Feb 21, 2007

Planning Ahead: Thinking about a Career in Culinary Arts

Why Should I Consider Culinary School?
You love to cook; garlic essence smells better to you than expensive perfume; your friends and family say you should have a restaurant; and right now you're seriously studying the choice of the best culinary training you can afford to allow you to live your dream. But it is never too early for you to think about the opportunities that will come along after culinary training.

Chef, caterer, pastry chef and restaurant cook are merely the most familiar four options, but there are hundreds of jobs in the food industry. You may want to consider preparing for positions in management as executive chef, or in sales as catering director or in administration in food and beverage management. Maybe you'll want to explore developing specialty products - a line of sauces or dressings, for example - for retail or wholesale markets. Maybe you'll want to become a restaurant consultant to entrepreneurs who want to start restaurants. There are also teaching opportunities in professional cooking schools. Still another option is food writing and editing for magazines and books devoted to food and cooking.

For any of these career directions, you'll find the best preparation in an accredited school program - you'll come out with a certificate or a degree. This training will provide you with a lifelong basis for understanding quality raw ingredients, creating balance and pleasure in combined flavors and presenting a beautiful plate to the diner. Yes, you keep learning on the job, but culinary school gives you a base of knowledge to test and compare to new trends, new ingredients and your own creativity.

Where can I go from here?
When most culinary students start their training, they believe they have found the work they want to do for the rest of their lives - and many are right. But some are surprised when they find so much routine and boredom and repetitive tasks. You haven't seen appetizers until you've assembled 3,000 identical stuffed puffs for a hotel reception! House salad? You'll clean and prep cases of the same greens and garnishes day after day. And the signature white chocolate mousse and meringue dacquoise layers you always wanted to perfect? You'll be preparing untold orders for it every evening. You have to love it.

If managerial positions are more to your liking, you'll need skills in addition to cooking. Managers create the working environment for the staff, often developing a sixth sense to recognize problems before they erupt. They are the motivational force that drives the staff. They must understand finance and business reports and their implications. They must have highly sensitive character judgment and the ability to manage people.

If your interests take you into catering and sales, think about these skills: You'll need to be able to research a product and explore your market. You'll need to really enjoy being with people. You'll need to draw on strong self-esteem to hear "no" and not take it personally. You'll need internal discipline to keep the work flowing. You'll need communication skills to persuade people that your product is best. And you'll need to be strongly motivated to make a sale.

Getting the whole culinary picture
An easy and enjoyable way to learn about the spectrum of food-related jobs is by joining a professional organization. Among the largest are the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), and there are regional culinary groups--guilds, societies, alliances - in many large urban areas. Most organizations allow guests to come to their meetings and programs - a good way to get connected and see if you feel comfortable in the group before joining. Among the rewards of joining a local culinary group are friendships; mentors; learning from varied guest speakers; job leads; customer referrals when another member is too booked to take the work; learning unrelated skills when you volunteer to work on program, membership, and communication committees; contributing to the community when you volunteer to work on a food-related benefit; and the lifelong asset of connections.

CHECKLIST - A Variety of Degrees
Check out this list of degrees and certificates common to the culinary and hospitality industries. You'll often see these acronyms following the names of faculty members to indicate their level of education and certification.

AA - Associate of Arts
AAC - American Academy of Chefs
AAS - Associate of Applied Science
BA - Bachelor of Arts
BS - Bachelor of Science
CAGS - Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study
CC - Certified Culinarian
CCC - Certified Chef de Cuisine
CCE - Certified Culinary Educator
CCM - Certified Club Manager
CCP - Certified Culinary Professional
CDM - Certified Dietary Manager
CDN - Certified Dietetics Nutritionist
CEC - Certified Executive Chef
CEPC - Certified Executive Pastry Chef
CFBE - Certified Food and Beverage Executive
CFBM - Certified Food and Beverage Manager
CFE - Certified Food Executive
CFSC - Certified Food Service Consultant
CFSM - Certified Food Service Manager
CHA - Certified Hotel Administrator
CHAE - Certified Hospitality Accounting Executive
CHE - Certified Hospitality Educator
CHM - Certified Hospitality Manager
CMB - Certified Master Baker
CMC - Certified Master Chef
CMPC - Certified Master Pastry Chef
CPC - Certified Pastry Culinarian
CRDE - Certified Rooms Division Executive
CSC - Certified Sous Chef
CWC - Certified Working Chef
CWPC - Certified Working Pastry Chef
DFS - Doctor of Food Service
DTR - Dietetic Technician, Registered
EdD - Doctor of Education
EPC - Executive Pastry Chef
FADA - Fellow of the American Dietetic Association
FMP - Food Service Management Professional
FCSI - Foodservice Consultants Society International
LD - Licensed Dietitian
LRD - Licensed Registered Dietician
MA - Master of Arts
MBA - Master of Business Administration
MEd - Master of Education
MHRIM - Master of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management
MOF - Meilleur Ouvrier de France
MPC - Master Pastry Chef
MPH - Master of Public Health
MPS - Master of Professional Studies
MS - Master of Science
MSA - Master of Science in Administration
MSEd - Master of Science in Education
RD - Registered Dietitian

Information provided by Petersons.com

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