Alternative Careers in Food

What’s Next?

So you graduated from culinary school. Now what?

Working in a kitchen may seem like the logical next step for a culinary arts graduate, but restaurant life is competitive and grueling. Unfortunately, while many hope to become a celebrity chef personality after culinary school, the odds of becoming the next Emeril or Cat Cora are incredibly low.

Starting out at the bottom isn’t easy, but if you stick it out and put in thousands of hours, you can become a sous chef, food service manager, or executive chef making up to $60,000k/yr.

Working in a kitchen isn’t for everyone, and many find themselves discouraged— don’t! Think outside the box. The food industry is so large and diverse, there are hundreds of alternative careers for chefs.

Succeeding with a Culinary Arts Degree

What else can you do for work with a culinary degree? The value of a culinary arts degree goes beyond the kitchen proficiency that comes with it. A culinary arts degree is so versatile, it gives you the skills to excel in any professional position in the food industry, whether it’s in a kitchen, office, or the media.

Having a degree from an accredited school can make breaking into any food-related job easier. Before choosing a career path, think about your passions and interests and how they may align with other aspects of the industry.

Careers After Culinary School

Sure, you can work at a restaurant, on a cruise ship, or at a University kitchen, but with the low wages and high stakes work, you may not want to. If you’re a chef looking to change careers, a simple redirection could turn a stressful job hunt into a promising path towards a rewarding and lucrative career working with food.

1. Become a Culinary Entrepreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur is the closest you can get to cooking without actually working in a kitchen. Starting a restaurant, food truck, or catering business isn’t easy or cheap, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Food entrepreneurs need patience, drive, business knowledge, and a keen eye for solid leadership and culinary skills. Leadership can make or break a business, and choosing the best staff can be a challenging task. Working with and watching chefs in culinary school can give you a good idea of who might be a great fit.

2. Create Art with Food

Food can be a fantastic outlet for creatives, but when you’re not an executive chef or restaurant owner, it can be challenging to satisfy that creative itch. Graduates of culinary school may find their calling as a journalist, blogger, author, or food stylist, which will give them more opportunities to express themselves through food.

Food for Thought

If you like to write, you may find your calling as a food writer. Food writers write for newspapers, magazines, recipe books, advertisements, and blogs -- the possibilities are endless. Despite there being a lot of competition for food writer positions, an exceptional writer with a culinary arts degree has the authority and experience that many food hobby writers don’t have. Landing a fantastic food writing job will take some time, but for a passionate culinary arts graduate, the work will be worth it.

Play with Your Food

Food stylists are essentially food beauticians. They work with food photographers on sets for movies, commercials, and photo shoots creating the most appealing food scenes and arrangements. Food stylists will source, shop, prep, and stage the display food before the shoot.

Food stylists are unique artists that have extensive knowledge of how food can be manipulated to look nice for longer. They know how to use chemicals and alternative materials to create the look they want, sometimes spending hours on a splash or cream cheese swirl. Stylists with culinary arts degrees have the skills and knowledge to carefully cook, construct, and plate visually-appealing scenes of food. Stylists’ work will often be displayed in magazines, supermarkets, cookbooks, advertisements, and packaging, which makes their job one of the most public in the industry.

3. Change the Industry

If you want to change the industry for the better, taking a corporate position may be the most lucrative and feasible option. Corporate work isn’t always office work and meetings -- there are great positions and opportunities for creative chefs to make the most out of a food career without working in a kitchen.

For example, working in marketing gives you a great opportunity to make a living by changing how consumers see food. Marketing and branding jobs offer a unique experience to those interested in making awesome things happen behind the scenes of the industry. Having a culinary arts degree will help you understand the industry and its consumers better, making for more informed brand decisions.

4. Become a Culinary Scientist

If you’ve been thinking about working in research and development, you may find food science to be a rewarding career path. Food scientists combine their love of food with their love of science when they study food safety, preservation, packaging, processing, and even molecular gastronomy.

Graduates looking to work in food science may find themselves working for collegiate research labs or private food manufacturers. This can be an easy transition for culinary arts graduates because of how much they’ve worked with food.

5. Change Peoples’ Lives

You may decide you’re more interested in the health benefits and nutritional makeup of food than preparing it. Like culinary scientists, nutritionists combine their culinary skills with science to study how food affects the body and why.

Nutritionists who have a degree in culinary arts will have specialized knowledge to develop the best meal plans for specific dietary needs. Nutritionists can be hired as a consultant for television shows, books, and magazines.

Think Outside the Kitchen with the OCI

Choosing a career after culinary school may be daunting to those who don’t want to work in a kitchen, but cooking isn’t everything! There are endless possibilities for graduates looking to use their degrees outside of a restaurant. The Oregon Culinary Institute can help direct you into better-paying jobs in the food industry.

Find Your Perfect Culinary Career Path

Earn your degree in Culinary Arts in Portland— enroll at OCI today!