Instructors of the culinary arts work to inspire future chefs to be creative and exacting, and to produce wonderful plates for restaurant patrons. Their satisfaction isn't just in graduating pupils, but also in sharing their expertise with engaged learners and knowing that those students excel in a profession they love, says Carol Cutler. Cutler, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu, is the author of seven cookbooks. She also is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier International, an elite organization of accomplished culinary arts experts, and eagerly shared her insights into the profession.
Do I Need a Degree in Culinary Arts?
In some instances, you may not be required to have formal academic credentials, says Cutler. But because this field combines both science and art, a foundation through classroom learning is a terrific start, she says. In addition to formal education in the culinary arts, your state may require certification. Certification as a Certified Culinary Educator, or CCE, offered by the American Culinary Federation, validates your expertise, credentials and knowledge so that you're qualified to teach at the postsecondary level. For the CCE, you must sit for a written exam and complete a practical examination of your skills. In addition, you're required to submit a video demonstration of a class lesson. To be approved for CCE consideration, you must have a two-year degree in culinary arts or a four-year degree in any other discipline. Coursework in nutrition and food safety, and industry and instructor work experience are also necessary.
Isn't the Culinary Arts Field Big on Networking?
Absolutely, says Cutler. Just like so many other jobs, professional networking can expose you to instructor jobs that will never be publicized. In fact, as many as 80 percent of jobs aren't advertised, according to Matt Youngquist, president of Career Horizons. Networking may stem from actual jobs in a restaurant. Claiming a reputation as the best chef in town can also be a steppingstone to becoming a culinary arts teacher.
Any Truth To "Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can't, Teach"?
"No," says Cutler. "Your reputation as a chef -- a culinary arts expert -- is primarily based on your ability and experience. If you decide that teaching is your real passion, you must know how to cook in order to teach cooking to your students." Many successful culinary arts teachers are renowned chefs who decided that they would enjoy sharing that gift with others.
How Much Can I Make As a Culinary Arts Teacher?
That depends on factors such as education, credentials, expertise and reputation, suggests Cutler. Post-secondary teaching jobs are likely to require at least a bachelor's degree, certification and several years' experience, preferably in a well-known restaurant. On the other hand, if you're interested in teaching in a vocational institute or being an instructor for weekend cooking classes, the requirements -- and, the salary -- will be lower. Some culinary arts teachers make six figures, while others in vocational institutes have salaries on par with others in those settings, where the average wage is approximately $48,300 a year, according to May 2013 statistics published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.