January 13, 2021

Not everyone with an interest in food has a dream of being a commercial chef. From personal chefs to food photographers to restaurant designers and more, there are dozens of exciting careers in the food world.

A degree or diploma from Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts can prepare you for many alternative culinary careers. With foundations in French culinary technique and a business-focused curriculum, Escoffier aims to prepare students for a future in food, whether that’s in or out of the kitchen.

Here are five alternative culinary careers that you may not have thought of — and which can start with an education at culinary school.

1. Specialty Food Buyer

Specialty food buyers are invaluable to all types of food preparers and resellers. As sourcing experts, they work with restaurants, grocery stores, catering companies, and wholesalers to supply niche foods and ingredients.

There’s a lot more to this job than simply fulfilling orders. Specialty buyers need an extensive knowledge of food and food quality standards. Plus, they need financial skills to stay within a customer’s budget. They also have to build relationships with both clients and vendors, and be adept negotiators to keep both sides of the transaction happy.

Food buyers are also responsible for taking a long-term view of the supply chain. A drought one year could make the following year’s crop of specialty spices go up in price. A great specialty buyer should know what’s coming and help keep their clients informed.

To get started as a specialty food buyer, an entry-level role with a distributor or specialty grocery store could be a great way to start learning about products and supply chain.

2. Restaurant & Hospitality Publicist

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of restaurants, and one of those things is public relations. Restaurant publicists help spread the word about new restaurants and other hospitality businesses. They secure placement for restaurants in local and national media, get them invited to food festivals, and overall improve brand visibility. Some also manage restaurant social media.

A cheerful business owner standing with open blackboard

Publicists often get invited to all the new restaurant openings and events, so these professionals eat well!

To break into this field, publicists should understand culinary techniques and preparation methods, so they can speak authoritatively about their clients. Some marketing education will also help, but some publicists learn on the job. Many PR agencies take on interns, which is a great way to get experience!

3. Ghost Restaurant Chef/Owner

Opening a traditional restaurant has many rewards, but it also comes with risk, like a large financial investment.

Ghost restaurants provide another opening to a culinary career, with less risk. Also called virtual or cloud restaurants, these establishments don’t have a dining room or any guest-facing spaces. Instead, they only interact with customers online, fulfilling orders by delivery. These virtual restaurants operate out of leased commercial space, which makes them much more affordable to operate.

Partnerships with delivery services like Uber Eats, GrubHub, and DoorDash make the deliveries, so you can focus on the food. DoorDash is even rolling out their own ghost kitchen spaces to streamline the process.

Red DoorDash kitchens ghost kitchen storefront
To get started with a ghost restaurant, you’ll need a solid business plan. And before you get too far into the process, confirm that there is commercial kitchen space for rent in your area.

4. Food Writer

If you love food and love to write, why not become a food writer? A culinary school education could give you the language you need to describe the taste, aroma, and mouthfeel of ingredients and completed dishes. Plus, knowledge of cooking techniques and cuisines from around the world will help you to speak knowledgeably about food. These topics are all explored at Escoffier!

Even within this niche, there are many different career options. You could start a blog and write reviews of the restaurants in your town, or share your own recipes. This may take some time to pay off, but many people have turned blogs into lucrative careers.

Student taking notes of food in journal while using laptop computer
You could also pitch stories to print or online magazines. Or you could work with chefs to develop cookbooks.

There are many ways to get started as a food writer. You could start a food blog today, if you wish. Or if you think you need some additional writing skills to supplement your culinary school education, you could take some writing or journalism courses.

5. Artisan Food Producer

Not all people who make food create dishes to order. Many people instead devote their culinary talents to making prepared foods to sell on a retail or wholesale basis.

Salamis and prosciuttos, jams, cheeses, honey, pestos, olive oils, and breads are popular artisanal foods. To meet high quality control standards and stay close to the finished product, these items are usually produced in small batches.

People looking at local honey.
This type of business gives you the opportunity to work with local suppliers and farmers for raw materials. In a time when people are more interested in shopping small and supporting local businesses, an artisanal food business could be a fun and fulfilling career.

Before you dive in head first, try working for an established local food artisan to learn about the business.

Escoffier Culinary Arts students can get a look at the world of the artisan food producer in the Farm to Table® Experience during their studies. Centered on the link between farmers, artisans, and the greater local food community, this course highlights the advantages of buying local and making sustainable food choices.

On-campus students will also spend one day per week on a working farm or with a local maker to get a first-hand look at these vital small businesses.

Start with Education

We’ve barely skimmed the surface of what’s possible with a culinary arts degree or diploma. Once you have the knowledge foundation from culinary school, there is a wide world of career possibilities.

Escoffier’s graduates receive practical training in food and cooking. But they also take business courses which can help in any of these alternative culinary careers.

With programs in Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, and Food & Beverage Operations, Escoffier may be the ideal place for you to start your new venture.

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This article was originally published on August 15, 2019, and has been updated.