Learning how to cook is a great adventure, and learning how to do it in a place with plenty of farm-fresh produce, fresh fish from 10,000 lakes, and a variety of cuisines that you might not easily encounter elsewhere is as good as it gets. Welcome to Minnesota: land of food trucks galore, Scandinavian influences and plenty of top-notch restaurants.
Minnesota might not be thought of as a culinary destination. But that's not because the state lacks highly decorated chefs, rather it's because Minnesotans are known to be quite humble. For instance, Isaac Becker, who runs 112 Eatery in Minneapolis, is a three-time semifinalist for the James Beard award and was also named Best Chef: Midwest (startribune.com, 2011).
Minneapolis might be a long way from Munich, Germany and Oslo, Norway, but Scandinavian and German immigrants have left their mark on Minnesota cooking traditions. European dishes that are frequently prepared here include lutefisk, a dish based on stockfish, and lefse, a soft Norwegian flatbread. Far away from shiny commercial kitchens, home cooks are proud of their homemade delicacies, such as hotdishes, which are a northern version of casseroles.
Minnesota farmers rank among the country's top producers of meat, dairy, vegetables, and grains. Fresh fish is easily available, especially whitefish from Lake Superior. The Twin Cities are growing epicenters of great food. Last year, President Obama paid a visit to Bachelor Farmer, which is listed on Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants List. Pursuing an internship or externship at an established restaurant might be a great idea, as it could allow you to learn more about the industry from the inside. The newest Minnesota food craze might bring opportunities for entrepreneurial chefs: food trucks.
According to the National Restaurant Association, there are almost 10,000 eateries in the state - that's one for every lake (restaurant.org)! In addition, the NRA expects employment in the sector to grow at a rate of 7.5 percent throughout the next decade. In terms of earnings, head cooks and chefs in Minnesota earned a mean annual wage of $43,890 in 2011, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
While a degree from a culinary school is not a guarantee for landing your dream job, having a degree might set you apart from fellow applicants. Pack your bags and your knives and start your culinary career in the place where most chefs started it: in culinary school.
"Appetites: A 'golden decade' for the Twin Cities' dining scene," Minnesota Public Radio, December 26, 2012, http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/12/26/appetites/rachel-hutton-golden-decade
"Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mn.htm#35-0000
"James Beard Foundation Awards 2010 semifinalists announced," Star Tribune, February 22, 2010, http://www.startribune.com/blogs/84480632.html
"A Look at Minnesota Agriculture," Agriculture in the Classroom, 2010, http://www.agclassroom.org/kids/stats/minnesota.pdf
"Meet James Beard winner Isaac Becker," Star Tribune, May 20, 2011, http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/122175319.html
"Minnesota restaurant industry at a glance," National Restaurant Association, http://www.restaurant.org/pdfs/research/state/minnesota.pdf
"New Food Truck Roundup 2012: Minneapolis Edition," Heavy Table, 2012, http://heavytable.com/new-food-truck-roundup-2012-minneapolis-edition/
"Twin Cities Dining Guide," Twin Cities Dining Guide, http://www.twincitiesdiningguide.com/