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Difference Between Food Scientist & Chef

Food scientists and chefs work with food, but their occupations are very different. Continue reading to explore how these professionals work with food, what their objectives are, and how their training and work environment differ.

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Comparing Food Scientists to Chefs

Food scientists help to ensure that the food people buy is safe. Chefs use food to create appealing meals. While both of these professionals work with food, they have very different duties and goals.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Food Scientist Bachelor's Degree $63,950 for Food Scientists and Technologists 3% for Food Scientists and Technologists
Chef High School Diploma or GED $43,180 for Chefs and Head Cooks 9% for Chefs and Head Cooks

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Food Processing
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Responsibilities of Food Scientists vs. Chefs

Food scientists are professionals who focus on researching issues related to food production and transport. Their primary goals include making sure that food is produced properly and that the food people buy in stores is safe to eat. Chefs focus on presenting appealing dishes to the people who eat at their establishment. They may be involved in creating new recipes and determining what meals are offered on their menu. Some chefs are actively involved in preparing food, while others oversee the staff who cook for them.

Food Scientist

Food scientists play an important role in ensuring that food products are safe for consumption. It's common for aspiring food scientists to study subjects such as biology and they are required to have a bachelor's degree. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but earning voluntary certification may increase job prospects. Since food scientists spend a lot of time performing research they need to be observant and good at analyzing data. Almost half of all food scientists work in food manufacturing, and while they may conduct tests in laboratories, they may also be required to travel to locations where food is processed.

Job responsibilities of a food scientist include:

  • Conducting research on food production methods
  • Assessing how food is transported
  • Reviewing food packaging procedures
  • Identifying the nutritional value of foods
  • Testing food for contamination

Chef

Chefs typically work in restaurants or cafes where they prepare food. It is possible to learn to be a chef through on-the-job training and practical experience, but completing a culinary arts program or comparable postsecondary training can be an advantage for aspiring chefs, and those with certification may be paid higher salaries. Chefs spend a lot of time working on their feet and they may also need to lift trays of food or packages of ingredients, so it's important that they're strong and fit. They also need to be good at directing people and providing clear direction, since they are responsible for ensuring that all staff work together effectively. Chefs may perform different duties, depending on their specific designation; some work as sous chefs while a head chef typically oversees food production operations.

Job responsibilities of a chef include:

  • Creating dishes that are offered on the menu
  • Setting standards for how meals are prepared
  • Ensuring supplies are ordered
  • Providing training for new staff
  • Inspecting food preparation areas for cleanliness

Related Careers

Since food scientists are concerned with effective food production, those considering this career may also be interested in becoming an agricultural economist. Another career option for those who are considering becoming a chef is to work as a professional baker, since bakers may also create recipes and they oversee the production of baked goods.

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