What Can You Do With a Culinary Arts Degree?

Delving into the world of culinary arts is an exciting opportunity to bring people together through delicious entrées and delectable desserts. A culinary arts degree allows students to gain valuable skills such as food safety, menu creation, advanced baking and pastry concepts, and food service management, all of which are incredibly useful in a culinary career.

A career as a chef is a rewarding experience, but keep in mind that this is just one of your culinary arts career possibilities. Many culinary graduates become successful restaurant owners, business managers, food brokers, and product developers. If you’re considering a culinary arts degree, continue reading to learn about all the wonderful opportunities that could await you.

1.   Product Developer

Product developers have the unique opportunity of teaming with technologists and technicians in a high-spec development kitchen. Product developers are responsible for researching, developing, testing, and manufacturing new food product development. They must determine the requirements for making the product and whether it’s feasible. Product developers often consider how to market the product, if it will fill a void in the market, and what the key elements of the new product will be (consistency, taste, color, etc.).

 Students in a lab looking into microscopes

Additional requirements of a product developer include:

  • Working with the lab technician to undergo shelf life studies
  • Ensuring products are consistent by paying close attention to the food development process
  • Coordinating with third parties for outside testing
  • Creating reports surrounding new food product trials

A culinary science and product development program will provide you with the training you need to become a product developer. In this program you’ll learn about product development, food technology, food regulations, food processing and so much more.

Learn About JWU’s Applied Food Science Program

2.   Institutional Food Service Manager

Before discussing the role of an institutional food service manager, it’s important to understand what an institution is in relation to food service. An institution is typically not-for-profit, such as hospital dining or a school cafeteria. The food service manager will pay attention to diets especially when it comes to nutrition for schoolchildren, adhere to certain guidelines for different programs, and keep up-to-date with budgeting changes.

Students sitting in a dining room

A culinary arts degree teaches students about budgeting, how to create menus, nutrition, and management. Developing these skills builds the confidence students need to become successful as an institutional food service manager.

3.   Food Broker & Buyer

A food broker is typically hired by a company to get their food on store shelves by negotiating prices of the product and building relationships with the buyer. A food broker not only uses their networking abilities to distribute products to various stores, they also offer specials and discounts to encourage customers to make a purchase who may be unfamiliar with the brand. One of the major reasons companies choose to work with food brokers is because they take the time to thoroughly analyze the market and spend time meeting potential food buyers. In turn, the company or person producing the food can focus solely on production rather than marketing and sales.

A food buyer works closely with food vendors to learn about fluctuations in the market, particularly food that is only available seasonally. Food buyers also review food quality, negotiate contracts, evaluate vendors and find new vendors if needed.

Whether you’re thinking of becoming a food buyer or food broker, gaining experience in culinary arts is a great way to learn the necessary skills to succeed in these positions.

4.   Performance Chef

A performance chef is an incredible career to pursue after completing a culinary arts degree. In this position, the performance chef works with athletes of all sports and skill levels to help stay hydrated and properly fuel their bodies so they can maximize their performance.

culinary student plating food

Some of the tasks executed by a performance chef includes:

  • Analyzing the athlete’s sport and position on the field or court to fully understand the needs of the athlete
  • Creating personalized meal plans and nutrition programs for athletes
  • Providing support and advice so clients can hit their optimal performance
  • Developing menus for rehabilitation management
  • Working with strength and conditioning coaches and dieticians to ensure all parties are on the same page
  • Focusing on post-recovery nutrition

Studying culinary arts will help jumpstart your career as a performance chef. You’ll gain a deep understanding of food safety, menu planning, and various culinary techniques, all of which are needed to become a successful performance chef.

5.   Food Media Specialist

If you find yourself constantly taking photos of your food or perhaps you’re eager to start a lucrative food blog, you may want to consider a career as a food media specialist. This is a fascinating career that allows for endless creativity and immense flexibility.

Food media specialists may work independently or on behalf of a company. This role requires superb interpersonal skills as well as excellent communication, and an understanding of written, visual, audio, and video messaging.

powdered sandwich dessert with cream filling

Graduating in culinary arts will also make you a standout candidate for this role because you’ll understand how food is prepared, cooked, and plated. Not only will you be able to tell a story about the chef, the restaurant, and ingredients but you’ll be able to vividly showcase each dish and create uniquely beautiful photos and videos.  Having a deep understanding of the culinary field will enable you to take the audience on a journey, setting you apart from other applicants in this field as you can provide more than a quick blog or photo.

Culinary graduates interested in this field usually pursue a career as a styling and test kitchen professional, food photographer or videographer, or writer for digital or print.

6.   Hospitality Management

Working in hospitality management is another common route that culinary graduates take, allowing them to really hone in on their management abilities. As a culinary graduate pursuing a position in hospitality management, there’s plenty of opportunity to manage restaurants, cafes, hotels, catering services, or even go on to open your own venture!

The window of JWU’s Bistro 61 with students standing inside

Studying food, beverage and industry management is one of the best ways to launch your career in the hospitality industry. In this program, students gain a deep understanding of customer service concepts, how to evaluate a variety of beverages, and how to plan, execute and evaluate profitable food and beverage operations.

Explore JWU’s Hospitality Management Program

Explore JWU’s Food & Beverage Industry Management 2+2 Program

7.  Farm-to-table Restaurant Chef

Becoming a chef is an incredibly rewarding experience, especially when operating a farm-to-table restaurant.

Farm-to-table restaurants are rising in popularity for both chefs and consumers for several reasons. Rather than purchasing food from a food service provider or distributor, the restaurants have an established relationship with a local farm where they can purchase fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Farmers are able to gain a larger profit than if they were to sell their food to a distributor and restaurants get fresh food within hours of being harvested.

A student holding three plates of salad

Menus typically change seasonally due to what’s being harvested on the farms so customers (especially regulars) get to enjoy a diverse menu that’s constantly evolving. More and more consumers are appreciating farm-to-table restaurants as they can truly taste the high-quality ingredients that make their meals so delectable.

Some major perks of becoming a farm-to-table chef include:

  • Supporting the local economy
  • Flexibility with food requests
  • Making organic food more accessible to the community
  • Providing patrons with fresh, more nutritious food that doesn’t need to be preserved

A Sustainable Food Systems Degree is the perfect way to get started as a farm-to-table chef. In this program, you’ll learn about the local food web through farm and dock visits and cooking in the professional kitchen. You’ll also analyze the effects of change and policy on food systems, apply agricultural food production and so much more. 

Discover JWU’s Sustainable Food Systems Degree 

8. Nutritionist

Nutritionists have a vital role in helping clients live a healthier lifestyle. From creating healthy diets for clients looking to cut their sugar intake to developing meal plans for schools and healthcare facilities, there are numerous ways in which a nutritionist makes a lifelong impact on the health and well-being of their clients.

A culinary nutritionist sitting at a desk smiling

Photo Credit: Antonio Diaz on Adobe Stock

It’s important to note that different settings and nutritionist roles will require an advanced degree. For instance, hospitals, mental health facilities, hospice care facilities, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings require a master’s degree in nutrition. Additionally, if you’re interested in becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist, you’ll need to complete RD/RDN credentials.

Some roles of a nutritionist include:

  • Developing weight loss programs
  • Creating meal plans for clients with dietary restrictions
  • Assisting clients with hormonal imbalances, food allergies or digestion
  • Discussing with clients what foods provide the right nutrients for their specific needs
  • Collaborating with dieticians and physicians (case-by-case basis) on client goals

The role of the nutritionist also varies depending on where you’re located. At a school, nutritionists are often in charge of developing nutritional menus for students while also managing the food orders. At a private practice, a nutritionist could be making suggestions to clients and working closely with them until they meet their goals. Some nutritionists choose research and advocacy positions where they work alongside researchers to learn about new advances in nutrition.

Enrolling in a culinary nutrition program is the first step to launching your career as a nutritionist!

 Enroll in JWU’s Culinary Nutrition Program

About JWU’s Culinary Arts Programs

At JWU we put an emphasis on providing students with hands-on experience so they can feel confident going into a career that they’re passionate about. Our rigorous labs teach students about communication, how to quickly think on their feet, collaborate, and resolve conflict. This is a huge starting point to any career because students learn real-world, professional skills.

Launch Culinary Labs

Not only is culinary arts a degree in and of itself but culinary arts majors can focus on other areas such as food systems, food and entrepreneurship, core pastry experience, and more. As students advance in the culinary arts program, they can start determining what they’d like to excel at.

Here’s a sneak peek at some courses offered at JWU:

Culinary Arts (B.S.)

  • Advanced Food Safety, HACCP and Special Processes
  • International Cuisine and Culinary Cultures
  • Contemporary Cooking & Leadership Functions

Explore Culinary Arts

Baking & Pastry Arts (B.S.)

  • Decorative Breads and Advanced Viennoiserie
  • Contemporary Plated Desserts
  • Viennoiserie and Naturally Leavened Breads

Explore Baking & Pastry Arts 

Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship (B.S.)

  • Pitching & Planning New Ventures
  • Change and Innovation Management
  • Culinary Operations and Facility Management

Explore Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship

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