Career Options for Ex-Chefs

Looking for a culinary career change? Here are some popular options for those who want to hang up the chef's hat and try something new.

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October 15, 2021 8 min read

There are many reasons a chef might, at some point, become an “ex-chef.” Maybe they’ve been working in a restaurant kitchen for decades and are ready for a change of pace. Maybe they’ve grown tired of their current position and are seeking something different to keep their mind challenged. Perhaps family or personal responsibilities have shifted or they’re looking to cut back the number of hours worked in retirement.

If you’re a chef deciding to pursue a career change, or you simply want to explore some future options, fear not. Here are a few different career paths an ex-chef can pursue.

Chef Instructor

Do you have a passion for education? Did your education make all the difference in your career trajectory?

A career as a chef instructor allows you to pass on your chef experience to the next generation of culinarians. It can be incredibly rewarding to impart valuable knowledge that someone told you (or that you wish someone had told you!)

Depending on what level you wish to teach — be it a high school vocational lab or a postsecondary class — a combination of credentials and experience are often necessary to become a professional chef instructor. Some schools require a certain number of years as a head chef; others may require a certification in culinary education from an organization like the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

Lance McWhorter, Food Network “Chopped” contestant, Executive Chef & Owner of Culture ETX, and Escoffier Online Culinary Arts graduate“My education with Escoffier has really given me a good foundation. It has filled a resume gap, it’s filled a professional gap and a skills gap. It has helped me in all aspects of my culinary career.”
Lance McWhorter, Escoffier Online Graduate; Executive Chef/Owner, Culture ETX; Food Network “Chopped” Contestant

Escoffier’s Chef Instructors have extensive experience in professional kitchens that allows them to speak directly to the real-life experiences students will eventually face in the industry.

Research & Development Chef

If you’re fascinated by the art and science of the kitchen, and always experimenting with flavors, textures, and ingredients, you might consider R&D. The field of research and development provides a tremendous array of opportunities for ex-chefs.

Man in white lab coat and hairnet standing and holding tabletOn the research side, you can opt to study current trends, cultural histories, target markets and consumer research, and nutritional analysis. On the development side of things, you’re often taking this knowledge and creating recipes, menus, or even entire restaurant concepts out of them.

Often, this involves working with a manufacturer in their product development department. Being an R&D Chef certainly requires credentialing. The Research Chefs Association offers several designations, including Certified Research Chef (CRC®) and Certified Culinary Scientist (CCS®).

Chris McAdams, Escoffier Boulder Graduate & Chef Consultant/Research Chef“One of the things that’s really helped me in my position is my relationship with the Research Chefs Association, which gives me a whole battery of folks who also work in food development careers and who are willing to answer questions, support each other and do things together. No one person can ever have the answer to every problem. And I run into that a lot. We’ll take on projects that can be quite difficult and very esoteric regarding the information and the actual needs for the project. So I have to rely on that network of people to help support me.”
Chris McAdams, Research Chef Consultant and Escoffier Boulder Graduate

Escoffier students learn a lot about R&D concepts through our various culinary programs offered. For example, the Science of Nutrition course covers nutrients, food sources, and their utilization in the body, as well as current global nutritional issues. The Menu Design course explores different types of food and beverage menus, while World Cuisines dives into global flavors and how to work with them.

Food Stylist or Photographer

Have an eye for culinary aesthetics? Know what type of plating looks right for a certain setting? Have a knack for the perfect lighting to accentuate your food display?

Working as a food stylist allows you to flex your artistic muscles to make food look mouth-watering to viewers, whether they be flipping pages or scrolling screens. Food stylists often work with magazines, movie or television sets, or even marketing agencies. Joining an organization like the International Association of Culinary Professionals can help ex-chefs distinguish themselves among the competition — as food styling is, indeed, a competitive industry.

Young woman food photographer taking picture of lemons, mint and ginger in professional studioFood photographers, on the other hand, also work to achieve the perfect aesthetic arrangement with the perfect lighting, but they’re mainly focused on taking and tweaking the photos themselves. Food photography definitely requires deep knowledge in the art of photography – plus a culinary background and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Whether you’re looking to make the move into styling or photography, a foundational culinary education can only help. Understanding food is undoubtedly crucial to being successful in either of these careers.

“I think Escoffier’s online education makes a student very competitive. My culinary education so far has really helped develop my teaching skills, as well as my food styling. I would absolutely recommend Escoffier. It’s affordable, it’s flexible, and it’s comprehensive.”
Laura DeVries, Escoffier Online Graduate and Senior Graphic Designer, Creative Circle


Over years (or decades) of working as a professional chef, you’re going to accumulate a wealth of knowledge from personal experience. And if teaching doesn’t sound like the ideal profession for you as an ex-chef, there’s always writing.

Many world-renowned chefs have written books — whether memoirs, cookbooks, or food histories — that have hit the bestseller lists. Chefs at all levels of their careers are often avid readers and can glean a lot in the way of professional development from these books.

If you already enjoy writing, it can be helpful to start gathering your thoughts and jotting some notes while you’re still working as a chef. Later, you can pen a memoir or story collection, or author a cookbook. Keep in mind that while self-publishing works for many, the most successful authors typically work with literary agents and publishers.


We’re in the age of influencers, and if the idea of promoting a food product or concept via digital media is appealing to you, this might be a path for you.

Young woman recording on a smart phone her vlog and sitting at the table with lots of green vegan food ingredients at homeInfluencers, by definition, are considered experts on a topic. Because of this expertise, they become the “go-to” people when individuals are looking for information or recommendations. These audiences are loyal and trust the word of the influencer over much else. Many times, they’re celebrities and household names, the likes of Gordon Ramsay or Martha Stewart.

But you can already start as a food influencer with a camera and some social media savvy. Whether you’re using a visual platform like Instagram or, like Escoffier Chef Instructor Steve Konopelski, creating your own Youtube channel (The Sweet Life of Steve), you can start building your base of followers.

Remember, though, that being a food influencer alone rarely provides enough to pay the bills, unless you have thousands of followers or a notable reputation in the industry. So to start, this option makes a good side hustle or a part-time gig for ex-chefs.

Consultant or Restaurant Manager

Of course, you can take your expertise and help others in the industry looking for guidance. Coaching and mentorship have become commonplace in nearly every industry, but especially in the culinary world.

Two young business woman sitting at table in coffee shopEstablished chefs who want to get to the next level of their careers or entrepreneurs opening up new restaurants are often seeking guidance from people who have been there and done it before. Many times, they’re willing to hire consultants to guide them through the process. Even restaurant owners themselves will bring in consultants to help them identify process efficiencies and new ways of working.

Managing a restaurant is an option too, particularly for ex-chefs who want to stay close to the kitchen. This career choice requires know-how about the business side of the house, so education is typically needed.

Escoffier’s Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management programs can help with building these business skills — so you can directly apply the practical knowledge you’ve learned from working in a kitchen environment with the strategy needed to succeed in the industry.

Chef Maria Davenport“A strong educational background can help someone with limited experience become a valued contributor to their employer. They can utilize the skills taught at Escoffier to work their way into a management position.”
Chef Maria Davenport, Escoffier Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management Instructor

Consider Continuing Your Education at Escoffier

Regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry, remember that it changes constantly. While your years as a chef will certainly give you experiential knowledge, you’ll likely need some supplemental education if you want to make a career shift.

Escoffier’s variety of programs can help keep you on the cutting edge of the latest tools and techniques. And a degree in culinary arts, baking & pastry, or hospitality & restaurant operations management is going to look great on your resume, especially if you have little to no experience in a new area.

Talk to us to find out more about our on-campus programs or how our online degree offerings can allow you to start your education while still working as a chef or building a new business.

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