Culinary Career Options: Working in a Banquet Service
Most culinary students dream of the day when they’ll possess the ultimate culinary title: Executive Chef. It’s not uncommon for students to be driven by visions of restaurant ownership, five stars attached to their name, and the ability to plan and implement their own menu someday.
And while these are noble goals, the truth is that it will take years of work to get to that level. In the meantime, you’ll need to get plenty of hands-on experience with all different types of cuisine—and all types of food service organizations. One way in which to get some of the skills you’ll need is to work as part of a banquet service.
On the Banquet Line
Banquet workers, like catering professionals, specialize in creating large portions that offer consistent quality and taste—often for hours at a time. As a prep cook for a banquet, you can expect to spend considerable time working with one or two ingredients, perhaps chopping onions or preparing potatoes.
While this might not seem like the most exciting eight hours you’ll ever spend on the job, there is something to be said for this kind of repetition. Over time, you’ll become faster, develop better muscles, and even come up with a few tricks that are unique to your style of cooking. These are all skills that will serve you in the culinary field.
At higher levels, you might be asked to make food to-order (think omelets or crepes), carve and serve cuts of meat, or even supervise an entire team of banquet servers. In these instances, you can also develop additional techniques and learn who you are as a cook.
Maybe it turns out that you are great bantering with customers, or perhaps you have a knack for coming up with on-your-feet solutions to problems. All of these are great skills to discover.
Becoming a Banquet Manager
Banquet management is a great career path all its own. Banquets can be large, ornate, and demanding, and being able to keep the client happy isn’t always an easy task. However, don’t expect to walk out of culinary school and into a banquet management job; working your way up through the ranks can take a few years, and require additional education at the Master’s degree level.
As a banquet manager, you can expect to:
- Coordinate with various departments (housekeeping, beverage management, marketing)
- Talk with and meet clients
- Manage budgets
- Sell and promote events
- Organize (and in some cases, hire) banquet staff
- Prepare and help serve food
- Create unique menus
- Comply with food safety and sanitation regulations
Banquet managers make an average of $45,000 per year, and the position often allows you to work for big-name restaurants and businesses. Although there isn’t a direct path to banquet management, a degree in hospitality management can go a long way, since so much of this field takes place in hotels.
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.