The US Department of Labor reports that there should be plenty of job openings
for chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers through 2010. Many current cooks
are reaching retirement age or are leaving the workforce, causing a great need
for talented employees.
In addition to needing new chefs and cooks to replace retiring workers,
employment in the food service industry is expected to expand, as more Americans
spend their leisure time in restaurants rather then cooking themselves, and
travel more, staying more nights in hotels.
The largest demand for skilled cooks and chefs is expected in sit-down restaurants,
which offer more varied menus. As the population ages, people are less willing
to put up with fast food restaurants, and seek a more personal experience.
In addition, as hospitals and schools attempt to make their menus and service
more attractive, they are outsourcing cooking and serving in their cafeterias to
third parties, resulting in fewer institutional and cafeteria chefs and cooks.
If you enjoy meeting people, relish daily challenges, and have the energy to
succeed, a culinary career could be good for you. The popularity of cooking
shows on television, and the perception that chefs are artists has caused
applications at culinary schools to rise.
While it's certainly possible to begin your culinary career by starting at a low
level job and working your way 'up the ladder', most studies agree that with
formal training at a good culinary school, you'll get paid more, and reach the top faster.
Students at culinary certificate or degree programs spend most of their time
learning how to prepare food, including baking, broiling, and pastry making.
Time is also spent on the use and care of kitchen equipment. In addition to
learning about food preparation, students study health and sanitation
requirements, portion control, cost management, food purchasing, selection and
storage, and menu planning.
Many schools also teach general management skills, including accounting,
employee relations, and other topics. It can take from a few months to up to
two years to complete a degree or certificate courses. A degree from a culinary
school trains you for a variety of careers, including restaurant management,
hotel management, pastry chef, and other related positions.
For someone still in high school and contemplating a career as a cook or chef,
the best advice is to complete high school, making sure to select, if possible,
courses in mathematics and business. If a school offers internships or training
programs in food preparation, they should be taken, as they provide a sense of
what a culinary career could provide.
Particularly when seeking a career as an executive chef or other managerial job,
a further education at a college offering culinary degrees or at a culinary
institute will provide more career opportunities with less on the job training.
You may need to spend between eight and fifteen years as a cook before becoming a chef.