Is a Degree in Culinary Arts Worth It? Studies show that trained Chefs make, on average, eighty-nine percent more money per year than an untrained, uneducated cook. 121,000 was the number of chefs at work in the United States in 2015. This number has consistently grown since 2010 when it was at 109,000 chefs. By …
Is a Degree in Culinary Arts Worth It?
Studies show that trained Chefs make, on average, eighty-nine percent more money per year than an untrained, uneducated cook. 121,000 was the number of chefs at work in the United States in 2015. This number has consistently grown since 2010 when it was at 109,000 chefs. By the year 2025, it is expected to increase to 138,000. Sixteen million is the approximate number of restaurants worldwide, with one million alone located in the United States.
After the impact of the COVID-19 international pandemic, one would expect the competition for trained culinary positions to increase. With the restaurant industry sales being down $240 billion in 2020 from the expected growth levels of 12.5 million, 110,000 restaurant locations were temporarily or permanently closed due to the pandemic.
Although it is not recommended and is said to be a difficult path to take, some famous chefs have not completed any formal culinary education. Instead, they may have started out apprenticing directly under a chef they admire. However, a majority of executive chefs have completed formal schooling in various types of cuisine because it is there that they can learn everything from the basics of cooking to the science of gastronomy. A degree in culinary arts provides the necessary classical training and gives a prospect exposure to the workings of the food industry and its management skills. According to the US Department of Labor, in 2021, forty-four percent of chefs and cooks have an associate’s degree, twenty-two percent have a post-secondary certificate and eleven percent have a high-school diploma or equivalent.
Degrees Worth Something
What about culinary arts programs?
Culinary arts programs should range from twelve to twenty-four-month programs. If business courses are added in, then a little over two years would be an appropriate timeline to suggest. There are also high-cost, exotic culinary schools such as the famous culinary institute of Le Cordon Blue of Paris and the Culinary Institute of New York. For a more cost-effective route, there is the worthwhile option of taking courses at a reputable local community college with a solid culinary-focused program. Upon graduation, seeking an apprenticeship with a chef of good standing to begin the journey is a common path to take.
The American Culinary Federation, Inc. (ACF) is a professional organization for chefs and cooks. An organization based on promoting the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education of culinarians at all levels, their mission is setting the standard of excellence for the culinary industry, advancing and promoting professionalism, leadership, and collaboration, while promoting current culinary techniques and preserving the history and skills of the craft. While still in training, members that are culinary students have the opportunity to earn benefits such as receiving scholarships towards their professional growth. Whether they are still earning degrees and accreditations, or as they are moving up the kitchen “ladder,” the ACF is there to assist in many areas of their growth.
Professional Culinary Kitchens Run by Chefs
All modern professional kitchens run according to a strict hierarchy with the French Brigade system used to ensure the whole operation runs as smoothly as it possibly can, considering the always unpredictable world of restaurant life. In the kitchen brigade system, a military-like hierarchy creates a line of command. Each team member has a specific role that they fulfill with utmost precision. The modern brigade will have a chain of command with the bottom of the “ladder” starting with a “Commis Chef” (this person is typically a recent grad of culinary school or is currently still in training), to “Line Chef”, “Sous Chef”, “Head Chef” and “Executive Chef” at the top unless, they accept the challenge to earn the title of “Master Chef”. The title of Certified Master Chef® (CMC®), presented solely by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) in the US, is the highest level of certification a chef can achieve. It represents the pinnacle of professionalism and skill. Last noted, there were sixty-nine CMC®s and ten Certified Master Pastry Chefs® (CMPC®) in the nation.
In a normal restaurant environment, the executive chef has the opportunity to earn anywhere from $40,000 upwards, and is a five-star luxury environment a chef can earn up to $100,000 annually. The median annual wage for chefs and head cooks is $51,530. However, top celebrity chefs are known to be paid far beyond that. The highest-paid chef, Gordon Ramsay, earned sixty-three million dollars in 2019, according to Forbes.
If you cannot handle the heat in the kitchen, it may not be worth it
Stress and working in the restaurant industry simply and most likely, go hand in hand. When working in a kitchen, there are bound to be times when the orders start to pile up and people are rushing around to make things happen in a timely manner, under a lot of stress. Some people thrive in this type of setting and others do not. If you cannot handle stress well, becoming a chef might not be the right option. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” For a quick history lesson…this term was popularized by President Harry Truman. Truman was known as a plain-spoken man who hailed from Missouri. He credited Judge Buck Purcell of the Jackson County, Missouri Court as the originator of the proverb.
From someone with a culinary arts degree
“Food is love. Food brings people together. As a chef, I get to bring people together through the love of my craft. While in school, I connected with top-notch chefs who later offered me positions to work under them at their restaurants while working my way up the ladder. Without going to culinary school, I would not have had those opportunities. Best decision I made in my youth. Do what you love, and the money will follow,” said Chef Stephanie.
So, culinary school is the way to earn a degree?
The bottom line is, if one wants to succeed in a career as a Chef, a culinary school education is thoroughly helpful. Especially, if one wants to work in a fine dining setting, a culinary school degree is a must. Experience is helpful, but culinary school opens a lot of doors that would not be available otherwise. Top chefs believe that the purpose of a degree is to set a goal for yourself and accomplish it because, regardless of your background, everyone starts in the dish room or on the line. Chefs also agree that a candidate with a degree plus experience is more appealing than someone who only has their degree.