How to Become a Chef in Alaska
For a truly exciting place to live and work, consider starting your next career in Alaska. There is some good growth in the culinary industry here, so you can expect to have great job opportunities and to earn a decent salary doing something you love. The access to fresh fish and other ingredients is outstanding in Alaska and is a big part of the food culture. The landscape may be rugged and sparsely populated, but Alaska does have restaurants, resorts and other places that need good chefs and cooks. [En Español]
Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Alaska
No specific education, training or certification is required in Alaska to work as a chef or cook. Some people get into this career by starting out as a line cook, server or dishwasher and learning on the job. From this position, you can work your way up to a cook and ultimately a head chef, but it can take a lot of time. You may also be expected to have a high school diploma or GED to get hired.
Another way to go about becoming a chef in Alaska is to attend one of the state’s post-secondary culinary programs. These will give you the knowledge and hands-on practice you need to avoid starting at the bottom in a kitchen. You can even specialize in areas like pastry, management or school nutrition. Even with a certificate or degree in culinary arts, you should expect to have to do some training on the job and to work up to a leadership position.
Culinary Arts Programs in Alaska
Culinary programs are accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC), and there are a couple of these programs available for aspiring chefs in Alaska:
- University of Alaska, Anchorage. U of A’s associate degree program in culinary arts is accredited by the ACFEFAC and takes about five semesters to finish. The program includes 60 credits of courses in topics like sanitation, cost control, nutrition, bakery, catering, hospitality service and culinary skills. Much of the work is done in a hands-on kitchen setting. Graduates of the program are prepared for entry-level cook and chef jobs and are ready to advance quickly to leadership roles in any kitchen or food service workplace.
- Alaska Institute of Technology, Alaska Culinary Academy, Seward. The Culinary Academy offers two levels of training: culinarian and culinary assistant/prep cook. The programs take 193 days to compete and include 1,351 clock hours of coursework and hands-on training. Students attend classes Monday through Friday for seven hours a day and also spend some weekend time in class. Graduates are ready to be certified by ServSafe, Techniques of Alcohol Professionals, and First Aid through the U.S. Coast Guard.
Certification and Licensing
The state government of Alaska does not require licensing or specific certification for an individual to work as a chef or cook. But with a culinary program under your belt, you will be prepared to achieve nationally-recognized certification through the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The ACF offers 16 areas of certification, and one or more of these can help you command a greater salary, advance more quickly and land a great job initially.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
There will be positive growth in culinary careers in Alaska between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of jobs available for chefs and head cooks is increasing by 7.8 percent, with 9.7 percent growth for restaurant cooks. The most growth is currently being seen in careers for institution and cafeteria cooks (10.1 percent) and food preparation and serving (10.8 percent).
Salaries for chefs and head cooks in Alaska in 2017 were $19.50 per hour and $40,570 per year on average. Those earning the highest salaries in the state made an average of $62,220 per year. Restaurant cooks made $29,890 per year and institution and cafeteria cooks $38,250. The highest salaries for culinary professionals in the state are for food service managers earning $64,310 per year on average.
Working as a Chef in Alaska
Alaska can be a great place to work in the culinary arts. The freshest seafood and game ingredients are available throughout the state, and there are thriving food cultures in the bigger cities. Small towns need cooks, too, but you can expect to find the most job opportunities in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. The climate can be a little unforgiving, but the natural beauty of the state is hard to beat. For those interested in an exciting experience and a great culinary job, Alaska should be a top choice.
Anchorage, AK Area
University of Alaska Anchorage
3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508
Culinary Arts – Associate Program
The University of Alaska Anchorage’s Associate-level Culinary Arts program is taught at their campus in the city of Anchorage, Alaska. This is a full, 4-year public college with 16,762 students, of which 95% are undergraduates. The University of Alaska Anchorage has institutional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually about $5,784 and for students from other states in the order of $17,990 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,608, depending on the program chosen.
Fairbanks, AK Area
University of Alaska Fairbanks
505 South Chandalar Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7500
Baking and Pastry Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program
The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program, an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Fairbanks in Fairbanks North Star County, AK. Of the 8,638 students, about 13% are postgraduates. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has institutional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tuition fees for in-state students are around $5,976 and for out-of-state students approximately $18,184 annually. Study materials can cost around $1,400, depending on the program chosen.
* Tuition fees and accredition status are correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm with college before applying.