What Culinary Career Path Is Right For You?
by Collen Engle, CSC, CHE Chef/Instructor
The benefits of a culinary education can be discussed at length, but obviously one of them is to make you employable. Getting a job in a restaurant or bakery by the time you graduate or immediately after graduation is a primary goal. After all, someone is going to have to start paying back the student loans!
Yet I find that most students have not given much thought to the variety of opportunities that exist for them. Many of you take jobs as cooks or servers while still in school for the experience and to pay the bills. I know this because you are the ones that are nodding off in my early morning class after you had to work the night before. Talking to your friends about what they do (networking) or listening to your instructor list the jobs they had before teaching gives you a snapshot of the opportunities that are available. Absorbing the information about the brigade system lets you see all the positions you can have as you make your way up the line in a restaurant. But if you take a few moments to look into the foodservice industry in more depth you may be surprised to see the variety of different paths available to you
What are these other opportunities? After all you thought you wanted to move from pantry to grill to sous chef and eventually, chef. You really had not thought about what else existed beyond that. This article will provide some ideas but you will need to look into your area of interest in more depth. The time you take to do this research will create choices. By knowing all of the opportunities that are available in the foodservice business you will never feel trapped in a dead end job. Choices lead to freedom.
Let's start with the more traditional path. There are countless positions available in kitchens. Hopefully you have given some thought to the type of kitchen you want to be in. What fits your personality? You can reflect it in your choice of operation, from the small independently run to the"by the book" chains. Do you also realize that some of those larger operations need food and beverage managers, purchasing agents, banquet directors, room service directors and planners? Consider where else those management skills or preferences could take you. What about fast food management? Most of you did not go to school for fast food, but there are opportunities within those companies that take you beyond the stigma of cooking for a fast food chain. In fact, by focusing on management, a path can be taken that leads to lucrative careers in many chain and larger foodservice operations. With your culinary degree you obtain the advantage of understanding the food operation. It may mean staying in school for a bachelor's degree in business or hospitality management, but you are already halfway there when you graduate.
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