Food is having a moment. For starters, there’s all that food truck buzz in major cities across the U.S. You may have also noticed a significant uptick in conversations about where our food comes from, what’s healthy and what’s not and “farm to table” movements toward buying local, sustainable and organic. On top of these ever-growing trends, popular cooking-related reality television shows continue to inspire young people, while a rise in demand for specialty foods and availability of food incubator programs have made it possible for people of all ages to launch an entrepreneurial experiment without too much financial risk.
There are quite a few things to consider, however, before entering the restaurant industry or starting your own food-related businesses, including whether or not to invest in formal culinary training first. While there are certainly examples of self-taught chefs making it big, culinary school can be an effective—albeit pricey—foundation for success, and there are approximately 700 U.S. schools offering culinary courses to choose from.
So is a career in the food industry in your future? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occupational outlook handbook can help you narrow down various career fields you may be interested in by giving you projected salary information, job growth rates and education requirements associated with different jobs. To get you started though, here are a few food industry career options to chew on.
Agriculture and Food Scientist
Do you love effective processes and ensuring things go according to plan? A career as an agriculture and food scientist could work for you. In a world where so much of what we consume is not grown in our own backyards or made in our cozy kitchens, someone has to make sure food production functions effectively and safely, right?
What you’ll do: As an agriculture and food scientist you may work with the federal government ensuring agricultural standards are met, at a university conducting food research in a lab, or for private companies in food production facilities.
What you’ll earn: Those who pursue a career as an agriculture and food scientist need to have a bachelor’s degree at minimum, and can earn anywhere from $34,75 to $104,840 per year depending on region, experience and position.
Chefs and Head Cook
If you have a genuine passion for food and are comfortable in the kitchen, you may just have the chops to become a chef or head cook. Most successful chefs, after all, aren’t driven to the profession for the long hours and late nights, but for the love of cooking.
What you’ll do: As a chef or head cook, you’d be in charge of preparing food in a restaurant, hotel, someone’s private home or anywhere else meals are served. To help ensure the kitchen runs smoothly, you may also need to provide some level leadership to prep cooks, expeditors and servers.
What you’ll earn: Some chefs and head cooks hone their craft through time spent in the kitchen, while others complete training programs or earn degrees. Depending on your work experience and training background, the type of establishment you wish to work in and location, chefs and head cooks can make anywhere from $24,530 to $74,120 annually.
Food Service Manager
Are you comfortable running a “tight ship?” Are communication and organization your strong suits? You may have what it takes to master the role of food service manager.
What you’ll do: As a food service manager you’d oversee smooth operations and revenue-generation of a restaurant or food-serving establishment. A key element would be coordinating with kitchen and wait staff to ensure customers are satisfied with food, drinks and service.
What you’ll earn: Food service managers can make an annual salary of anything between $30,820 and $81,030, depending on experience and training, and the kind of establishment.
Food-Related Business Owner
Not everyone has that entrepreneurial spirit. If you feel it, that’s a a good start. Just keep in mind, food businesses aren’t all fresh produce and grass-fed beef. In order to succeed, big dreams must be accompanied by hard work and perseverance, as well as a thorough understanding of how to effectively run a businesses.
What you’ll do: As an owner of a small business—whether you’re selling products, opening a cafe or running a food truck or restaurant—you’ll likely do everything, on top of creating food people want to consume. From forking up initial start-up costs and scouting locations, to securing partners, hiring staff, and accounting. That said, you’ll want to get advice from a professional for assistance with anything you don’t feel proficient in, which may include financial or marketing consulting.
What you’ll earn: Assuming your business gets off the ground, and depending on the type of business, there’s a potential to make anywhere from $50,000 to $1,000,000 in annual revenue. Keep in mind there are a lot of variables that affect income when you’re running your own business. If you’re making artisan jams and relishes, for example, you’ll need to cast a wide marketing net if going the e-commerce route, or knock on a lot of doors to secure shelf space in stores if starting local. Similarly, if opening a restaurant or bakery, you will need to keep a careful eye on expenses if you want it to grow toward significant profitability.
I am not much of a cook but I am a awesome baker for desserts.
CHEESE is amazing. I might open a cheese restaurant or food truck.
i like to cook but i’m not able to make anything like that. I’m impressed
I only eat Tacos!!!!! I love them so much!!!! Im gonna open a Taco Truck one day, and name it Tickle my Taco Taco Truck…..look out for me one day.
I will be inspired by this episode
Such an inspiration to me I will soon be a chef
Hi I go to RAPID RUN and watch you every day. I want to open a bakery with my best friend James Sisson
I love food. I love food so much that one day I WILL open a bakery and sell food and everything that does not sell I will eat myself because I am phat. Thats fat with a ph not an f.
I want to start my own food truck! It will mainly be gourmet food, but a little bit of not-that-healthy stuff.
I hope one day I will create a cupcake business
I like food but if i worked around food every day i would not like food