Students with a passion and flair for cooking and preparing food will find that formal training and education can lead to an exciting career in culinary arts. A good chef has a vast understanding of diet, nutrition, and the science of food, and finds satisfaction in creating meals that not only taste great but are also aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Types of Culinary Arts Degrees Available
- Certificate Programs: These programs are designed as accelerated programs for students who already have a degree in a related field such as hospitality management, food science, or nutrition. They can usually be completed in less than a year and allow students to study culinary techniques, flavor strategies, wine, developing menus, industry trends, and more in order to gain an edge in the industry and add to their qualifications and abilities.
- Associate’s Degree: This two-year degree program offers students a well-rounded education that provides the framework of culinary arts. You will learn the fundamentals and get the necessary hands-on training that will prepare you for entry-level positions such as cook, line cook, sous chef, or caterer. Students will study food safety, nutrition, gastronomy, cooking techniques, kitchen organization, and more. Some jobs may require additional certification.
- Bachelor’s Degree: This is a four-year degree designed to give students the most options when it comes to working in the culinary field. After learning the basics, you will move on to more advanced techniques and cuisine study. Students will learn to hone their culinary skills, while also obtaining a solid education in business foundation. These skills teach you how to build and manage a food-related business. Studies may include fine-dining, cooking techniques, finance, business planning, and menu development. This program can prepare students for a career as a personal chef, pastry chef, executive chef, and more.
- Master’s Degree: This is a program that takes one to two years to complete, depending on your focus and school. Not all schools offer a master’s degree in this field. These programs focus less on skill and technique and more on theory and mastering various cuisines. Students may also be interested in earning a master’s in hospitality management in order to pursue a degree that is more business-focused in the industry. Other students may also choose to study abroad to expand their international culinary knowledge and skills.
Popular Career Choices with a Culinary Arts Degree
Culinary arts is an expansive field with many opportunities for career advancement. With a basic certificate or degree, you can begin learning and honing your craft. And with enough training and drive, opportunities are abundant. These are some of the more common and popular careers paths in this field:
- Sous Chef: This chef is considered the assistant to the executive chef and is responsible for filling in as needed and serving as the second in command in a kitchen.
- Sommelier: This person is very knowledgeable about wine, and is responsible for wine service, pairing, storage, and service. It is their job to train team members and suggest wines to compliment foods.
- Personal Chef: A personal chef is one who prepares specifically for a client in their home. Some prepare meals in bulk to be frozen and eaten over a period of time, and some may be responsible for cooking meals for large groups for certain events.
- Master Chef: Master Chef is a prestigious title, and one receives it after achieving the highest level certification. It requires extensive training in various programs. There are only a small number in the U.S.
- Executive Chef: This person is responsible for all aspects of the kitchen, from menu to management. They make all the decisions regarding how food is prepared and presented.
- Pastry Chef: This chef is experienced in desserts and baked good and often works in large kitchens, such as in hotels and restaurants. In some settings, the pastry chef is also responsible for creating the dessert menu.
- Line Cook: This position is responsible for a certain area in a kitchen such as pantry chef, vegetable chef, or grill chef.
- Prep Cook: A prep cook is responsible for preparing ingredients and other materials for the chefs. Some of their duties might include cleaning and chopping vegetables or preparing soups and dressings.
- Catering: People in this business prepare and serve food at offsite locations, such as homes, hotels, or other facilities. Some examples are weddings, receptions, or other private events.
- Baker: This position is similar to a pastry chef, and in some settings, the two names are used interchangeably. They are responsible for baking cakes, breads, and other goods.
Online vs. Campus: What are Your Options for a Culinary Arts Degree?
Online: This option is becoming more popular because of the flexibility it provides. Students are able to earn their degree while balancing careers and families. Earning your degree online gives you the freedom to study at your own pace and plan your classes around your schedule. Some schools even offer accelerated programs online for students who wish to study at a more advanced pace. Those who opt to study online should be self-motivated and organized, as it takes discipline and time-management in order to complete the program requirements.
When it comes to earning a degree in culinary arts, online learning can be limited. It is not practical for a student to receive the proper training without the hands-on learning and instruction. This does not mean that it is not an option at all. Some schools allow students to complete some basic coursework online before attending the campus to complete their requirements. Other schools allow students who have already completed an associate’s degree, or students who have previous culinary education, to advance to a bachelor’s degree via online study. It is important to research culinary schools and see which options they provide before deciding on a degree plan that best fits your needs.
Campus: For culinary arts, it is hard to compare hands-on learning to any other method. Studying on campus under experienced and advanced experts is the optimal ways students can learn and perfect their cooking skills. The traditional campus setting provides students with the materials and tools necessary for learning various techniques and styles. You will learn everything from food selection, preparation, and food service for any size setting.
The downside for some students is that on-campus courses are not always as flexible as online courses, so it can be more difficult if you are trying to go to school around your busy schedule. The flipside is that you learn from the best, you have an instructor on-hand to offer tips and advice, and you are actually in a kitchen setting putting what you have learned to the test.
10 Celebrity Chefs Making Waves in the Industry
- Rachel Ray: Rachel is a successful TV star with her own cooking show, a best-selling cookbook, and she even founded her own lifestyle magazine.
- Wolfgang Puck: Wolfgang is a restaurateur, philanthropist, Emmy winner, and award-winning chef with dozens of restaurants all over the world.
- Gordon Ramsay: Gordon is a successful chef with restaurants around the world, the author of several best-selling books, and the star of two hit reality TV cooking shows.
- Nobuyuki Matsuhisa: Nobu is a very influential chef with 22 restaurants all over the world. He is also the author of five cookbooks and has appeared in several movies.
- Alain Ducasse: Alain is a world-renowned chef with 27 restaurants in eight different countries, but he has also created a successful enterprise consisting of 1,400 partners, one formation centre, an editing house, and a collection of hotels.
- Paula Deen: Paula has a true rags-to-riches story, turning her love of cooking into a successful career. She has authored 14 cookbooks, started a bimonthly magazine, stars in several of her own TV shows, and has restaurants in several cities and casinos across the country.
- Mario Batali: Mario is a well-known chef, writer, media personality, and restaurateur. He co-owns several restaurants in multiple cities, has written a number of books, and has won many awards for his restaurants and abilities.
- Tom Colicchio: Tom is a notable chef, known for his many restaurants, published books, and his roles in several TV reality cooking shows.
- Bobby Flay: Bobby is known for his talents as a chef and restaurateur. He shares his knowledge and love of food through his restaurants, cookbooks, and his several national cooking shows.
- Anthony Bourdain: Anthony is a well-known celebrity chef and world traveler, known for his best-selling books and as host of the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.