Careers In The TRADES: Culinary Arts

Chef in hotel or restaurant kitchen. Prepared beef steak with vegetable decoration.

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CHARLOTTE – This career field is fascinating and growing nationwide and in North Carolina. There are so many opportunities and paths an individuals career can take making it very interesting and attractive for those who are creative.

In North Carolina alone the hospitality industry is composed of 17,500 restaurants and 1,700 lodging establishments located across the state. The industry generates over $20 billion in sales annually, employs 475,000 and accounts for 11% of the states workforce.

The culinary arts is based on tradition, but it is changing and evolving constantly. Careers in this field offer opportunities to express your creativity, working with people who may influence the way the world enjoys eating, while making a good living. However, it requires hard work, significant hands-on training, and long hours. Some careers can lead to fame and fortune, or opening your own restaurant, but the vast majority of culinary professionals work behind the scenes cooking, baking, decorating, and much more.

Some of the top careers in the food industry are baker, banquet cook, butcher, cake decorator, executive chief, food technologist, pastry cook, prep cook, line cooks, station chefs, (a wine steward), sous chef, sushi chef, and more. While there are careers in the management side of the business such as a restaurant manager, assistant manager, and executive chief. The opportunities are broad and can even go beyond those mentioned.

Regarding training some of our high schools provide courses in culinary arts, the basics, an appreciation and a solid foundation can be achieved at this level to inspire those interested in pursuing the next step in their training and development.

The next step would be to enroll in a culinary school, attend a community college, or apply and attend Johnson & Wales University (JWU) conveniently located in uptown Charlotte who is considered a world renowned culinary arts college in the field and industry. While locally, Central Piedmont Community College offers an excellent degree and diploma programs, and you can transfer to JWU for a bachelor’s degree in the field. Many of the courses are hands-on, obtaining knowledge and experience in food preparation, nutrition, ServSafe training, earning skills in setting high food safety standards, leading to achieving the American Culinary Federation certification, and prepares the students for many entry-level opportunities to establish and build their careers.

Also, for those interested in management and entrepreneurship there are classes and programs to meet your interests and career aspirations in the food and restaurant  industry, including the hospitality industry with hotels, resorts, clubs, etc. Beyond the local choices which are excellent, there are other great schools available to explore and consider. Some are online as well, for example, the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts provides on-campus learning, and hands-on industry externships with employers such as Disney, Ritz Carlton, Celebrity Cruises, Hyatt Hotels, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Vail Resorts, etc.

The pay scale ranges from entry-level to executive chef who average over $75,000 per year and more, while a good entry-level position would pay between $17 and $20 per hour or more in today’s labor market depending upon experience and ability.

Any high school student interested in this career field should discuss with your grade advisers, college counselors, and teachers who might be a great resource. Also, reach out to CPCC and JWU online or by telephone to set up a meeting to explore your options and opportunities in more detail.

To get started contact CPCC at (704) 330-6341, or email JWU call (866) 598-2427. The Escoffier School of Culinary Arts can be reached at (877) 452-5489.

For those interested in this growing career field, your choices and opportunities are endless, an individual can take their career in different directions, and there are various industry options for someone to pursue during a career.

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