Culinary Arts Career Guide
What are the Main Culinary Art Disciplines?
What are the Character Traits of a Culinary Artist?
What are the Education Requirements?
How to Prepare for a Career in the Culinary Arts?
There are four main disciplines in the culinary arts: baking and pastry, bartending, and wine (sommelier), catering, and hospitality/restaurant management. Each of these career paths has a different educational experience.
The art of baking and pastry making is one of the biggest subheadings under the broad term of the culinary arts. Where the culinary arts tend to focus more on the main meal dishes, the baking and pastry arts focus more on dessert dishes.
Culinary artists who go to school for baking and pastry to become pastry chefs learn about how to create artisanal pastry and cake designs using innovative flavor profiles as well as classical standards. Bakers and pastry chefs are the ones who make wedding cakes, cupcakes, all types of bread and pastries, and so on.
Salary: As of June 2020, the average baking/pastry chef salary was $27,700 but could be higher or lower.
Typical Entry-Level Education: Associate's degree in baking/pastry arts with a Bachelor in another discipline, or a Bachelor's degree in baking/pastry arts. No formal education needed.
Job Outlook: The projected outlook for baking/pastry chef careers is (average) 6% growth between 2018 and 2028.
A sommelier is a person who has expertise in wine and other alcohols and uses their skills to create drinks for customers. They can also be hired for large events to help plan the wine to the meal that the party-goers will be eating.
Some restaurants have a sommelier on hand who can advise and showcase different wines to the patrons of the restaurant to help them enjoy their meal and drink together.
Bartenders are slightly different and work with hard alcohol as well as beer and wine. They are well-versed in how to mix alcoholic drinks while keeping the flavor of the alcohol, mixers, and dilution rates in mind.
Depending on the institution that a bartender or sommelier works at, it can be a high or low paying job, however, a degree will help to get a bartender or sommelier a position at a more prestigious institution. The higher level of a sommelier you are, the more you will be paid.
Salary: level 1 sommelier $32,000 to $50,000, level 2 sommelier $60,000 to $70,000, leel 3 sommelier $70,000 to $100,000+. Bartender $23,680 (average) to $50,000.
Typical Entry-Level Education: Sommelier - Associate’s degree in wine technology. Bartending - no formal education, however, Associate’s in mixology recommended or a Bachelor’s degree in another discipline.
Job Outlook: Bartending has an expected growth of 8% from 2018 to 2028. Sommelier has an expected growth of less than 9%.
A caterer provides the planning, creation, transport, serving, and clean-up of food for (typically) large events or parties, such as weddings, anniversaries, holidays, graduation parties, and so on. They usually work in several different facets of the culinary arts to make their catering a smooth experience for their customers.
A caterer often has serving and people skills when associating with the party-goers and managerial skills when discussing and planning the menu with the host of the gathering. They must also be good cooks who can create lots of high-quality food quickly.
Caterers often work in teams to help alleviate this burden, unless it is a smaller gathering. Caterers work as servers and chefs, so they must be sociable and hard-working. Caterers are often the people who will clean up the kitchen and food after a party as well.
Salary: Catering manager has an average salary of $55,320, while a catering staff member has an average salary of around $28,452 to $32,122.
Typical Entry-Level Education: Minimum of a high-school diploma or equivalent, associate’s or bachelor’s degree recommended.
Job Outlook: Expected 11% growth from 2018 to 2028.
Although this may seem like a job for a person looking for a career track in management, these roles are heavily influenced by the culinary arts, therefore any manager of hospitality or restaurants should have plenty of expertise in the world of the culinary arts.
Hospitality and restaurant managers are the ones who oversee all the functions of a hotel or restaurant. They are involved with customer complaints, issues with staffing, keeping the facilities running smoothly, as well as running the administrative and financial aspects of the business.
This means that the hospitality or restaurant manager must be fluent in all languages of their trade: finances, cuisine, customer service, and human resources.
A hospitality or restaurant manager must understand how food and cuisine works. This way, they will be able to work with the chefs in their establishment to create seasonal or local dishes that are appealing for the climate or highlight local cuisine that is special to their area.
In addition to that, these types of managers must be able to communicate with the kitchen staff to make sure that fresh produce and meat is ordered as well as used on time. They are also the ones who will do restocking orders and call in for shipments, so they must be well aware of all that is happening in the kitchen of their business.
Being a hospitality or restaurant manager requires the person to essentially be a jack of all trades who can communicate between several different groups of people with knowledge and a clear goal.
Salary: $55,320 is the average yearly salary for a hospitality/restaurant manager.
Typical Entry-Level Education: Certificate or associate's degree (or higher,) in restaurant administration. High school diploma.
Job Outlook: Expected 11% industry growth from 2018 to 2028.
You need several character traits to become a great culinary artist or work in the culinary field. Many people who find their love for this career path already exhibit or have these traits, while others learn them throughout their studies.
Creativity - A good culinary artist needs to be able to think outside the box and combine beautiful flavor and visual presentation on a dish to please a customer.
Team Skills - More often than not, a culinary artist will be working with a team of others to create and present their work. In catering, cooking, and hospitality management, especially, you must have great people and social skills to keep your teams running smoothly.
Passion - You will find that in the culinary arts, passion is key. Loving what you do and taking pride in your work is a huge incentive for culinary artists to pursue this career path.
Cool Under Pressure - As a culinary artist, you must be able to adapt quickly and overcome obstacles that might get thrown at you. Working in a high-stress environment like a busy kitchen can be challenging, but if you keep your cool, you will have a much better experience.
Detail Oriented - Catching the details and keeping up with all the things that a customer might never even notice is a huge piece of culinary arts.
Take Criticism Well - Taking critiques and instruction well is a key feature in a culinary artist. As a new chef, your dishes might not be popular or your teammates might have things to say about the way you work. Take it in stride and learn to put your pride to the side so you can learn and work well with others. However, do not let others push you around to the point where you are emotionally hurt.
For each situation, the requirements are different. For high-class careers, such as sommelier or becoming a professional chef, classical and modern training or obtaining a degree in the field is almost always a must.
For other positions, you can usually become an apprentice and learn from someone. Getting a degree in any discipline is likely to help you in the culinary arts even if it is not in a culinary discipline.
Start by taking courses that highlight the necessary skills for your specific field. Try to get a job as an assistant or apprentice to someone who is a professional in the field you want to work in. This will give you an insight into the industry, so you can learn. This will also help you to decide if it is the right career for you!