The Essential Guide to Careers in Foodservice

Explore careers in the food industry, from restaurants to artisan producers to hospitality workers. A future in food can mean much more than cooking!

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February 10, 2023 37 min read

So, you want a culinary career. That means you want to be a chef, right?

Not necessarily!

While cooks and chefs are two wonderful careers in food, they are far from the only careers in food.

In fact, many food careers don’t involve cooking at all! That’s because the culinary industry is much wider than the kitchen. Food writers, restaurant owners, and even sommeliers work in this industry—and they may never touch as much as an onion.

As you consider your next step into the culinary world, this guide to careers in the food industry may be a starting point to help you consider your options.

Table of Contents

The Seven Segments of the Culinary Industry

Careers in food span across seven different industry segments. And a single job title may have a home in many of these categories. For example, a cook could work for a hotel, a catering company, or a restaurant. They could work at a grocery store, making prepared foods for customers. They could even cook for a hospital cafeteria or a theme park restaurant. That’s one “job,” but six different segments of the industry!

Lodging

The Lodging segment includes hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, inns, boutique hotels, hotel chains, cruise lines, and more. Think of anywhere that a guest would stay overnight.

Depending on the establishment, there could be a wide variety of culinary jobs on premise. A boutique hotel may have a single small café or bar onsite, while a major resort could have dozens of bars, restaurants, and room service options employing a small army of cooks, chefs, pastry chefs, and service staff.

Catering

The Catering segment may include independent catering companies that provide food and drink for local event venues. It may also include venues that manage their own on-premise catering team. Private and personal chefs may also do catering for their private clients.

Some catering companies simply provide food, while others may have service staff as well.

Restaurants

We all know what a restaurant is…but do you know how many types of foodservice establishments make up the Restaurant segment? There are full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, fast food, fine dining, cafés, major chains, pop-up kitchens, and even ghost restaurants with no onsite dining at all.

View of a restaurant bar from a table with plates and glasses of water

Restaurants are just one of the seven segments of the food industry.

Retail Food

Food sold to be taken off-premise is considered Retail Food. Including grocery stores, bakeries, ice cream shops, and more, this segment may employ specialty trades like butchers, bakers, and fishmongers, among others.

Food trucks have a great deal in common with both retail food and restaurant operations, so they could conceivably live in either category.

Institutional & Commercial Dining

In terms of sheer volume, the Institutional & Commercial Dining segment is a major player in the food industry. Preparing and serving food is a major part of these establishments’ operations.

Consider hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities, universities and colleges, daycares, and public schools. Each of these institutions has a responsibility to provide food to its residents or guests, often on a large scale. So they may employ a large staff of cooks, chefs, and other foodservice workers.

Leisure & Recreation

What about theme parks, movie theaters, sports venues, and museums? These establishments all serve food as part of their Leisure & Recreation activities.

Like the Institutional segment, the purpose of these businesses is not to serve food, but it is a major part of their operations and they are usually subject to the same health code and regulations as foodservice establishments.

Food Manufacturer/Wholesaler

While we often purchase our food from the Restaurant and Retail Food segments, there is a major step before those ingredients reach the grocery store. It’s Food Manufacturing and Wholesale.

Food manufacturers process raw ingredients into ready-to-buy items. Whether that is the process of breaking down a cow into its various cuts or turning oil, spices, and citrus into a salad dressing, food manufacturers make it possible for us to cook quickly and efficiently.

This segment also includes the test kitchens where new items are developed, and food distributors who manage storage, shipping, and logistics.

Butcher with a brown apron in an industrial kitchen making sausage

Food manufacturers make much of the food that we eat daily, from pasta to deli meat to sausages.

Now that we’ve explored the culinary segments, let’s get into the careers!

Culinary Careers List

When people first consider culinary jobs, they often think of kitchen work—the jobs that actually make the food! Here is a culinary career list of cooking and food preparation roles that you may wish to consider.

Executive Chef

Most foodservice operations, from restaurants to catering companies to food trucks to hotels to airlines to cruise ships, will be led by an executive chef.

This chef is top dog in the kitchen. They could be in charge of designing the menu, the execution of that menu, managing inventory, scheduling, keeping food and labor costs in check, and ensuring that the food side of the restaurant turns a profit. While they will often have help in all of these tasks from the sous chef and other managers, ultimately the responsibility lies with the executive chef.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for chefs and head cooks is good, with jobs expected to increase by around 15% between 2021 and 2031. That’s much faster than average.

So how can you become a chef? It’s an earned title. You may likely need to prove yourself in the kitchen and work your way up the ranks. And education is key. While not all executive chefs have a formal culinary arts degree, they do have to learn how to create recipes and menus, lead a kitchen team, and manage costs.

A culinary arts degree can start the aspiring executive chef on the right path!*

How Much Can an Executive Chef Make?

Salaries for executive chefs can vary widely depending on the chef’s education and experience, location, market, and restaurant-style (like quick service vs. fine dining).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $50,160 for Chefs and Head Cooks in 2021.**

A Chef putting on protective gloves before preparing a meal

Everything that happens in the kitchen is overseen by the executive chef.

Sous Chef

The sous chef is the executive chef’s right hand. In large establishments like hotels and convention centers, there may be a group of sous chefs. But the average restaurant may only have one.

With so much responsibility on the executive chef’s plate, they need someone reliable to provide support and lead the kitchen in their absence. The sous chef may be responsible for ordering inventory, training new staff, and managing schedules. While they do cook as well, they may spend more of their time on managerial tasks to keep the kitchen running smoothly.

A good sous chef knows how to make everything in the kitchen, as they must guide the rest of the team. They’re usually highly organized so they can ensure the kitchen never runs out of anything and that every shift is covered. And above all, they’re reliable. The executive chef has to be able to count on their sous!

A sous chef can be promoted from within or may make a lateral move from one sous chef position to another. Some foodservice establishments may require formal education for a sous chef, while others may not. But a degree in Culinary Arts may help the aspiring sous to reach their goal more quickly!*

Advice from Real Chefs on The Ultimate Dish Podcast

Professional chefs tell their stories and share their wisdom with Kirk Bachmann, President of Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder.

Line Cook (aka Commis Chef, Station Chef, or Chef de Partie)

Most of the actual cooking in a kitchen isn’t done by the executive chef, nor the sous chef. It’s done by line cooks, also called commis chefs, station chefs, or chefs de partie.

When a restaurant guest orders a burger and fries, it’s a line cook standing over the grill or flat top to bring that burger patty to just the right temperature. And it’s another line cook who drops the basket of potatoes into the fryer. A line cook will build your burger (no tomatoes, extra pickles!) and pass it through the window for service.

Line cook wearing a striped apron and a black bandana cuts a vegetable next to two other cooks

Line cooks do the majority of the cooking for service.

Line cooks have to know the menu well, as they may work different stations on different shifts, like grill, fryer, or salads. They have to move quickly to get food out to hungry guests, and they have to communicate well with the rest of the line so the different components of a dish and the various dishes on a single ticket are ready to go around the same time.

Often, there will be a single line cook in each station. But in some complex kitchens, the chef de partie could be a supervisory role in charge of a small crew of line cooks working in the same station. It’s very unlikely to become a sous chef or executive chef without putting in time as a line cook first!

The Line Cook Roles in the Brigade de Cuisine

The Brigade de Cuisine was invented by our school’s namesake Auguste Escoffier. Based on military hierarchy, this organizational structure calls for a great deal of specialization for both efficiency and quality.

  • Rôtisseur – responsible for roasting and broiling proteins
  • Grillardin – prepares grilled foods
  • Friturier – fry cook
  • Poissonnier – prepares fish and seafood dishes
  • Potager – prepares soups
  • Legumier – prepares vegetable dishes
  • Garde Manger – Prepares cold hors d’oeuvres, pâtés, terrines, salads, and charcuterie.
  • Saucier – makes sauces, stocks, broths, and gravies
  • Patissier – pastry chef (which we’ll discuss more below)

Today, many kitchens combine these roles. For example, a line cook may be responsible for grilled items, seafood, and vegetables all at once.

Prep Cook

A prep cook is an entry-level kitchen position that includes chopping, portioning, and doing some basic cooking.

The prep cook may make salad dressings, reduce sauces, and prepare soups. They may do some partial cooking, like cutting and blanching french fries in anticipation of frying them during service. They may also batch some sides that can’t be cooked to order, like mashed potatoes.

As an entry-level role, there is usually no education or experience required to become a prep cook. But those who bring chopping and cooking skills to the role may have an easier time gaining proficiency and find themselves promoted to the line faster.*

Catering Cook or Chef

How is a catering cook different from a restaurant cook? While the end result is similar—serving delicious food to groups of people—the execution may be different. Unlike a restaurant where a single ticket comes in at once, catering companies are often serving large crowds. Think of a wedding reception, where 150 people need to be served a plated dinner all at the same time.

Catering companies often have a “home base” for food prep where they do the vast majority of their cooking. They aim to have each course or dish as complete as possible in advance, so they can quickly finish them to serve. The team will then pack up the mostly completed food along with cooking utensils, pots and pans, plateware, glassware, and possibly even portable cooking stoves and hot cabinets to bring to the event site.

Once they arrive and unpack, they will heat everything up, do a final sear on that steak or add a bit of crispiness to those roasted brussels sprouts, and plate it for the service staff.

As you can see, catering operations can get complex and require careful planning to make sure the guests aren’t kept waiting too long!

Burger sliders on a black plate

Catering menus may include small bites that must be assembled and served quickly before they get cold.

Pitmaster

The art of applying heat and smoke to meat to create a spectacular umami feast…that’s the purview of the pitmaster. A commercial pitmaster will manage and operate a BBQ pit. This may include a number of large smokers and grills to create fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs and juicy smoked chicken, among other cuts and proteins.

Some pitmasters specialize in certain cuts. Austin’s Aaron Franklin, for example, is widely considered the champion of Texas briskets. And Sam Jones of North Carolina is a well-known expert in whole hog BBQ.

There is no single path to becoming a pitmaster. Some go to culinary school to explore topics like proper seasoning, knife skills, and animal breakdown. After that, the aspiring pitmaster will need mentorship and practice. BBQ excellence is a complex equation that typically requires careful attention to heat, timing, wood choices, and more to create decadent smoked goodness!

Escoffier students standing outside cooking on a large grill

Escoffier students in Austin practice with a large smoker.

Private Chef

A private chef cooks for just one (or a very small number) of clients, often making hot meals out of the client’s kitchen to their specifications. Some may even live in their client’s homes!

The private chef must pay close attention to their client’s preferences and dietary needs. Clients who can afford a private chef are often very high-earning and may have particular tastes. The client themselves (or possibly a house manager) may be the private chef’s direct boss.

Like any chef job, there is no single path to get there. But at the price point that private chef clients can afford to pay, they very well may be looking for certifications like an associate degree in Culinary Arts and further credentials from groups like the American Culinary Federation.

Program Spotlight: Culinary Arts at Escoffier

Escoffier offers degrees and diplomas in Culinary Arts at our Boulder campus, Austin campus, and online programs. Students get a hands-on education that may include coursework in basic culinary skills, baking and patisserie, menu development, cost control, and more.

Explore the programs here!

Jobs in Baking & Pastry

Up to now, we’ve mostly discussed the savory side of culinary careers. But what if you want to dig into the sweeter side of the food world? Here are some of the careers you could pursue in baking and pastry arts.

Baker

The career of baker could actually encompass a variety of different roles and baking types. Some bakers work in neighborhood bakeries where they make breads and sweet baked goods for local retail customers. Some bakers may work in a local grocery store, making sheet cakes and bread. Other bakers may work in a commercial bakery where they bake at a high volume—making consistency extra important.

But no matter what type of baking they do, bakers must understand the science behind baking, from gluten to leaveners to the role of fats and liquids. Many bakers choose to get this education at baking and pastry school so they can enter their first baking roles with confidence. Bakers may also choose to get certifications in baking from groups like Retail Bakers of America or the American Culinary Federation.

The job outlook for bakers is good, with growth of 8% expected by 2021, according to the BLS.

Chef Instructor and Master Baker Colette Christian“[Baking is] science with art on top of it. Once you learn the science and the technique, you can become as creative as possible.”*
Colette Christian, Escoffier Baking & Pastry Chef Instructor and Certified Master Baker

How Much Can a Baker Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for bakers was $29,750 per year as of 2021.**

This will vary widely depending on the type of baking one does. For example, a luxury wedding cake baker may make much more than an entry-level baker at a commercial bakery.

Specialty Baker

Some bakers choose to niche down into narrower specialties to serve a more specific clientele. Bakers may choose to make only vegan baked goods, for example. Others may make a specific type of dessert, like donuts or macarons.

Close up of a bakers hand piping pink macarons on a baking sheet

Macarons may be offered at specialty shops or at French patisseries

Becoming a specialty baker requires the same baking education as becoming a general baker. But it also takes a great deal of focus and practice to become a stand-out. Since specialty bakers make fewer items, they have to be truly outstanding to become the “go-to” for their particular niche.

Pastry Chef

While bakers often work in bakeries, pastry chefs may work in bakeries, pastry shops, or restaurants. In a bakery or pastry shop, a pastry chef may be responsible for sweets like bonbons and truffles, French pastries like éclairs and mille-feuille, and viennoiserie.

In a restaurant, the pastry chef may be responsible for the entire dessert program. This may include anything from baked goods to chocolates, sauces and ganache, ice cream and custards.

Becoming a pastry chef requires in-depth knowledge of baking and the wide world of pastries. At Escoffier, baking and pastry arts students can begin their careers with a thorough education in baking science and technique, dessert composition, pastry across the world, and much more. Then they can begin their first jobs where they can continue to learn the skills they may need to reach the title of pastry chef.

Frank Vollkommer, Certified Master Pastry Chef® & Escoffier Director of Culinary Industry Development“One of the reasons I love pastry is its perfect combination of science, technical skill, and creativity. And you need a little bit of both.”*
Chef Frank Vollkommer, Director of Culinary Industry Development at Escoffier and Certified Master Pastry Chef®

croissants cut in half on a white plate

Fabulous croissants from Escoffier online Baking & Pastry student Emily J.

Wedding Cake Baker or Designer

If you want to create beautiful multi-tiered creations bedecked with icing flowers and complex piping work, then you may have the makings of a wedding cake baker or designer!

A wedding cake is likely to be the most expensive dessert a person will ever buy. So they’re usually looking for a high level of finish and design…in addition to delicious flavor. Wedding cake designers and bakers consult with their clients to find out what they’re envisioning and make suggestions for a successful cake experience. For example, Chef Instructor Steve Konopelski would not provide buttercream frosting for outdoor weddings in the hot Maryland summers. The reason? The buttercream would melt, ruining the look of the cake. Not an outcome the bride and groom would want for their pricey dessert!

To become a wedding cake baker/designer, bakers must reach a very high standard. They have to create delicious sponges and frostings with delicate piping and beautiful decorations. Many wedding cake designers also develop their own signature style. This expertise can start with education, but it’s honed further through years of working as an apprentice or under-baker for a professional cake baker.

Chef decorating a tiered cake with roses on it

Wedding cakes may need ultra-smooth fondant, piped beadwork, and delicate florals

Chocolatier

A chocolatier is an expert in all things chocolate. Specializing in treats like truffles, fudge, chocolate-covered fruit and nuts, and showstopping chocolate sculptures, chocolatiers dig into the details of tempering, cooling, and sourcing the best chocolate they can find.

Chocolatiers may work in specialty chocolate shops, or they may be on the staff at some restaurants or hotels.

Escoffier baking and pastry students explore chocolate techniques, which may include melting and tempering chocolate, making chocolate candies and truffles, molding and finishing, and making chocolate decorations. To become a chocolatier, it’s smart to work for an expert chocolatier to hone your skills and learn advanced techniques. After a few years, you may be able to call yourself a chocolatier as well.

Chef Tracy DeWitt“I’ve had many showpieces fall because I didn’t really understand engineering at the time. The thing that drives me the most is my passion for the art of pastry. So whether it’s cakes, showpieces, plated desserts, or just making yourself a brownie, my passion lies in that craftsmanship.”*
Tracy Dewitt, Escoffier Chef Instructor and 2006 National Bread & Pastry Championship Winner for her team’s 30 lb chocolate showpiece

Program Spotlight: Baking & Pastry at Escoffier

Escoffier’s Baking & Pastry programs include degrees and diplomas at our Austin and Boulder campuses, as well as online.

These programs dive into the science of baking and explore the basics of breads and desserts. Depending on your degree or diploma, coursework may include menu design, cost control, cake design, foundations of bread, and confiserie.

Get all the program details here!

Hospitality Management Careers

Careers in hospitality and entertainment are often also careers in foodservice. Hotels, resorts, cruise lines, and event and entertainment venues all have food components to their businesses that must be managed by adept leaders.

Hotel Manager

Some hotel manager careers are also food industry roles—namely Food & Beverage (F&B) Manager and Banquet Manager.

An F&B Manager oversees the hotel’s dining options, which may include onsite restaurants, an onsite bar, and/or room service. A Banquet Manager supervises the catering operations for onsite events, like weddings or corporate conferences. Key in both roles is close attention to costs and inventory, leadership, and excellent communication.

To become a hotel manager, you might start with an associate degree in Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management. Escoffier’s online program can include coursework in catering and event operations, menu design and management, beverage operations, and cost control—all valuable topics for the future hotel manager. At the end of the program, students complete an industry externship which can help them to decide which path of hotel management they’d like to pursue.

Hotel manager stands in a banquet hall holding a tablet

A hotel manager could work in many departments, including F&B or banquet

Restaurant Manager

While the term “restaurant manager” usually refers to a front-of-house manager rather than a kitchen manager position, this role still has to know their food. They may be responsible for overseeing the training of the service and bartending staff, so they have to know the menu well. They may also have to answer guest questions, and they may provide helpful quality control as completed dishes are sent out from the kitchen.

Restaurant managers may also make schedules, order supplies, complete marketing tasks, and help servers when they are overwhelmed (or “in the weeds,” in restaurant lingo).

Most restaurant managers (9 out of 10) start out in entry-level positions and work their way up. A degree in Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management may help servers or bartenders to become restaurant managers!

Program Spotlight: Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management at Escoffier

Escoffier’s Associate of Occupational Studies in Hospitality and Restaurant Operations Management degree program is an online program designed to provide an in-depth education while also providing flexibility for students.

The curriculum can include coursework in leadership and training, professionalism, event and beverage operations, foodservice accounting, and much more.

Get more program details here!

Event or Wedding Planner

An event planner is not usually back in the kitchen, chopping onions or parboiling carrots. But they are often the primary contact between an end client and the catering company, event venue, and any other vendors.

This means the event or wedding planner should have a firm grasp of catering concepts and terminology to prevent miscommunication. They are also usually onsite during the event and may be in frequent contact with the catering staff.

Like most hospitality and food jobs, no specific education is required to become an event planner. Some may get jobs as event assistants or venue assistants as their entry point, before going to work as planners for larger event organizations or in their own businesses.

With coursework in service standards, professional communications, catering, event operations, and much more, Escoffier’s Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management program can include substantial education that could be invaluable to the future event planner!

Long table and chairs with light pink decorations set up outside on a lawn

A wedding planner may help to create lovely table settings like this.

Event Venue Manager

Some event venues may have onsite catering. Others simply provide the space and help to liaise with the third-party caterers. Like an event planner, the event venue manager should at least “speak the language” of food. They may have to communicate with the caterers regarding the venue’s catering kitchen, equipment, and capabilities. They should also understand the sanitation needs of food preparation spaces to make sure the catering area is sufficiently cleaned between events.

Beyond the food, venue managers may train staff and keep the facility in good repair. These employees often come from a hospitality and/or events background. They may have a Hospitality Management degree, or they may have received their training on the job.

How Much Can Foodservice Managers Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups all foodservice managers together, whether they work at restaurants, hotels, school cafeterias, or anywhere else where food is made and served. Their information reports a median income of $59,440 per year as of 2021.**

The job outlook for foodservice managers is good, with 10% growth expected between 2021 and 2031.

Occupations in Culinary Entrepreneurship

You don’t necessarily have to work for someone else. Culinary entrepreneurs can start their own food businesses to create their own jobs and their own futures!

Restaurant Owner/Operator

Starting a restaurant as an owner and/or operator can be an exciting and rewarding career. Restaurant owners may have varying levels of involvement, with some taking key roles in the restaurant’s operations and others hiring a general manager to oversee the day-to-day.

While anyone has the option to start a restaurant, some hospitality and food education may help the owner to make smarter financial decisions along the way. Escoffier’s Food Entrepreneurship program can include coursework in marketing, culinary foundations, and business topics like managerial concerns.

Stories from Real Restaurant Owners

Go behind the scenes with successful restaurant owners on The Ultimate Dish podcast!

Restaurant manager having a conversation with chef with laptop on table

A restaurant owner may be heavily involved, or they may trust their team to keep the operation running smoothly.

Food Truck Owner/Operator

Starting a food truck allows entrepreneurs to operate their own foodservice establishments, but often at a lower cost than starting a restaurant. These kitchens-on-wheels may offer more flexibility than restaurants and require a smaller staff to operate.

Just like restaurant owners, food truck owners should understand both the food side and the business side of their operations so they can maximize profitability. An associate degree from Escoffier’s Food Entrepreneurship program could help!

Program Spotlight: Food Entrepreneurship at Escoffier

Escoffier offers both a diploma and a degree in Food Entrepreneurship. Offered online, these programs may help aspiring business owners to be effective operators. Depending on your degree or diploma, course topics may include culinary foundations, business essentials like accounting and management, and marketing tactics.

Find more program details here!

Ghost Restaurant Owner

The ghost restaurant is another entrepreneurship option that may come with lower startup costs than a full-service restaurant.

Ghost restaurants are virtual food brands that only exist for online orders, usually served by third-party delivery companies (like UberEats or GrubHub). These virtual restaurants may operate out of rented commercial kitchen space, often called ghost kitchens.

Delivery or pickup-only operations have grown increasingly popular over the past few years, alongside the explosive growth of delivery apps and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The customer service side of the ghost restaurant is minimal, so anyone thinking of starting one may want to focus more on culinary skills and financial planning—perhaps in Escoffier’s Culinary Arts program!

Wide view of a commercial kitchen

Ghost restaurants may operate out of existing restaurant kitchens, or they may rent commercial kitchen space like this.

Artisan Food Manufacturer

Small batch coffee roasters, honey farmers, makers of pickles and preserves, cured meats, artisan cheese, specialty spice blends—these makers all live under the umbrella of artisan food producers.

Some handmake everything and sell it at local farmers’ markets, while others expand into full-scale manufacturing and make their products wholesale for companies like Whole Foods and Central Market.

There is no specific education required for these careers, but these artisans must pay close attention to sanitation and food safety to make sure their prepared foods are shelf stable and safe to consume. They must also comply with local and state health regulations, including labeling specifics. If you’re running your business from your home kitchen and looking for more information about cottage food laws, contact your local health department or the state department of agriculture.

Personal Chef

A personal chef prepares food for their clients, often pre-cooking dishes which are then delivered to heat-and-eat.

Personal chefs may choose to specialize in a particular area. There are plant-based personal chefs, gluten-free personal chefs, and keto-friendly personal chefs, among others.

Some personal chefs work under larger brands, but many choose to become entrepreneurs instead. To become a personal chef, you will need to set up a business with your local state and city authorities and start marketing to find clients. To do the actual work, personal chefs must be able to cook delicious meals in bulk, as well as carefully costing out each recipe to ensure their meals are profitable.

Lauren Lewis“I was the personal chef for Governor Polis and First Gentleman Marlon Reis for over 10 years, and I still have the privilege of occasionally cooking in the Governor’s Mansion. I think it all started with the First Gentleman desiring to become vegan. And he’s a huge animal welfare advocate.”*
Lauren Lewis, Plant-Based Personal Chef, Educator, and Former Personal Chef to Colorado Governor Jared Polis

Delivery man in orange uniform delivering Asian food boxes in plastic bags to a woman customer at home

A personal chef may provide several days’ worth of meals to their clients.

Food Careers Around Specialty Diets and Wellness

Food is an important part of our overall health and well-being. So some careers in food take a wellness approach to the culinary industry.

Plant-Based Cook or Chef

The tasks and responsibilities of the plant-based cook or chef are similar to any other cook or chef. But instead of working with animal products like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, plant-based cooks work with animal-free substitutes, like vegetable proteins, nut milks, seasonal vegetables, and more.

Plant based dish with rice, broccoli, and other vegetables in a white bowl

A plant-based dish by online Escoffier student Jennifer B.

The path to becoming a plant-based chef is very similar to an executive chef—a culinary education followed by working up the restaurant or food establishment ladder. A plant-based culinary arts program that provides coursework in seasonality and ingredient substitutions can help you to start strong.*

Program Spotlight: Plant-Based Culinary Arts at Escoffier

Escoffier offers a diploma in Plant-Based Cuisine and a Plant-Based Culinary Arts degree, both online and at our Boulder campus, and an Associate Degree in Plant-Based Culinary Arts online.

The curriculum explores topics like seasonality, plant-based substitutions, plant-based pastry, and the influences of worldwide cultures on plant foods.

Learn more about Plant-Based Culinary Arts at Escoffier here!

Stories from the Front Lines of the Plant-Based Revolution

Learn more about what it means to work in plant-based cooking with true stories from experts who live it day-to-day.

Nutrition Coach

A nutrition coach provides education and guidance to clients regarding their food choices to help them achieve their health goals. They do not treat any medical conditions, but they may provide meal plans based on certain macronutrient and micronutrient goals, as well as helping with portion sizes and providing guidance to athletes to reach their performance goals.

To accomplish this, nutrition coaches need education in the science of nutrition so they can make smart recommendations. They may also wish to learn coaching techniques so they can relay what they know in an accessible way. While nutrition coaches do not usually require a specific degree or certification, they should pursue higher education in order to be effective coaches. Then, they may work for an established coach for a few years to continue learning and get practical experience before starting their own practices. Escoffier’s Holistic Nutrition and Wellness Program could be the place to start!

A smiling nutritionist with a measuring tape around her neck works at her desk with a pen and paper and laptop

A health coach may share meal plans and make recommendations for better health.

Holistic Nutritionist

Holistic nutritionists may help clients to manage health problems through diet, as well as other lifestyle factors like exercise, sleep, anxiety, and more. A holistic nutritionist may make suggestions for managing stress, losing weight, and improving energy. Like health coaches, holistic nutritionists do not diagnose or treat specific diseases.

The title “holistic nutritionist” may come with higher education and certification requirements, depending on where you plan to practice. So make sure to check your state’s guidelines before pursuing a career as a holistic nutritionist.

Maria Rodriguez, Plant-Based Culinary Arts Student“Food is the on-ramp. Food is the gateway. Clients come to see me because they want to lose weight, or because they’re fatigued, or they’re dealing with some chronic illness, or their hormones are out of balance. Then we end up having this deep philosophical, spiritual conversation. Body, mind, and spirit.”*
Julie Pelaez, Board-Certified Holistic Health Coach and Co-Founder of The Conscious Cleanse

Program Spotlight: Holistic Nutrition & Wellness at Escoffier

Escoffier offers a diploma and an associate degree in Holistic Nutrition & Wellness for online students. These programs can include coursework in the culinary foundations, so practitioners can provide more than theoretical advice to their clients.

The curriculum may also include the principles of human nutrition, special diets, Eastern and Western approaches to wellness, and business concepts.

Get program details here!

Creative Jobs in Culinary Arts

The food industry extends far beyond the kitchen. There are some creative food-related roles that provide the opportunity to work around food, whether you cook or not.

Food Blogger/Writer

A food blogger or food writer writes about food! They may run their own blog, sharing their own recipes or reviews of local restaurants. They may also write for food publications, like Eater or Bon Appetit.

Food writers should be well-educated in food so they can talk intelligently about what they’ve tasted. This may include attending culinary school. Food writers may also want to pursue an education in writing, such as a bachelor’s degree or private writing courses. But this is certainly not required.

In fact, to start a food blog, all you absolutely must have is a website!

Chef Albert Schmid“Textbooks [are] a little more technical to write. You have to be on point, and you’re going to get lots of reviews from professors. But…the potential for sales is greater. It’s a closed audience, and as long as you’re selling new copies of the book, you’re going to receive a royalty.”*
Chef Albert Schmid, Food Historian, Educator, and Author

Top view of hands typing on a laptop next to cut vegetables on the table

A food writer may share their own recipes, write reviews of local restaurants, or even explore culinary history.

Foodie Influencer or Content Creator

Foodie influencers or content creators post photos and videos all about food. Some may specialize in content from local restaurants, sharing their favorite dishes and helping to spread the word. Influencers may charge a fee for each post, or they may be willing to post in exchange for free food.

Other influencers share their own creations, making videos of their cooking to share on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. Or they may run a recipe blog.

There is no education required to become a food influencer. But expertise in both culinary arts and marketing may be helpful!

Escoffier Chef Instructor Steve Knopelski is also a content creator, with his own baking show on YouTube: The Sweet Life of Steve.*

Recipe Developer

Much of the creativity in the culinary arts is in the field of recipe development. These culinarians aim to create something new, whether that’s a modern take on a classic dish or a combination of flavors no one has tried before.

A dedicated recipe developer may work as a consultant for a restaurant or food manufacturer. Or they may provide their services to cookbook authors and food bloggers.

To become a recipe developer, education is paramount. Many recipe developers get started at culinary school, while others may get their education in restaurants or other foodservice establishments. While it’s not required, restaurant experience can be very helpful to the recipe developer so they understand the flow of the commercial kitchen. A recipe must be both delicious and practical!

Food Photographer

A great food photographer can make food look its best. They know all about the right lighting, perfect angles, and editing techniques to make the finished photo really shine.

Food photographers may work for restaurants or food manufacturers to create photos for marketing purposes. They may also do editorial photo shoots for magazines and blogs. It can take a great deal of arranging and rearranging to get the shot just right!

To become a food photographer, you must know the ins and outs of the camera equipment, lighting, and the editing programs like Photoshop or AfterEffects. Some food photographers, like Escoffier graduate Rhonda Adkins, may also attend culinary school so they can better understand the dishes they shoot.

Spring rolls with shrimp

Spring rolls photographed by Escoffier graduate and food photographer Rhonda Adkins

Food Stylist

A food stylist makes sure that every grain of rice, every splash of sauce, and every drop of condensation on that cold soda bottle is just right before a photo is taken. Food stylists may also work on the sets of films and television shows, arranging food for the scene.

Depending on the job, food stylists may sometimes do the cooking for the shoot as well. So clearly, a culinary arts education can help you to become a food stylist! Then, this career is often down to networking and marketing to break in.

Meet Professional Food Stylist Elle Simone Scott

Elle Simone is a food stylist for the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, CBS, ABC, and Bravo. Learn about her approach to food styling and her fascinating career on The Ultimate Dish podcast.

And Don’t Forget These Culinary Jobs!

Some culinary careers don’t fit neatly into a category, but instead are categories of their own!

Chef Instructor

Chef instructors are dedicated culinary professionals who now pass on their cooking wisdom to the next generation of cooks and future chefs. Often highly educated and experienced, these experts may have master degrees, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, education degrees, and cooking certifications. They may be former executive chefs, restaurant owners, award-winners, and cookbook authors.

Chef instructors may work at culinary schools, community colleges, or private companies like Sur La Table.

There are many paths to becoming a chef instructor, but they’re all passionate about food and sharing what they know! They’ve nearly all spent many years in commercial kitchens.

Chef in uniform cooking chicken

Chef Instructor Luke Shaffer demonstrates cooking chicken for paella.

Chef Instructors from Escoffier and Beyond

Everyone who enjoys food owes a great deal to chef instructors, whether they teach at culinary schools, four-year colleges, high schools, or private companies! Hear their stories in their own words on The Ultimate Dish podcast.

Research Chef or Chef Consultant

Chef consultants and research chefs work with restaurants, hotels, and food manufacturers to create new products or improve operations. A chef consultant may be brought into a restaurant to help them overhaul their menu or design a more efficient kitchen. Or they may help manufacturers to develop new food products or food lines.

To become a chef consultant, chefs must understand the workings of the kitchen so they can make recommendations for tweaks and improvements. They may also need a firm understanding of food science, depending on the type of consulting work they plan to do. A degree or diploma can also go a long way to making potential customers feel confident in the chef’s abilities, as well as several years of restaurant or food experience.

Chris McAdams, Escoffier Boulder Graduate & Chef Consultant/Research Chef“I’ve done everything from helping small mom-and-pop cafes get off the ground, kitchen designs, menu design, cross utilization training, culinary training, and we’ve gone all the way up to product commercialization. For example, several products that are currently on the shelves in grocery stores and markets are ones that I’ve helped consult to get off the ground.”*
Chris McAdams, Escoffier Boulder Graduate & Chef Consultant/Research Chef

Sommelier

A sommelier is a wine steward, often working in a restaurant. That’s a very simple description, but the job of a sommelier is much more complex. They must have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of wine varietals and flavor profiles. They curate the wine menu, and are expected to share detailed knowledge on any bottle on the wine list with the guest—and there may be hundreds. They may design pairings for prix fixe menus, and make recommendations based on a guest’s preferences and what food they’ve ordered. They also may provide the tableside wine service.

Sommelier smelling wine in a wine cellar

Sommeliers are wine experts who curate wine lists and make recommendations.

To become a sommelier, you must taste lots of wine. You must know about the different wine regions, grapes, and production methods, and be able to identify subtle tasting notes. Some seek out formal training, while others educate themselves. Experience is often hand-in-hand with education. Working at a wine bar or fine dining restaurant can be an excellent way to learn more about wine. Finally, sommeliers must be certified. The test to become a Certified Sommelier includes a tasting exam, theory exam, and service exam.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey

Escoffier Boulder President Kirk Bachmann interviewed Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey on The Ultimate Dish podcast. Learn how he went from busboy to restauranteur! Listen now.

A Dream Starts with a Single Step

Whatever path you plan to pursue in the culinary world, education is nearly always a smart first step. Escoffier offers degree and/or diploma programs (depending on campus of interest) in:

  • Culinary Arts
  • Baking & Pastry Arts
  • Plant-Based Culinary Arts
  • Food Entrepreneurship
  • Holistic Nutrition & Wellness
  • Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management

Within one of these programs could be the education you need to get you started on the path to your future. Not sure which one is right for you? Contact our Admissions Department to discuss your goals and our programs!

To learn more about possible careers in food, try these articles next:

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

**All salaries are estimates based on best available information. Escoffier makes no claims as to the earning potential of individual students or specific careers.

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