Become a Culinary Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 09, 2020

Learn how to become a culinary manager. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in culinary management.

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  • 0:04 Culinary Manager Overview
  • 0:59 Earn an Undergraduate Degree
  • 2:09 Obtain a Food Handler Card
  • 2:37 Gain Experience
  • 3:23 Complete a Training Program
  • 3:51 Obtain Certification

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Culinary Manager Overview

Culinary managers oversee the daily operations of restaurants and other food establishments. The primary goal of a culinary manager is to ensure that customers are pleased with their dining experiences. Common duties of a culinary manager include managing employees, ordering inventory, ensuring regulations are being followed, creating schedules and monitoring food preparation.

Culinary managers need strong communication skills, the ability to multitask, and leadership abilities. They also must be able to use a computer to create schedules and reports. As of May 2018, food service managers earned a mean annual salary of $58,960, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Degree Level A high school diploma is usually required and at least an associate's degree is often preferred; some employers could require that applicants hold a bachelor's degree
Degree Field Culinary arts, food service management, hospitality
Certification Voluntary certification is available through the National Restaurant Educational Foundation
Experience Experience in the food service industry is necessary
Key Skills Strong communication skills, ability to multitask, leadership abilities; ability to use a computer to create schedules and reports
Salary (2018) $58,960 per year (mean annual salary for food service managers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Let's take a look at the steps you need to become a culinary manager.

Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree

A culinary arts associate's degree program typically combines classroom and kitchen work and is often the minimum educational requirement to work as a culinary manager. Students might take courses in culinary preparation, culinary terminology, nutrition, beverage management, menu design, and food purchasing. They also might learn to smoke meats, prepare soups and salads, bake pastries, and carve ice sculptures. While classroom lectures can teach students theories behind working in the culinary arts, lab work allows them to practice what they've learned.

One way to stay a step ahead of the competition is to work while in school, whether in a cafeteria or at an on-campus restaurant. Not only can you earn extra income, you can apply what you've learned in the classroom to a real world setting. Also, prospective culinary managers might opt for a higher level of education, completing a bachelor's degree in culinary arts, food service management, or hospitality, to help them stand out to employers.

Step 2: Obtain a Food Handler Card

Some states require that individuals who prepare food have a food handler card. A number of organizations, such as the National Restaurant Association, have designed courses and examinations that meet regulatory requirements. Completing one of these courses can also benefit individuals who aren't legally required to hold a food handler card, because many of them also award certification.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Before obtaining a management position, students typically need to gain experience in the field. Some degree programs in food service management require that students participate in internships, which might provide enough experience to enter a management training program. Other individuals might begin their careers as cooks or waiters, giving them an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the food service industry and how to communicate with staff members and customers.

As a waitperson or cook, potential managers can learn how to ensure that customers leave an establishment satisfied with the food and service they've received. Opportunities may also be available to learn problem-solving, leadership, and organizational skills.

Step 4: Complete a Training Program

Some restaurants and establishments have training programs for prospective managers. This offers them an opportunity to learn company policies and procedures regarding staff, sanitation, nutrition, and report preparation. A degree or a significant amount of experience is generally needed to be eligible for a training program, although fast-food restaurants are often an exception.

Step 5: Obtain Certification

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation offers the Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) designation to culinary managers. Employers might not require this certification, but it does show a certain level of initiative on the part of job applicants. To obtain certification, applicants must possess experience, complete coursework, and pass a written exam.

In summary, a culinary manager typically needs an associate's degree or greater in culinary arts or a related field, along with experience in a restaurant setting. He or she also might need to obtain a food handler card and complete a management training program.

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