What Can You Expect To Earn In The Culinary Industry?
Money seems to be one of those topics that all culinary students want to know more about. How much does culinary school really cost? How much can I expect to make after culinary school graduation? Exactly how much money does Rachel Ray bring in every year?
These kids of questions are valid ones; after all, becoming a chef is a life-long dream for many people, and it's important to know exactly what to expect in pursuing that dream.
Although salaries in the culinary industry vary depending on where you live (for example, a job in New York is going to pay more than a job in Iowa, simply by virtue of cost-of-living) and what type of restaurant you're in, there are a few averages that can help you in making a decision.
At one end of the spectrum are the line cooks and sous chefs, who make among the lowest incomes in the culinary industry. Entry-level positions begin at $18,000 a year and work up to $28,000, depending on whether or not you have a degree and/or experience in the kitchen.
Baking schools tend to be less popular than culinary schools, and the starting wages in this field reflect that. That's because those who do the hiring (commercial baking kitchens and bakeries) don't always have as many opportunities for career growth. Graduates can expect to make between $16,000 and $26,000 to start.
The field of hospitality management typically offers a higher starting wage, though it often requires an Associate or Bachelor's degree prior to hire. Most professionals can expect to make between $25,000 and $45,000 for working either directly with the food or in a more general manager's role. Career advancement in hospitality management tends to be higher than what you can find in a more traditional culinary role, with top hotel managers exceeding the $80,000 mark.
At the higher end of the spectrum are the Chefs and Pastry Chefs, who can pull anywhere from $30,000 to upwards of $60,000 per year, depending on how successful they are and where they work. For those interested in opening their own restaurants, the pay can range anywhere from a modest $40,000 to over $100,000 per year, though the amount of hours worked a day (at least in the beginning) can be grueling.
Of course, there are exceptions to any and all of these rules – and there are other benefits to take into consideration, as well. Many culinary professionals find that the creative license given at a smaller restaurant makes the lower pay acceptable, while others find the weekend and evening hours at a hotel are a great trade-off for a higher income.
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.