and the passion and enjoy food, creativity and teamwork, start learning, get your foot in the door – then start cooking your way into your own culinary arts career path.