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On the Cutting Edge - Culinary Arts Careers

It is not often that one can take something he or she loves and build it into a career. However, that is the case with culinary arts. Those who love to cook can take this avocation and build it into a vocation, provided they have the stamina to keep up with the rigorous pace of this occupation.

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BHMS Business & Hotel Management School, Lucerne City, Switzerland
Online course in hospitality managementat The University of Derby

This article explores the field of Culinary Arts, including career paths one may take, earnings, and the outlook for this occupation. Let's begin with a look at what a job in this field is really like.

The Reality
Those in culinary arts generally work long hours. The work is very physically demanding -- many hours of standing, heavy lifting, mixing large vats of food, and rolling out many pounds of dough. The unusual hours, which include weekends, evenings, and holidays, do not allow for much of a social life. In spite of these negative aspects of the field, there is high level of satisfaction reported by those working in it. The Princeton Review Guide to Your Career quotes one professional chef: "[this field] is only for the very crazy. It is hard work, it is gruelling work, it is important work, and still, I would do nothing else."

The Career Path
The career path for those trained in the culinary arts has become less clear-cut in recent years. In the past, one moved from preparation chef to assistant chef to head chef. The large number of training programs available have caused the field to become more competitive and only those with exceptional skills become head chef. Specialization is also important for those who want to move up.

According to The Occupational Outlook Handbook, "Chefs and cooks are responsible for preparing meals that are pleasing to the palate and the eye. Chefs are the most highly skilled and trained of all kitchen workers. Although the terms chef and cook are still used interchangeably, cooks are less skilled" (Chefs, Cooks, and Other Kitchen Workers, The Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998-1999).

A chef with extensive experience may be promoted to executive chef, a part of the managerial team running a dining establishment. Other members of this team include the general manager and assistant managers. Occasionally, in smaller establishments, the executive chef serves as the general manager. The executive chef is responsible for running the kitchen, and his or her duties include selecting menu items and analyzing the recipes of the dishes to determine food, labor, overhead costs and to assign prices to the various dishes.

Earnings vary geographically and by type of establishment. The Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that median earnings for restaurant and food service managers were about $460 a week in 1996. In elegant restaurants executive chefs earn over $38,000, according to a National Restaurant Association survey (Chefs, Cooks, and Other Kitchen Workers, The Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998-1999). Earnings of cooks, chefs, and other kitchen workers are considerably lower.

The Outlook
"Job openings for chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers are expected to be plentiful through the year 2005" (Career Advisor). Much of this job growth will result from a high rate of turnover. An increase in restaurant industry sales will contribute to this growth.

We have provided the following resources to help you begin exploring this career. They are divided into five areas: occupational information, education, associations, publications, and job banks.

Occupational Information:
British Columbia Work Futures: Chefs and Cooks
Career Paths: National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
The Culinary Arts Profession
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Chefs, Cooks, and Other Kitchen Workers:
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Restaurant and Food Service Managers
Princeton Review Guide to Your Career: Chef

Culinary and Food Science Education
The Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association
Food and Beverage Education, from Diana Fell, About Guide to Votech Education
Peterson's Culinary Schools

American Culinary Federation
Council on Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Education

National Restaurant News

Job Banks:
Food Service Employment Center
Hospitality Job Listings, from Alison Doyle, About Guide to Job Searching - U.S.
Hotel, Restaurant, and Travel Job Openings

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