Should I Become a Corporate Chef?
Corporate chefs combine their culinary expertise with business skills to develop quality dishes that attract customers. In addition to developing dishes for restaurants or food brands, corporate chefs must be adept at training and running a kitchen. Some corporate chefs work for restaurant chains to develop and execute menu items, while other corporate chefs work for companies to develop product lines. Corporate chefs may spend many work hours standing, and kitchen areas can be noisy and hot. Payscale.com reported in January 2016 that the median annual salary for corporate chefs was $70,038.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree|
|Degree Field||Culinary arts|
|Experience||5-7 years of experience|
|Certification||Industry certifications are available|
|Key Skills||Business skills, creativity, leadership skills, organizational skills|
|Median Salary (2016*)||$70,0383 (for corporate chefs)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com*, Job postings (November 2012)
To become a corporate chef, you'll need an associate's degree in culinary arts and five to seven years of experience. There are also industry certifications available that you may consider. You'll also need business, creativity, leadership and organizational skills.
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Steps to Become a Corporate Chef
Let's take a look at what steps you need to take to become a corporate chef.
Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increasing number of chefs are pursuing formal training in the culinary arts. In addition, the associate's degree sets the groundwork for a high-level position, such as the corporate chef, where students learn both technical skills as well as kitchen management theory. Students take courses in baking, grilling, butchery and grade manger, as well as food safety, cost control and menu planning.
Study abroad. Students who study abroad have an opportunity to learn firsthand how culture relates to food. As corporate chefs, you can creatively use international techniques and flavors to develop product lines and menu items. Take business courses. Courses in marketing and accounting help you to understand the role that you'll play in enhancing the bottom line for restaurants and companies that create food products.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Corporate chefs can require experience anywhere from 2-10 years. With an associate's degree, you can enter directly into the workforce, taking on entry-level roles as prep or line cooks. You'll also have the unique opportunity of entering apprenticeship programs through the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprentices learn cooking fundamentals at ten cooking stations and take classroom instruction while being paid. These formal training experiences can give you a foot in the door. Over time, you should seek to build both cooking skills as well as administrative skills, such as menu planning and cost control.
Gain management skills. Corporate chefs will often be required to hire, manage and train a cooking staff. You can gain increasing levels of responsibility as they move from line cook to sous chef. In addition, you can take training courses in management.
Complete safety training. It is likely that the state in which you work, your employer or both will require food safety training. Often, food safety training is offered through a health department or a health department-approved organization and a certificate is earned as proof of completion of the program.
Step 3: Earn Certification
As you gain more skills and experience, you'll become eligible for certifications. Entry-level chefs can earn certification, and so can sous chefs and executive chefs. The certification serves as proof to employers that chefs have a minimum level of expertise and experience. Certification generally lasts five years and chefs are required to earn continuing education hours to maintain their status. Earning certifications may assist in career advancement.
Step 4: Join a Professional Organization
If you want to advance your career, you may consider joining a professional organization, such as the International Corporate Chefs Association (ICCA), which is designed specifically for corporate chefs. ICCA provides a variety of benefits, such as access to educational programs, updates on current trends, hands-on training programs, networking opportunities and other resources for professional growth and advancement.
To become a corporate chef, you'll need an associate degree and experience in the field. You may also consider earning certification and joining a professional organization.