Culinary Management Careers: Salary Info & Job Descriptions

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What are the pros and cons of a culinary management career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a culinary management professional is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Culinary Management

If you love to cook and aspire to oversee a kitchen or restaurant staff, there are a number of career options in culinary management from which to choose, including food service manager, sous chef and executive chef. Here's some information about these careers at a glance:

Food service manager Sous chef Executive chef
Career Overview Food service managers are in charge of the day-to-day operations of various food-preparing establishments. Sous chefs work under the executive or head chef as the second-in-charge of a kitchen. Executive chefs are the managers in charge of running a kitchen and kitchen staff.
Education Requirements Usually a high school diploma or a GED, although there are exceptions At least a high school diploma or a GED; sometimes an associate's or bachelor's degree At least a high school diploma or a GED; sometimes an associate's or bachelor's degree
Program Length 1-2 years for a certificate or an associate's degree 1-2 years for a certificate or an associate's degree, 3-5 years for a bachelor's degree 1-2 years for a certificate or an associate's degree, 3-5 years for a bachelor's degree
Certification and Licensing Certification usually isn't required Certification usually isn't required Certification usually isn't required
Work Experience Varies widely Varies widely Varies widely
Job Outlook for 2012-22 Little or no change (2%) compared to all occupations* Slower-than-average growth (5% for all chefs and head cooks) compared to all occupations* Slower-than-average growth (5% for all chefs and head cooks) compared to all occupations*
Median Salary Roughly $49,000 (2014)* Roughly $45,000 (2015)** Roughly $42,000 (2014)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com.

Food Service Manager

Food service managers are in charge of running various kinds of food production facilities. Controlling the food quality and ensuring that customers are satisfied are typically the main components of this job. For most food service management jobs, you'll be in charge; however you may work under higher-level management such as a hotel administrator. Not only are most of these positions full-time, but many include overtime hours as well, and you could potentially work up to seven days a week in certain instances.

Requirements

Education and training requirements differ from job to job. It's possible that you'll begin your career as a cook or lower-level manager and work your way up through the ranks. Although there was a time when a postsecondary education wasn't necessary for this position, a vocational certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree in hospitality management or a related field can be helpful today.

In November 2012, employers posted the following food service management positions online:

  • A hospital in Cincinnati, OH, was seeking a food service director to manage the kitchen and a staff of 35. Although a four-year degree was preferred, a two-year degree in hospitality, nutrition, food service management or a related field was considered acceptable.
  • In Louisiana, a food service company catering to senior living and healthcare was searching for a manager with 1-3 years of experience with dining management and 1-3 years of senior assistance. A two-year degree was required, and being a Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) was considered a bonus.
  • A Maryland-based hospital center sought a manager to help a food service director manage the Food Services Department. A bachelor's degree and at least one year of experience in the field were required.

Standing Out

Because it's likely that the job market for food service managers will shrink over the next several years, standing out may be particularly important. Earning credentials and certifications can be a great way to do this. The National Restaurant Association offers a four-step program and exam with which you can earn a Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) credential. Becoming ServSafe Certified through the National Restaurant Education Foundation or becoming a Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) are other options. Finally, consider earning a ProStart National Certificate of Achievement (COA).

Sous Chef

The term 'sous chef' means 'under chef' in French. Typically, as a sous chef, you will be second in command in a kitchen under an executive or head chef. Not only will you assist in managerial duties, but you will also be in charge of a kitchen's daily operations and staff when the head chef isn't available. Becoming a sous chef is a common step towards eventually becoming an executive chef.

Requirements

As is the case for food service managers, the training you'll need for a sous chef position depends largely on the requirements of a certain employer. A certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree in culinary arts or a related field can be helpful, as can a formal apprenticeship program. The number of years of experience that you'll need varies depending on the employer.

In November 2012, the following sous chef positions were listed on the Internet:

  • A sous chef with a at least two years of kitchen management experience and knowledge of health department regulations was sought by a café and catering management company in Arizona.
  • In New York City, a Parisian-style café was seeking a sous chef with at least three years of fine dining experience and a certificate or degree in culinary arts.
  • A department store in California was looking for a sous chef to help manage the in-store restaurants and coffee bars. A California Food Handler Card was required as well as 2-5 years of experience.

Standing Out

There are a number of measures that you can take to stand out as a sous chef. The American Culinary Foundation (ACF) offers Certified Sous Chef credentialing. In May of 2012, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) granted this program with official accreditation. Earning this credential is voluntary and can be a solid way to bolster your resume. The ACF also offers apprenticeships that can help you gain experience in the field.

Executive Chef

As an executive or head chef, you'll typically be in charge of a kitchen and its staff. You'll be able to work in a large number of industries, from restaurants to resorts to personal households. As is the case for food service managers, this job is usually full-time and can often include long work hours. Often, the work environment is hot, stressful and fast-paced.

Requirements

For many head chef jobs, you'll be required to have earned an associate's or bachelor's degree in culinary arts or a related discipline. Experience is also important in this field, and oftentimes, you'll need to work as a sous chef before you are put in charge of your own kitchen or cooking environment. Again, the number of years of experience required depends on the job.

Here are a few jobs that were posted online in November of 2012:

  • A modern Mexican restaurant set to open in 2013 in New York City was searching for an executive chef with an associate's or bachelor's degree, 5-7 years of culinary management experience and experience managing a Mexican, Latin or Spanish restaurant.
  • A New York bar and grill with another location in Pennsylvania was seeking a head chef with a culinary arts degree and 3-5 years of administrative experience in restaurants or hotel dining.
  • A North Carolina-based foodservice management company was hiring an executive chef for another New York-area location. A culinary arts degree and 3-5 years of experience in progressive cuisine were required.

Standing Out

As is the case in food service management, the number of executive chef jobs is likely to decrease over the next few years. Knowledge of computers and the latest technological developments in the culinary world can be very attractive to potential employers. Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel and Word are three software programs that it may be useful to master.

Popular Schools

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    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
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    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Culinary Arts
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    3. Penn Foster Career School

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    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Caterer
  • Big Rapids, MI

    Ferris State University

  • Missoula, MT

    The University of Montana

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    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Hotel & Restaurant Management (BS)
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    Associate's
      • Restaurant & Catering Management (AAS)
      • Culinary Arts (AAS)
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      • High School with Culinary Arts Professional Pathway
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  • Chula Vista, CA

    Southwestern College

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    9. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management

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Virginia College

  • Diploma Program - Culinary Arts
  • Diploma Program - Pastry Arts

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Caterer

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Hotel & Restaurant Management (BS)
  • Restaurant & Catering Management (AAS)
  • Culinary Arts (C)
  • Culinary Arts (D)

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • High School with Culinary Arts Professional Pathway
  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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Southwestern College