Everyone knows at least a few people who have always known what they wanted to do with their lives. They listened to the cat’s heart with a toy stethoscope at age three, and never wavered in their desire to be a veterinarian. Or they started writing stories starring the neighborhood kids at age 7, and they scribbled their way right into a creative writing program.
If only we were all so lucky! For most of us, deciding on a career isn’t about following a straight path. It’s about traveling a winding road full of twists, turns, roads-not-taken, roundabouts, switchbacks, and the occasional dead end.
And this can make it hard to decide what to do next.
If you’ve been mulling over a career in culinary arts, you may be hesitant in taking that next step. Is it the right choice for you? How can you feel confident that you have a bright future in this industry?
Here’s how to determine whether culinary arts is indeed the right career for you.
Why Choose a Career in the Culinary Arts?
The culinary industry has so much to offer!
You may already be attracted to the environment—an energetic, exciting kitchen instead of a quiet office full of desks and computers. But why else should you pursue a culinary career?
Show Your Passion for Food and Service
If you spend your free time dreaming of new recipes, agonizing over how to recreate a dish from a local restaurant, or perusing the cheese selection at the grocery store with the intensity of a great explorer, you’ve likely been bitten by the food bug.
The most successful cooks and chefs combine a passion for food with a passion for great service. They may not be the ones bringing the finished plate to the table. But they take pride in sending out a beautifully built dish, confident that it’s going to delight the person who receives it.
If food is your passion, you’re probably not going to be truly fulfilled in your career until you make it your primary focus.
“It’s a lifetime. And it’s a passion… If you stick to it, like anything in life, when you get really good at it, the money will follow.”*
Chef Ben Robinson, TV Personality from Bravo’s Below Deck
The Culinary Industry Has Big Potential
The outlook for cooks and chefs looks bright.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for cooks is expected to grow 26% between 2020 and 2030. That represents nearly 600,000 new jobs in the industry. And for chefs and head cooks, things are looking nearly as good. The job market is expected to increase 25% in the same timeframe, with an increase in 28,000 jobs.
Compare that to the expected job growth across all industries—just 8%!
Considering these figures, the demand for cooks and chefs is likely going to be high over the next decade. And in the short term, that demand is particularly high in the wake of the pandemic. Some restaurants are offering higher wages and more benefits to attract kitchen talent.
A cook who starts their career now may be in a perfect position to benefit from all this growth over the next few years!
Get Real World Culinary Stories from The Ultimate Dish Podcast
Escoffier’s podcast is full of inspirational stories and the truth about the industry from successful chefs and entrepreneurs. Get started with these six episodes:
- Daryl Shular: Starting at the Bottom, Becoming a Master Chef
- Make Yourself Indispensable: Executive Chef Melissa Trimmer Shares Tips for Aspiring Chefs
- From Addiction To Graduating Culinary School With Honors
- Michelin Star Chef Curtis Duffy On His Journey to the Top of the World
- Army Vet Overcomes Paralysis to Become Culinary Entrepreneur
Culinary Arts Can Be the Doorway to Dozens of Careers
Maybe you love to cook, but you’re not 100% sure that you want to work in a restaurant kitchen.
That’s wonderful! You’ve identified something that lights you up and gets you excited. Fortunately, deciding you want a career in culinary is not the same as deciding you want a career in a restaurant.
There are many careers in the industry that are food related, outside of the kitchen. There are artisan producers who make specialty chocolates, salsas, and other edible goodies. There are food critics who use their knowledge to assess the quality of local restaurants, and food writers who take an anthropological approach to cultural cuisines.
Research chefs develop new products for food brands. Chef consultants help restaurants to become more efficient or improve their operations. Food stylists focus on the aesthetics of the perfect plate for photos and film. Food bloggers make their own recipes and share them with the world, and foodie influencers keep their audience in-the-know on the local hotspots.
Getting the idea? There are dozens of ways to work in food. In fact, it could be one of the most versatile career options out there.
Regardless of which segment of the culinary industry you’re most excited about, a culinary education can help you get there. Employers often love to see an education on a resume. It can prove that the applicant is dedicated to their career. They’ve invested the time, energy, and money to grow their skills and become well-rounded cooks or culinarians. Culinary school grads are usually in it for the long haul!
Culinary Arts Allows You To Push Yourself and Improve Your Skills
Are you the type who loves to push yourself to be better?
Great chefs are constantly striving to improve. This could mean innovating and learning new skills to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Or it could mean diving deep into a particular culinary tradition or technique, exploring it from all angles and across many different food styles to be the best at that one particular thing.
Starting in culinary school and continuing throughout their careers, the best cooks and chefs are on a constant path of learning and self-discovery, seeing how far they can push themselves and their creativity.
Is a Culinary Career Right for You?
No single career choice is suitable for everyone. The culinary arts are exciting and rewarding, but that doesn’t mean that everyone would be happy as a cook or chef. If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, a culinary track may not be for you.
You Want a 9-5 Job
In some culinary jobs, like that of a food writer or research chef, a consistent 9-5 job is possible. But for many, the hours in the culinary industry vary. You may have to work evenings, weekends, and/or holidays.
You Prefer Working Alone
Preparing food for large groups requires working with a team. So if you’d rather be an army of one, culinary may not be the best choice. Of course, there are exceptions! You could open a small food truck… or you might be a solo food blogger or a private/personal chef… but even in these careers, you may find that you need some help.
You’re After Fame and Fortune
The Bobby Flays and Ina Gartens of the world are anomalies. Most cooks and chefs are not celebrities, and they are not rich. They do it for the love of the craft, not the love that gets heaped onto them from an adoring public. If you’re only into food for the accolades, you may be disappointed and unhappy if they don’t come.
You Prefer the Beat of your Own Drum
The kitchen hierarchy, also called the brigade de cuisine, was invented by our namesake, Auguste Escoffier. Modeled after military ranks, it creates a clear chain of command and keeps a kitchen running smoothly.
To work as intended, this model requires all team members to faithfully follow their leader and execute tasks as assigned. If you don’t follow instructions, the whole kitchen can break down! So you must be willing to do your part as instructed to keep the operation running.
How Culinary School Can Prepare You For a Successful Culinary Career
Culinary School Can Give You Strong Fundamentals in Cooking and Flavor
Every expert must start with the fundamentals. In culinary, this includes the basics like knife skills, cooking techniques, flavor profiles, and sanitation. It’s on these foundations that the rest of your cooking expertise will be built.
In culinary school, students can be exposed to these principles by experienced Chef Instructors. But school goes far beyond these basics. Students may be introduced to a variety of world cuisines, with flavors they may have never experienced before. They can explore the basics of baking, so they can approach breads and other baked goods from a scientific perspective. They can explore business topics as well, like menu planning and pricing, foodservice operations, and even communication skills.
Culinary school graduates are not chefs. They haven’t yet earned that title. But with their new skills, they can be ready to take the next step into the professional world where they can hone their skills. Some students find that their time in culinary school allows them to make much faster progress through the ranks than they could have otherwise!
“I’ve gained a better understanding of how to execute a variety of techniques as well as how to manage a kitchen. I went from washing dishes and cleaning a commercial kitchen to managing my own within a two-year span. Escoffier has given me the culinary and business tools, resources, knowledge, and self-confidence I need in order to make my dream a reality!”*
Mitchell Rodriguez, Online Culinary Arts Graduate & Sous Chef, Holiday Retirement
Your Time in School Can Help You Chart Out Your Next Steps
What if you don’t know where you want your culinary career to take you?
As long as you have a passion for food and cooking, you can start your culinary education.
In culinary school, you can choose a program like culinary arts, plant-based culinary arts, or baking and pastry. But you don’t have to choose a specific career goal. There are no majors or tracks within these programs at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts!
Students can explore culinary basics, world cuisines, business and entrepreneurship, and more—valuable lessons that graduates can take with them wherever they go.
In fact, some students discover where they want to take their careers during their time in school. It can be a place for personal discovery as well as a place for technical learning.
“The most valuable part of my Escoffier education was building up the confidence that I needed—not just in an amazing career field that I love, but also to wake up, look life in the eye, and ask, ’Is that all you’ve got?’ And to continue to be in that empowering mindset no matter the challenges I face.”*Tessa Norman, Online Pastry Arts Graduate
So… Are the Culinary Arts a Good Career For Me?
If you’re passionate about food and want to work in an industry that expects big growth in the coming years, culinary arts could be the perfect place for you to build a career.
The first step on that fulfilling path is getting an education.
If you have questions about Escoffier’s programs, our Admissions Department is here to help. Contact us to get all the answers you need and start planning your career in culinary arts.
To learn more careers in the culinary arts, try these articles next:
- How to Become a Michelin Star Chef
- 5 Alternative Careers Out of Culinary School
- What It Takes to Be an Executive Chef
*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.