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.