10 Culinary Careers Off The Beaten Path

culinary careersThe career options available to someone interested in the culinary arts are more diverse and exciting than ever before. This is particularly fortunate because not everyone is cut out to make it as a chef (it’s a robust lifestyle, to say the least). So what other options are out there, and which ones are at the forefront of technology and innovation? Below are my top choices for new or different culinary careers. You can get a special taste of the life of a pastry chef from this five-star pastry course (30 reviews) taught by Marco Ropke, a fourth generation pastry chef with over 25 years of experience.

1. Personal Chef

Yes, a personal chef is what you think it is: someone who cooks in people’s homes. This might not sounds exciting at first, but the lifestyle is incredible and for this reason personal chefs are among the fastest growing careers in the culinary arts. This can be immensely lucrative in a big city, too. People are busy but still want to eat excellent, healthy food. That’s where you would come in (literally, into their homes). You would cook a couple dinners and different meals, obviously adhering to any dietary restrictions, and then store them for the coming weeks. Plus, anyone who can afford a personal chef is guaranteed to have a wonderful kitchen, not to mention a pleasant home to spend time in.

If, after testing out the personal-chef waters, you decide you want to go the traditional route after all, check out this post on all the tips on how to become a self-taught chef.

2. Trendologist

It’s not a real word, but it is a real career. You would normally obtain such a position through a company that offers culinary consulting for restaurants and other food-related companies. As a trendologist, you would spend the majority of your time performing market research: reading blogs, watching food shows, reading food magazines and, of course, eating a lot of delicious food. The idea is that you’re an expert on what people want, what’s trending, what’s hot, what’s popular, and you can advise a client on how to structure their menu and which items to feature. It’s simply a fantastaic gig if you can land it.

3. Brewmaster

Brewmaster isn’t a career you can just walk into. Do a little research and look at a few job postings for brewmasters and you’ll see that it requires a vast knowledge of everything beer related. You can learn how to make real beer using all the essential ingredients with this top-rated beginner’s course in Partial Mash brewing. But it’s worth the work for most people. As brewmaster, you would be in charge of tailoring the ideas behind every beer a brewery creates. Aside from an enormous base knowledge, you also have to be willing to innovate, experiment and track trends. Even with micro breweries popping up all over the place, this is an incredibly competitive career. Still, there are many other positions available at your local brewery.

4. Pastry Chef

Baking, perhaps even more so than traditional cooking, is more of a balance of art and science. Pastry chefs are on the rise, especially in younger people who are attracted to the excitement yet more laid-back vibes of working at a bakery or starting their own. An obvious perk is baking delicious treats: breads, cakes, pastries (obviously), etc. Aside from starting your own bakery, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a lot of career options available to you. You can start as an assistant at someone else’s bakery, work as a sous pastry chef at a specialty store or grocery, work for a catering company or even become head (or assistant) pastry chef at a high-end restaurant.

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5. Recipe Developer

Here’s one you probably haven’t heard of: recipe developer. Perhaps an even better title would be “recipe taster.” The recipe developer is responsible for perfecting recipes and drafting the precise directions you find in cookbooks and online. Part of the job requires innovation – you will have to produce original recipes upon occasion – but the other part is borrowing and refining others’ recipes. You need a strong knowledge of food theory and an excellent palette to be a recipe developer, as it requires flavor balance and knowledge of literally dozens of cooking and preparation techniques (you can start picking up advice from this post on 10 tips to mastering the kitchen). But if you love flipping through cookbooks, magazines, watching food shows and, of course, making and tasting your own concoctions, then consider a career in recipe development.

6.  Join The Locals

If you’ve seen all the cool foodies hanging out at farm markets and have been wondering how you can be one of them, well, there are a few ways you can join the local food movement. For one, you can obviously approach some of the cool little farms in your area and see if they could use an extra hand. But you can also try to get hired as a forager. You would not literally forage for food and mushrooms and the like out in the woods. Instead, you would be employed by a restaurant that pays you to go to farmer’s markets, farms and other specialty places/stores and scout around for the best produce and the most interesting items. But the job is more than just attending farm markets and eating free samples. You have to be willing to hunt down reliable suppliers of approved goods and make beneficial deals with them.

You don’t have to act like a local; you can become one. Discover how to create a beautiful, high-yield garden that mimics a forest ecosystem with this seriously incredible class on how to grow a medicinal food forest.

7. The Celeb Life

This applies mostly to big cities, but acclaimed chefs in your area might fill the bill, too. Basically, an awesome and fun (and high energy) job for getting your foot in the door is working as a chef’s assistant. Naturally these jobs are in high demand, but there are literally thousands of restaurants in our big cities and a growing number of “celebrity” chefs. Your duties are fairly consistent with the average assistant: you manage the calendar, do a little social media management, decide who gets to talk to the chef, respond to letters, manage email accounts, answer the phone, etc. It’s not as exciting as being a brewmaster, for example, but everyone has to start somewhere (so you might as well work for someone who can write a hell of a recommendation, right?).

8. Chef/Restaurant Publicist

This isn’t a far cry from being a chef’s assistant, but pay and respect both rank much higher on the social scale. Now that social media is here to stay, any respectable restaurant needs a good publicist. Someone who can manage fifteen media platforms with one hand while writing letters to magazines and newspapers with the other. You will also have opportunities to present input and changes to the website (incredibly important), help plan events, manage a team of writers, etc. Fortunately you can test the waters with this media training and public relations course. And no doubt you’ll be attending a lot of parties where top chefs will flock and good food and drink will be unlimited.

9. Coffee And Cacao

What do coffee and cacao have in common? The best of both are grown in some of the remotest parts of the world, in tropical climates. Finding the best coffee and cacao, and making deals with the companies who grow it, is a seriously exciting career. Yes, you need to become an expert on growing, harvesting and processing coffee or cacao, but your efforts will be rewarded with a life of travel (think Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belgium, etc. etc. etc.) and tasting. You will visit farms, examine the protocols at work, test the products and report back to the States.

10. Apiarist

An apiarist is someone who farms bees and harvests honey. Any dangers or risks involved are completely overblown, as long as you don’t have life-threatening allergies, of course. Most people who bee-keep as a hobby stop wearing protective gear after they become accustomed to it; some people even develop a complete tolerance to bee stings. Being a beekeeper is really only profitable, however, if you work on or own a large farm or are employed by a commercial bee keeper. In either instance you would manage millions of bees and harvest more honey than you can even imagine. The primary responsibility of being a bee keeper is to keep the bees healthy (easier said than done).

Not Satisfied?

If you’re unimpressed with these options and are determined to start your own business or, at least, strike out on your own, I do have one last suggestion for the truly adventurous. Start a food truck. Seriously. Food trucks, especially gourmet food trucks, are booming in popularity. You can even get professional advice on how to get started with this course by Street Food University on how to start your own food truck and leave the corporate world behind.