What Can You do with a Culinary Arts Degree?
These days, a culinary degree is more than just a ticket to a job working as a line cook in a restaurant. Although this is certainly a possibility if that is where your interests lie, a culinary degree from a reputable culinary arts school actually offers a wealth of opportunities as far as careers and work environments go.
No longer forced to consider restaurants as the only place to send your resume, you can actually take your culinary arts degree all over the world.
When you look at a picture of food in a magazine or a steaming plate on your favorite cooking show, you are not just seeing the latest recipe whipped up on the fly. These are actually carefully-constructed visuals of food at its most appealing.
Food stylists arrange a meal to look its best on a plate and prepare the food according to its maximum appeal (for example, they often create “steam” through the use of chemicals, create foods out of alternate materials, play with cooking techniques to maximize color, and find ways to make food look good for longer).
In short, they are the beauticians of the culinary world. Jobs can be found with photographers, food magazines, marketing companies, or television cooking shows.
Being a caterer is as close to restaurant cooking as you can get without actually working in a kitchen. Many of the techniques and skills are the same; however, you are typically cooking for large quantities of people and making food that will hold up either on a buffet line or during longer serving times. You may also get to work in menu creation.
Many caterers run their own small businesses servicing large events, weddings, brown bag lunches, or hotels.
Personal chefs are becoming increasingly more popular, especially in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. You typically work for either a single client or several clients, preparing meals and small catered events according to their preferences and dietary needs.
Many personal chefs prepare a week’s (or two weeks’) worth of food at a time, creating meals that can be frozen and recooked by the client.
Being a personal chef is one of the most financially-rewarding culinary careers – especially if you find a niche serving higher-end clientele. Most personal chefs work for themselves.
Nutritionists combine culinary skills with a background in science. They study how the human body reacts to specific nutrients in food, often offering dietary consulting or meal preparation for specific dietary needs.
Most nutritionists carry at least a Bachelor’s degree, although it isn’t required to practice in the field. Many nutritionists sell their services much like personal chefs do. Other job opportunities include working for magazines, television shows, or writing books on nutrition.
Another science-based side of a culinary arts degree is food science. This study focuses on the technical and chemical aspects of food. Food scientists usually study food processing, packaging, preservation, and even the way that smells and food interact. They dabble in everything from food safety to molecular gastronomy.
Food scientists typically work for food manufacturers or laboratories associated with universities and research facilities.
Cruise Ship Staff
Being a cook or chef on a cruise ship is a great way to travel while doing what you love. While it is not a job for those who aren’t willing to be gone for long periods of time, it is great for those with a little wanderlust for the world.
You typically work in the kitchen of the cruise ship, much in the same way you would work in the kitchens of a restaurant. You may find yourself facing long hours and lower wages than many on-shore industry jobs, but you do get to see quite a few ports of call.
Bed and Breakfast
If you choose to work in the bed and breakfast industry, you typically have two choices: to work for another proprietor or to start your own. Some of the larger and higher-end B&Bs hire chefs and cooks to handle the culinary side of things (from menu planning to actual preparation); however, smaller businesses may do the cooking themselves.
For those with an eye to becoming an entrepreneur, running a bed and breakfast is a great way to combine business and cooking.
Cooking School Instructor
Although many cooking school instructors also work in the restaurant industry, some focus solely on the teaching aspect of the culinary world. Most instructors have a degree in addition to their culinary experience, as well as a love of teaching and mentoring.
Jobs with more prestigious educational facilities typically require at least a Bachelor’s degree and two years of industry experience. Jobs can typically found in private and public educational facilities.
Another career that is great for those with an entrepreneurial bent is running a bakery or pastry shop. Between birthdays, weddings, and other special events, the market for specialty-baked goods is actually quite large – especially when compared to the number of shops currently in operation.
If you have a flair for decoration and want to create a successful business to boot, this could be an ideal choice.
Choosing the Right Career
No matter where your interests lie, there is a great culinary career just waiting for you. Consider all the things that interest you in addition to cooking – from the sciences to world travel – and you should be able to find a niche that not only allows you to do what you love, but to make quite a bit of money doing it.
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.