Culinary Arts or Culinary Management

April 11, 2010 23 Comments

Culinary Arts or Culinary Management

The Difference between Culinary Arts and Culinary Management Programs

Every day I get emails from future chefs, restaurateurs and culinary managers looking for top culinary schools and how to pursue a culinary education. One of the questions I’m often asked is “What’s the difference between a culinary arts program and a culinary management program.” Great question and one I’d like to explore in this post.

Choosing a career in the culinary field is a great first step for a profitable future. With positions all throughout the restaurant industry on the rise, more and more opportunities for new graduates are expected to open up. This can mean exciting possibilities for individuals with an interest in food preparation.

However, before you sign up for culinary school, you must first decide between the types of culinary programs offered. Two of the most popular are culinary arts programs and culinary management programs. Although these programs offer much of the same basic education at their cores, they are geared toward different professions.

What is a Culinary Arts Program?

Culinary arts programs are what most of us think of when it comes to cooking as a professional. Chefs, sous chefs, celebrity cooks, bakers, line cooks – many of these individuals graduated or attended a culinary arts program. These programs are all about food science, from understanding the nutritional content of raw materials to combining flavors and mastering tricky culinary techniques. The “art” side of the program comes into play because of how much individual creativity goes into combining flavors to create dishes that others will enjoy.

Most culinary arts professionals work in a kitchen of some kind. Although well-rounded culinary arts programs will include some coursework on issues of restaurant management, food safety, and the more technical aspects of kitchen maintenance, most of the focus is on the food: how to prepare it, how to cook it, and how to make it look like a work of art.

What is a Culinary Management Program?

Culinary management is an educational course that prepares graduates to work on the practical side of running a restaurant. Unlike culinary arts programs, which focus mostly on the cooking aspect of the restaurant industry, culinary management goes beyond food preparation to include restaurant management, human resources issues, safety in the kitchen, menu development, and front-of-the-house issues.

Ideal for students who enjoy cooking but want to take a more business-oriented approach to the career, culinary management is all about working with the customers and with the staff to make the restaurant run most effectively. It takes some general business acumen as well as more accounting, law, and general education learning than the culinary arts program alone. It also takes a strong leader who knows quite a bit about food and how it is best prepared.

Getting a Culinary Degree

One of the biggest differences in culinary arts programs and culinary management programs is the type of education students receive. Although there certainly are exceptions, most culinary arts programs are offered as diploma, certification, or Associate Degree courses, while culinary management tends to fall under a more “scholarly” approach.

Many culinary management programs are offered in conjunction with private and public universities, and students hold anything from a two-year Associate Degree to a six-year Master’s Degree. The primary reason for this difference is the more business-oriented approach of culinary management, since students may have to first get a strong base in economics, finance, and marketing before they learn about the specializations of the culinary market.

Job Opportunities in the Culinary Field

Individuals who gradate from culinary arts programs typically go on to work in restaurants, bakeries, and commercial kitchens. They may work as line cooks, making roughly $10.00 an hour, or they may work as executive chefs in their own restaurants, with an income of $60,000 to $100,000 per year. The work tends to be physically demanding, fast-paced, and require weekend and evening work; however, those who love to cook often find that there is nothing else they’d rather be doing.

Individuals who graduate from culinary management programs go on to work in restaurants (either supervising the kitchen or the front of the house), hotels and other hospitality trade businesses, and catering companies, among others. The average salary rests between $40,000 and $70,000 per year, with higher wages offered at the upper management levels. A love of food is still a bonus, since many culinary managers find themselves in charge of menu development or even jumping on the line to help out during a rush.

Which Culinary Program is Right for You?

There are pros and cons to each type of culinary program. While culinary management offers higher wages, it does typically require more education and more time spent away from actual food preparation. The culinary arts, though emotionally satisfying for those who love the field, can cause burnout and quite a bit of competition when it comes to landing the higher positions.

Because both types of programs have a foundation in basic culinary skills, it may be best to find a culinary school that offers both programs. Once you start discovering which aspect of the culinary field appeals to you the most, you can then specialize and get firmly on track to your future as a culinary professional.

Last modified on Tue 4 February 2014 4:15 pm

Filed in: Culinary Careers

Comments (23)

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  1. Brandon says:

    I don’t know which route to go, but I’m sure i want to be in this field or work one day. I live in the Inland Empire so I’m close to the school. Any Ideas…..

    Hi Brandon, I’m not exactly sure what you are asking for, but I would start by reading everything you can about the industry, speaking with professionals in the field and contacting schools about requirements. There is a ton of articles, information and interviews on my web site to look at too. – RG

  2. kirin says:

    i’m a international student and i also in a dilemma in choosing my program.the essential problem for me is to get an employment,could you tell me which can easy to get a job,please?

  3. Anna says:

    So in my city there is a Johnson and Wales University. I am currently in high- school and plan on going there after graduation. At Johnson and Wale they have a major for Culinary Arts and Food Management, it is a combined major and I would really like to do that . Do you think this is a good idea? Or should I stick to just one or the other.

    Hi Anna, I think you should speak with you guidance counselors, the school’s representatives and your parents to figure out what is the best path for you. I would also ask the school if they could put you in contact with current student or recent graduate who has completed the combined major before you make your decision. Let me know how it turns out for you when you get to school. – RG

  4. Brother Beno, Storyteller says:

    As a storyteller I’ve been searching the web for resources on things I hadn’t thought of and this is now on my favorites list. I had never considered the difference between the management of the restaurant being so closely related to the kitchen as what you have shown here. I’m glad I found it and now that I have this knowledge and resource it is more likely that I will be able to develop a story that contains it. Brother Beno, Storyteller

    Hi Beno, can’t wait to read your story about restaurant management and the kitchen. – RG

  5. Daniel says:

    Is there anything to be said for just entering the field without a degree and working your way up? I have several friends who went that route and continue to get job offers across the city. Granted they end up job hopping a bit. But they seem to be happy with the lifestyle. Daniel Hansen

    Hi Daniel, great point. I know several chefs personally and have read about many more who have come up the ranks and now own their own restaurants. On the other hand, I have spoken with chef owners who say they only interview graduates of culinary school. So there is lots to be said about entering the field without a degree and learning on the job, but for many people, they need the confidence of having an education behind them. – RG

  6. Diegado Times says:

    @Daniel, The biggest incentive to go education, is the pay and position. You could be a senior in the kitchen in terms of time spent, and still a guy with credentials could be brought in house simply because he had the credentials. People find comfort in the idea that you entered into the available educational programs and successfully completed them.

  7. Robert says:

    Great post. I like how you detailed the difference between the two programs. Very helpful information.

    Thanks Robert – RG

  8. Damon D says:

    Very informative post, has really open my mind to the culinary world. I always wondered why people went to culinary schools. Speaking of me I’ll would definitely be someone who would pursue a culinary arts program, because i don’t see myself dealing with human resource like in the management program. I wanna do my job, which is cooking, and that’s it, no overhead. Damon D

    Thanks for your post Damon D – RG

  9. James says:

    Thank you for the information on differentiating the culinary arts and culinary management. Very educational. James Pizana

    You are welcome James – RG

  10. Vann says:

    I loved your article because I was just wondering what my Culinary Management degree after college. I do have a love for food, but I really love to prepare it as well. Should I look into a Culinary Arts degree after college or wait a couple of years?

    Hi Vann, not exactly sure what you are looking for but I think you should do as much research as you can, talk to as many people as you can and then weigh all your options before making a decision. – RG

  11. joycee says:

    what is required for me to get in an culinary art school?

    Hi Joycee, that really depends on the school you are interested in going to. Where do you live and what school are you thinking about.? – RG

  12. Steve says:

    I have been looking at schools on the internet to satisfy my desires for culinary programs. I am in the military and look forward to attending a school when I get out. It seems so difficult to make a decision and apply to one school or the other. I recently toured the CIA at Greystone campus and was very interested in what that school has to offer. I will also be touring Johnson and Wales campus in Denver soon. I am leaning towards J&W because they do have the option of a bachelors degree focusing on what I want to learn about, being able to successfully manage my own restaurant and develop a menu for my customers that brings them back for years. Thanks for your post. I wish everyone luck in their adventures.

    And thank you Steve for serving our country. Please keep me updated with you schooling. Would love to hear from you once you decide and then while you are in school. – RG

  13. chef Dhanapal says:

    i read this page and i like this really it usedful for all chefs

  14. Ahmad says:

    A very useful article, Thank you !!
    I am a computer engineer with 10 years experience now, my passion for cooking is growing and I want to have my own restaurant one day , so from your article I guess the best thing is to go for the management program, which i guess also will contain some cooking courses as well.. the question is that how much time in average does it take to finish the degree?

    Ahmad, it really depends on the school and the program. You’ll have to contact the school(s) you’re interested in for that information. Good luck – RG

  15. Akki says:

    I am not sure whether i must choose BSc or BBA in culinary management. Please Help.

  16. Samara says:

    Hi my name is Samara, i am in my last highschool year, i love to cook and im always cooking on my free time, i would love to attend to a culinary school, but i dont know if attending to one would be the best decision for me; im so desperate and i dont know what to do. Attending to the culinary institute of america had always been my dream but i dont know now. My dream has always been having restaurants, bakeries and everything that relates food. I dont know if it will be better to go for a business administration degree first or go for the culinary arts and managment in once. Please give me an advice that would help me in my future. Thank you

  17. joe says:

    Thank you for educating me, I just made the best descision of my life at least for now.However,it appears to seem like culinary management has a slight advantage over culinary art.

  18. Jason says:

    I am 34 and about to go get my culinary management degree. I have worked as a line cook for years and also been lead line cook. I have worked under a sous chef that worked for wolfgang puck at one time. I am every eager to do this I want to own my own restaurant at one point. I have a very unique menu in mind. I am going to school in Minneapolis there is a very rich culinary scene there. I am very interested in seeing what kinds of things I can learn that I don’t know yet. I do not expect to make very good money to start however you get out what you put in.

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Best of luck Jason with your upcoming culinary management program and please write back once you start and keep me updated with your progress. I’m very interested in hearing how it goes.

  19. john says:

    Our son is a sophmore at Southern New Hampshire University majoring in Culinary Arts. He can continue into the Culinary Mgt program. I see there are a few online programs where he can finish the Mgt program should he decide graduate with an Associates degree. We are concerned a online culinary education would not be as rewardful as attending class. What do you think? Is there a really good online program you recommend?

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Hi John and I can understand your concern. My advise would be to ask the online school to send you a list of people who have graduated from their courses so you can contact these individuals and get feedback directly from them. I personally like live, in person classes because that’s what I know but there are more and more online programs for a variety of subjects now being offered. Please come back and update me.

  20. Dakota Hobson says:

    I’m 21 years old and still live at home but I would like to go to the art institute in austin. I love cooking but I really want to own a restaurant some day but be the head chef still. Kind of like doing both culinary arts and culinary management. I’m really not sure what the best route is for me. I would like to specialize in an exotic yet still palletable asian style such as filipino food and japanese foods and I want it to be fine dining like reservations to eat and suit and tie. Serve lumpia shanghai or edamame for appetizer some days type of thing. So as I was saying. I don’t know which to choose. Idk if I should do culinary arts first then use that associates to do culinary management. That would take 6 years and $17, 000 per year. Idk if its worth it to do that. Also idk how to afford going to college at all my parents don’t support me and they make too much for financial aid to go in their name idk please write me back

    • Dakota Hobson says:

      Also, I’m not a big fan of talking to customers. Or well people in general however I am a great leader. Very ocd about how a kitchen should be ran. Idk if I should get a culinary management degree and eventually open my own restaurant and hire a manager for the front while I run the kitchen.

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