Become a Recipe Developer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Find out how to become a recipe developer. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in recipe development.

Should I Become a Recipe Developer?

Recipe developers create new recipes for many different purposes. Some recipe developers design recipes for individuals with specific health or dietary concerns, others create commercial recipes for restaurants or food manufacturers. Additional employment options for recipe developers include creating and writing recipes for magazine and book publishers or working in the culinary field. Recipe development jobs are often competitive and typically freelance based.

Career Requirements

Degree Level On-the-job training or postsecondary education for professional chefs, undergraduate or graduate degree for dietitians, writers and journalists
Degree Fields Culinary arts, journalism, nutrition or food science
Licensing or Certification Licensure and professional certification required or preferred for some positions
Experience Experience with cooking typically required
Key Skills Creativity, determination, persistence, sense of taste and smell, organization and communication
Salary (2014) $41,610 (median for all chefs and head cooks)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Explore Career Options

Recipe development encompasses several career paths. Recipe developers may be professional chefs working at restaurants to create new menu items. They may also work for food manufacturers developing recipes using specific products. Nutritionists and dietitians may work as recipe developers at hospitals, nursing homes and health organizations, formulating dishes that meet certain health and dietary requirements. Food journalists and writers can be recipe developers for food publications.

Success Tips:

  • Talk to a career counselor. Working with a professional can be helpful in identifying a career path that incorporates recipe development.
  • Take cooking classes. Restaurants, specialty food stores and adult education programs all offer cooking classes. Taking classes helps aspiring recipe developers learn basic cooking techniques and gain hands-on experience, elements that are essential to this line of work.

Step 2: Obtain Formal Training

Individuals might follow several paths to become a recipe developer. Professional chef performing recipe development tasks usually have some formal culinary training through a technical college, specialized culinary arts school, culinary arts or hospitality college programs or even the armed forces. A dietitian must earn at least a bachelor's degree in dietetics or a related field. Food writers and journalists have degrees in journalism, communications or English.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship during training. Internships provide students with hands-on experience working with food while also learning culinary elements in school. These programs can help students decide whether a food industry career is right for them. For some food-related professions, such as dietetics, internships are mandatory.
  • Take courses in food writing or food media. Aspiring food writers and journalists should find out if their school offers food writing or food media courses.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Recipe developers generally start their careers in entry-level positions within their chosen fields. Professional chefs often began their careers as line cooks. Dietitians begin their careers in institutional cafeterias. Writers and journalists may begin work as reporters or copywriters.

Step 4: Earn Any Necessary Licensure or Certification

Certain positions that involve recipe development may have licensure requirements. Dietitians, for example, must be licensed in most states. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (part of the American Dietetic Association) offers the Registered Dietitian (RD) certification, along with several other dietary credentials, which can be helpful for career advancement and necessary to gain employment in the field. The dietitian must pass a certification exam and show regular continuing education credits to renew the certification. For chefs, certification is voluntary, but the American Culinary Federation offers several options for those interested. The regular completion of continuing education courses is also a requirement for renewing ACF certification.

Step 5: Refine Technique and Stay Current

Following food trends and new developments in the field is a critical element in recipe development. Recipe developers must be able to create clear and concise recipes keeping these factors in mind. Reading industry publications and attending trade shows and professional conferences help recipe developers learn about new trends, ingredients and cooking equipment. These events also provide opportunities for networking and possible career advancement.

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