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6 Ways to Leverage a Degree in the Culinary Arts | Food Taster & More

by
CulinaryEd Columnist
May 19, 2011

A culinary school degree can prepare you for a career in a restaurant, but many people don't know about the more unusual career options a culinary education can provide. These six culinary careers demonstrate creative ways to use a culinary degree.

  1. Food Stylist
    Food stylists combine culinary art and science to prepare food for cookbook and advertising photographs, television commercials, and scenes in movies. Stylists are responsible for finding unusual ingredients and preparing food so it looks freshly made and appetizing. A culinary school degree is a must for a food stylist, as the job requires extensive knowledge of how food acts, both aesthetically and scientifically.

    Stylists know that looks are more important than taste during a photo shoot, and they use culinary tricks to make food the star of the show. For instance, they might substitute wood glue for milk when photographing cereal. By adding aspirin powder to champagne, stylists create extra fizz. Talcum powder sprinkled over charcoal simulates ash.

    Career Insight >> Food stylist Lisa Homa uses her culinary education to prepare food for magazines like People and Bon Appetit and television shows like Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Skilled food stylists use their culinary degrees to make food look the best it possibly can.
  2. Food Taster
    If you've ever wanted to eat chocolate all day, then a career as a professional food taster might be perfect for you. Professional food tasters are trained to analyze new culinary products for flavor intensity, texture, and consistency.

    Food tasters often work in sensory labs where lighting and air are controlled to prevent disturbances. They usually work in product development, so they're responsible for maintaining secrecy. When working with a new culinary product, food tasters consider appearance and smell in addition to taste. Food tasters often attend culinary school to refine their palates and learn about the components of food and taste.

    Career Insight >> Jennifer Koen, a taster for Godiva, tries to limit herself to three pieces of chocolate a day to protect her palate, although some days she eats up to fifty pieces. For Koen and other food tasters, food tasting is a culinary career that lets them help perfect the foods they love.
  3. Food Writer
    Food writers use their culinary knowledge to research and write about food for newspapers, magazines, and cookbooks. While some food writers focus on restaurant reviews, others investigate trends and news in the culinary world.

    Food writers may write about the historical context of ingredients or the evolution of recipes. Some food writers monitor the agricultural industry and write about the way food affects the environment or human health. Expert food writers may combine their culinary educations with their publishing knowledge to become food editors.

    Career Insight >> Scott Jones, who started his food writing career with a culinary degree, advanced from food editor to executive editor of Southern Living magazine. A culinary school degree can provide a food writer with the background necessary to write creatively about all aspects of food production and presentation.
  4. Test Kitchen Chef
    Test kitchen chefs work to develop new recipes for restaurants, manufacturers, culinary magazines, and cooking shows. Where a restaurant chef might use a measuring cup, a test kitchen chef uses a graduated cylinder, with the goal of creating a delicious recipe that can be consistently recreated.

    Test kitchen chefs often use the results of customer surveys to determine portion sizes, prices, or flavors. When trying a new recipe, they try a variety of culinary techniques and ingredients, varying styles cooking and seasoning. Nevertheless, test kitchen chefs create between thirty and one hundred recipes for every one that makes it to a restaurant kitchen.

    Career Insight >> Erika Bruce, a chef who tests recipes for America's Test Kitchen, has used her culinary skills to help create the perfect brownie recipe. Test kitchen chefs like Bruce use their culinary educations to combine food science with kitchen creativity.
  5. Food Consultant
    Food consultants play a variety of culinary roles, from developing recipes to analyzing foods for nutritional labels. Consultants work for restaurants, organizations, websites, and publications, providing culinary guidance to customers and staff.

    Some food consultants focus on nutritional analysis and work to make sure company labels comply with FDA regulations. Food consultants may focus on education, giving cooking classes and lectures, training kitchen staffs, or designing culinary television shows. Food consultants may be hired to target recipes to a specific age group or to modify existing recipes to meet nutritional requirements. Food consultants use a combination of culinary experience and education to meet the needs of their clients.

    Career Insight >> Food consultant Marguerite Henderson spent years as a restaurant owner and cookbook author before she began consulting. As a consultant, Henderson has developed recipes for the California Cheese Board and the Ruby Red Grapefruit Council. Many culinary schools offer apprenticeship programs to help you begin gaining the experience necessary for a consulting career.
  6. Gourmet Retail Buyer
    A career as a gourmet retail buyer involves purchasing specialty food items from around the world. Dean & DeLuca, a pioneer in gourmet retail, was the first major U.S. store to sell items like balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes.

    Stores such as Dean & DeLuca work closely with their suppliers. Gourmet retail stores often look for indigenous products like Australian honey that give customers a taste of the region.

    Career Insight >> Dean & DeLuca buyer Leah Rosenthal deals with more than 3,500 food products each year. Rosenthal values taste over packaging and looks for foods with high quality ingredients.

Whether you love to eat, write, shop, or experiment, there's a way to translate your culinary passion into a career. A culinary degree can provide you with the business education needed to negotiate a cornucopia of working relationships. With a little creativity, a culinary school degree could lead you to an interesting and unusual career.

How do I launch a culinary career?

Take a look at culinary schools located in the states below, and request more information from those to be able to form an informed opinion:

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