Areas of Specialty in the Culinary Arts
“Culinary arts” is a term that describes a wide range of careers related preparing, cooking and presenting food and drinks. From cooking huge meals for large groups at conferences and weddings to preparing small, intimate dinners for individual families, there are many kinds of careers for culinary professionals.
Overall, careers in food preparation and serving are growing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Across the country there will be more than one million additional jobs in the field by 2026. This is a growing and interesting industry to get into for young people, but first consider what kind of culinary area of specialty most suits you.
A bartender makes and serves drinks, sometimes directly to customers but also for servers to take to guests. They may work in busy bars or clubs, small-town local pubs or in high-end restaurants or hotels. A mixologist specializes in creating interesting and custom cocktails and mixed drinks. They often work in more high-end establishments or even as consultants, but neither bartenders nor mixologists need a formal education.
Sometimes called a cook or chef de partie, a line cook is someone who prepares food in a kitchen under the supervision of a sous chef or chef. As a cook, you may work in a small restaurant, a fine dining establishment or a large facility like a cafeteria or banquet center. Cooks are often in charge of one part of a kitchen, such as salads or meat. You don’t need a formal culinary education for this job, but with it you may work your way up to a leadership role more quickly.
A cook may work up to becoming a sous chef. This person is responsible for making food but also for supervising line cooks and other kitchen staff. The sous chef is often in charge in the kitchen but still works under a head chef who may come and go from the kitchen to take care of other duties.
The chef or head cook in a restaurant is in charge of all workers in the kitchen. A chef de cuisine is responsible for the menu, for management of staff, for ordering and inventorying supplies, and also for cooking. The title of executive chef is often given to someone who manages more than one kitchen or manages one large kitchen but spends a lot of time on duties other than cooking, like managing or training staff.
Pastry chefs are responsible for making baked goods and desserts. They work in restaurants, bakeries and pastry shops, commercial bakeries, and in catering and banquet centers. A pastry chef may specialize in baking, in making cold desserts, in making candies or in making pastries. You can learn on the job, but an education in pastry is recommended to get into this specialty.
In learning how to cook, you may choose to specialize in catering. A caterer is a cook who provides meals for large groups. They may work out of a single banquet center or hotel, or they may own their own business and travel to different venues to serve meals for weddings, conferences and parties. Catering chefs may specialize in one type of food, but generally they need to have a wide range of abilities, including desserts.
Most personal chefs are self-employed. They work for individuals or families, providing meals and snacks. A personal chef may have additional duties, such as meal planning, nutrition planning and grocery shopping. Most work in their clients’ homes but do not live there. Some may work part-time for several clients. No formal training is strictly necessary, but a culinary degree may be required by some clients.
In addition to actually cooking, some culinary arts professionals become specialists in food and drink management. You can earn a degree in this and become a manager of a restaurant or bar, a hotel or banquet center, a cafeteria or a catering company. Food managers hire and manage staff, budget and order supplies, plan menus with the chef, handle payroll, inspect and oversee workers, and take any complaints from clients.
There are many different ways you can specialize in the field of culinary arts. Even within a career as a chef you can specialize in a niche, such as vegan cooking, a particular type of ethnic food, comfort food or even food truck cooking. There are so many options, and a great place to start is with a general culinary degree or certificate.