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. View article »

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  • 0:01 Becoming a Chef Instructor
  • 1:13 Career Requirements
  • 2:04 Steps to Become a Chef…

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Video Transcript

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's 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.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the median annual salary for career and vocational post-secondary teachers was $49,470 in May 2015.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate or bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field(s) Varies; often culinary arts or hospitality
Experience 3-5 years professional cooking experience; some schools specify this professional experience be as a sous or head chef
Licensing and Certification High school instructors must be licensed; 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, and communication skills, experience with instructional software and online distance learning course software
Salary $49,470 per year (2015 median for all career/vocational postsecondary teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O Net, Milwaukee Area Technical College, American Culinary Federation, Job postings, ServSafe.

You should obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree in culinary arts to work as a chef instructor. Some schools may not specify a field or may accept degrees in hospitality. Typically, three to five years' professional cooking experience is required, and some schools specify this professional experience to be as a sous or head chef. Instructors in high schools need a teaching license.

Certification is also available. The American Culinary Federation (AFC) offers professional certification as a culinary educator, and the National Restaurant Association offers ServSafe certification in food handling.

The skills needed include strong culinary, teaching, communication skills and experience with instructional software such as online distance course learning software.

Steps to Become a Chef Instructor

Let's look at the steps you'll need to take to become a chef instructor.

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.

  • 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. If you want to teach culinary arts at the high school level, you will need to meet the educational and student teaching requirements for earning a teacher's license. You should talk to an academic adviser about completing the necessary requirements; or, if you've already graduated, you'll 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 your job prospects and documenting your 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 enhances your 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, you must meet prescribed education and professional experience requirements and pass written and practical exams. If you want to earn culinary educator certification, you must also develop a cooking class lesson plan and submit it with a DVD of you teaching the class.

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

To become a chef instructor, you'll need an associate or bachelor's degree in culinary arts along with formal experience as a chef.

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