February 17, 2020

Attending culinary school is a great path to choose if you’d like a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry, even become a chef or restaurant owner one day.

But your options aren’t limited to working in a restaurant kitchen once you’ve completed your program – there are so many paths you can follow with your education and experience. One of those options is to work as a recipe developer.

You can turn your love of food – and your education – into a career sharing your creativity and knowledge with a broader audience. Does this sound interesting? Then read on, and we’ll answer some of the common questions…

What Is a Recipe Developer?

As the name suggests, you’re responsible for creating new recipes – often alongside a chef – for restaurants, special events, and cookbooks. You might find yourself working at a restaurant, in a large commercial kitchen, or in your own, specially designed space. You might even develop recipes and share them online as a food blogger, or get paid to develop recipes for other blogs.

What Kind of Experience Do I Need?

Most recipe developers have spent time in a professional kitchen and have basic training from a culinary school. While they may not have been professional chefs, they have experience in some aspect of foodservice – restaurants, hotels, institutions – so they understand the industry. It’s an asset to have experience as a chef since they know how to streamline a recipe for service, but it’s not essential.

How Do Developers Write Recipes?

Writing is, in fact, a very small part of the process.

The largest part will include researching and reading. You’ll spend a great deal of time reviewing cookbooks, reading books about the culinary arts, even magazines that focus on food. You’ll also talk to culinary experts. All of this will give you a grounding in the present trends, and a sense of future trends that will impact your recipes.

Your research might include fitting the recipe to a particular niche – vegan, dairy-free – or perhaps needing to incorporate a specific ingredient – developing a summer menu that features fresh tomatoes, for example. It’s up to you, as the recipe developer, to understand the culture and make use of all the ingredients effectively.

An online recipe developer typing on a computer.

How Do Recipe Developers Approach Their Work?

Your basic knowledge and research will only take you so far. A successful recipe developer has a certain perspective and way of thinking about their craft. They’ll look at a meal and think about what can be replaced to achieve a variety of goals – improving the flavors or adding in new cultural influences, for example. They’re able to imagine how the dish can be adapted to different settings, from home cooking to commercial kitchens and everything in between.

A great recipe developer is thinking about food…all the time. They’ll be thinking about their favorite dishes, why chefs have made decisions about their own creations…they’re in constant analysis mode. This gives them the ability to innovate and create new and interesting recipes of their own.

How Can I Become a Recipe Developer?

We always tell our students that it’s important to keep your eyes peeled on the job boards for new opportunities. America’s Test Kitchen, for example, is always putting up new positions – again, research comes into play as you set your new career path.

And don’t discount networking…check in with chefs and other kitchen staff you know personally, watch for new restaurants opening, and be sure to tell people what you’re after – you never know where your opportunity is waiting.

Many recipe developers start out as line cooks. This high-pressure position in the kitchen will give you a very thorough understanding of how your recipe will make it from the page to the plate.

It also helps to build your knowledge – and resume – if you get licenses from organizations like the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

If you enjoy the idea of researching and then creating innovative new recipes and understand the “big picture” in food service, working as a recipe developer is probably a great career path for you to choose.

Wherever you take your culinary education, we encourage you to continue learning, keep cooking, and keep developing your skills as a culinary expert.

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This article was originally published on August 2, 2016, and has since been updated.