If you’re attending a culinary arts school it’s natural to assume you’re training to work in a restaurant, and that’s a great career choice. But there are so many jobs for culinary graduates…and some of them are probably opportunities that you didn’t realize were even an option.
Many culinary graduates go on to become food stylists, recipe developers or food writers. And as a working chef, there’s a whole range of jobs that will put your skills to work, whether you’re a personal chef or cooking on a cruise ship.
Let’s take some time to explore all the career options available once you’ve graduated from culinary school.
Working in a restaurant is the obvious choice for someone with a culinary education. There is a range of positions in a kitchen: An executive chef, at least one sous chef, several line and station chefs, cooks, prep cooks and many positions outside the kitchen, such as an expediter.
A culinary arts degree or diploma will qualify you for any of these roles – traditionally people work their way up the ladder as they gain experience since getting used to the pace and flow in a restaurant kitchen can be a challenge.
Catering is similar to a restaurant setting but is typically larger orders for special events – festivals, weddings, conferences. The kitchen brigade will be structured in the same manner as a restaurant kitchen and, again, you’ll have to work your way up the ladder if you want to become an executive chef.
If you decide to specialize in pastry arts you’ll have opportunities at bakeries, some grocery stores, hotels, fine dining, and many catering companies. Hands-on experience is especially important if you want to work your way up in this profession, so expect to be working at a fairly low level for the first few years after graduation.
One of the more unique jobs for culinary graduates is working as a personal or private chef. If you like the idea of working for yourself and want to have more control over your customers, this might be a good fit for you. As a personal chef, you’ll work with clients directly and create dishes that are suited to their needs – whether for a young family, a busy professional, or someone who isn’t able to cook for themselves. As a private chef, you’ll work for one client only, be expected to travel with them, and often customize the meal planning to suit a specific dietary need. If you like the variety and challenge of running your own small business, this is an interesting career path.
If you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, and you’re willing to do the constant research required, working as a recipe developer can be a very rewarding career choice. Whether you’re working in a commercial kitchen or in your own test kitchen, there are lots of jobs for culinary graduates in this field – creating recipes for restaurants, special catering menus, and recipe books.
You can combine your culinary education with your writing skills and work as a food writer. There’s a demand for writers both online – blogs, for example – and in print publications like magazines and newspapers. Your talents might be put to use writing a memoir, recipe book or commercials. Food writers often work on several projects at once for many clients and companies over the course of their careers.
When considering jobs for culinary graduates, food stylists are often overlooked. If you have an artistic flair, combining it with your culinary skills may be a good career choice. Food stylists are people who arrange food in beautiful ways so it can be photographed or displayed, and graduates of culinary arts programs make great food stylists. Many people in this profession work as independent contractors, and although it can take some time to gain a reputation, it can be a very rewarding job.
If you’re studying at a good culinary school you’re getting skills you can use in a wide range of food-related industries, not just restaurants. And a really great school will give you the skills and tools you can take with you, no matter what you choose to do with your career in the future.
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This article was originally published on June 29, 2015, and has since been updated.