Culinary Arts Vs. Restaurant Management: What's the Difference

Oct 02, 2019

So you want to work at a restaurant, but you can't decide whether it's better to focus on learning about the culinary arts or restaurant management. Well, we're here to help. This article outlines what are perhaps the two most important career paths in the restaurant business: food service managers and chefs.

Essential Information

The culinary arts refer to professions that involve preparing and cooking food. Culinary artists often are compared with restaurant managers in both education and career scope. Generally, the three major differentiating factors for culinary artists and restaurant managers are the specific college programs, the type of training and experience involved and the actual duties associated with each job. Culinary arts programs focus on building exceptional preparation and cooking skills, while restaurant management programs focus on administrative tasks. A culinary arts program may contain content in nutrition and sensory evaluation, American cuisine, international cuisine and meat science. Management programs, in contrast, focus on educating individuals on how to operate the restaurant from a business management perspective. A restaurant management program may contain courses in food and beverage control, front office management, hospitality management and hospitality law.

Careers Food Service Manager Chef
Education Requirements High school diploma; on-the-job training High school diploma; on-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% 11% (for chefs and head cooks)
Median Salary (2018)* $54,240 $48,460 (for chefs and head cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Individuals with a background in the culinary arts or restaurant management have the skills necessary to succeed in several different careers. Below are two of the options, food service manager and chef, that highlight the main roles and responsibilities in each field.

Food Service Manager

Managers require extensive training in administrative responsibilities and making sure a restaurant image is desirable. The image of the restaurant is tied to how well the manager can make the staff, customers and food suppliers work together effectively. Managers are often also in charge of hiring and interviewing potential employees. In larger restaurants, these administrative duties are often spread out among a management team usually comprised of the executive chef and general manager.


Culinary artists, or chefs, in comparison, rarely need to perform administrative tasks in the restaurant. Culinary artists often have ranges of experience and training and may only be responsible for a certain aspect of the food preparation, such as slicing meat or stocking ingredients. It is important to note that while higher-tier chefs (such as executive chefs) may share some of the restaurant manager's responsibilities and training, the scope of this duty is commonly restrained to the kitchen.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), food service managers and chefs and head cooks can expect an increase much faster than average from 2018-2028. Additionally, the BLS reported that food service managers earned a mean annual salary of $58,960 in May 2018, whereas chefs and head cooks earned a mean of $52,160 annually.

While their responsibilities vary greatly, both chefs and food service managers play an integral role in the operations of a restaurant business. And while chefs can expect more growth in available positions, job competition will remain tough for Head Chef positions or jobs at higher paying, upscale establishments. While not necessary for employment, obtaining postsecondary education may benefit jobseekers who aspire to more responsibilities and higher financial compensation.

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