Most students attending classes at culinary art schools are doing so for the purpose of finding a lucrative career doing something they feel passionate about. But after graduation, some students may find it difficult to land a good paying job in the environment they have always envisioned working. A good cooking school is always the best way to get to that dream job, but between graduation and actually landing that job are a lot of hard earned rewards and hundreds of hours in the kitchen.
It is completely possible to land a dream job, provided that the student is willing to work to get there. Few famous chefs just graduated from cooking school. In reality, most chefs we know by name have een cooking professionally for decades. So, for the real answers about where the jobs can be found after school, it may be better to stop dreaming for a moment and start looking at the facts about jobs in the culinary arts industry.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor the industries hiring the most chefs is not always the industry paying the most. While Full-Service Restaurants seem to hire the most chefs in any industry, it is the Deep Sea, Coastal, and Great Lakes Water Transportation industry that pays the most. Coastal cities hire the most professional chefs (including those states bordering the great lakes) and cities Northern Midwest hire the least. And the highest paid chefs? They are working in California, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii.
Regardless of the industry, though, students can expect to put in a lot of hard work. Many choose to work in the cooking industry before ever attending a class in a culinary arts college. One news report puts all of the hard work and experience into perspective:
According to a survey of 1,730 kitchen professionals released in May by the industry insider website StarChefs.com, the average starting salary for a line cook in 2007 was $13.07 an hour, while the average salary for an executive chef was $77,611.
In 2007, executive sous chefs earned an average of $55,679, sous chefs $42,104, and pastry chefs $53,017, according to the survey. Executive chefs at country clubs or private dining operations earned the most of those in the categories surveyed (an average of $87,068 a year), followed by hotel executive chefs ($86,066), fine dining executive chefs ($78,348), and upscale casual executive chefs ($69,708).
Longevity is the key to bringing in those top salaries. Of those surveyed, chefs averaged between 15 and 20 years in the industry, while executive chefs earning six figures had more than 24 years of experience.
“I have had [culinary] students who have done well and those who didn’t do well, and I’ve had employees with no experience do well. It’s all about individual personality,” Ford says “I look for passion, whether they’ve gone to school or not, because then I know they will pay attention, that their answer will always be, ‘yes, chef.’ ”