How to Become a Chef Instructor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a chef instructor. Research the job description and education requirements, and find out how to start a career in culinary instruction.

Should I Become a Chef Instructor?

Chef instructors train aspiring chefs in high school vocational programs, vocational schools, and colleges. They give lectures and demonstrations, assign homework, and guide skill labs. Chef instructors need to develop lesson plans, interact and/or collaborate with fellow teachers, assess students' skills through exams and demonstrations of abilities, meet with and advise individual students, and stay informed about the latest trends in the field.

Teachers instructing at the postsecondary level have flexible schedules. Some office hours are required. Some chef instructors continue to work as chefs in addition to teaching. At the postsecondary level, culinary instructors hold at least an associate degree and have several years' experience in both professional cooking and kitchen management. They also hold professional certification. To teach at the high school level, chef instructors need a bachelor's degree and a state teacher's license, although they are able to obtain their teaching credentials through an alternative program.

Career Requirements

Degree Level An associate or bachelor's degree is preferred.
Degree Field(s) Culinary arts, some schools may not specify a field or may accept degrees in hospitality.
Experience 3-5 years professional cooking experience, some schools specify this professional experience be as a sous or head chef.
Licensing and Certification Instructors in high schools need a teaching license; the American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers professional certification as a culinary educator, and the National Restaurant Association offers ServSafe certification in food handling.
Key Skills Strong culinary, teaching, communication skills, experience with instructional software, online distance learning course software.
Salary(2014) $62,330 per year (Median salary for all other postsecondary teachers).

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O Net, Milwaukee Area Technical College, American Culinary Federation, job posting (November 2012), ServSafe.

Step 1: Complete Culinary Education

Many culinary arts schools prefer their instructors to have formal training in the field. An associate or bachelor degree in the culinary arts trains students for working in a kitchen and provides the theoretical and practical knowledge a chef instructor will need when working with his or her own students. Many community and four year colleges offer both types of degrees.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship or work part-time in a kitchen while in school. Cooking is a hands-on field, so practical experience is important when looking for jobs and qualifying for professional certification.
  • Check secondary school teacher requirements. Someone who specifically wants to teach culinary arts at the high school level will need to meet the educational and student teaching requirements for earning a teacher's license. Individuals in school should talk to an academic adviser about completing the necessary requirements. Those who already graduated will have to go back to school.
  • Take continuing education courses. Additional training in specialized areas, such as ethnic cuisines, special diets, or kitchen management enhances a culinary professional's knowledge, increasing his or her job prospects, and documenting his or her knowledge.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Culinary schools expect instructors to have substantial work experience, often at the management level. Many culinary schools offer job placement services that help a new cook find a first job. New cooks aspiring for a teaching career should seek out opportunities to move up in the supervisory and management ranks.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Earning professional certifications enhance a person's chances of finding work as a chef instructor. Culinary schools want instructors to hold ServSafe certification in food handling safety as well as ACF certification. Becoming ServSafe qualified requires the completion of a training course and passing an exam. Different types of ACF certification exist; to qualify for certification, a person must meet prescribed education and professional experience requirements and pass written and practical exams. Those choosing to earn culinary educator certification must also develop a cooking class lesson plan and submit it with a DVD of the instructor teaching the class.

Success Tip:

  • Complete certification renewal requirements. Both ServSafe and ACS certifications expire, so it's important for chef instructors to renew their credentials by taking continuing education or refresher courses. ServSafe courses are available in both online and traditional classroom formats.

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