As the food industry continues to grow, it’s important to think critically about the dizzying range of options. Career development is an ongoing process that involves a lot of self-reflection and research. At ICE, we introduce students to this process through a seminar called “Finding the Right Food Career for You”, in which take stock of their preferred work environment, discover their personal learning style and consider culinary careers that match their individual personalities.
We all have different values to consider when choosing a career. Breaking into a new field may mean starting at the bottom and working your way up slowly. Starting as a line cook—as you’re learning your craft and developing your palate–may not initially allow much room for creativity, but once you reach the level of chef, you’ll be able to inspire others with your own developed vision.
It’s also important to evaluate former work experiences and use this as a guide to help you choose environments that promote personal success. If you thrive working on a team or love multi-tasking, then you might enjoy the camaraderie, fast pace and non-stop action of a NYC restaurant kitchen. On the other hand, if you prefer working independently, the life of a personal chef might be a better fit.
As students learn to assess their skills, interests and abilities, they begin to understand different personality types and preferences. Those who prefer working with objects or their hands may not enjoy interacting with people (and vice versa). Very organized individuals take great pride in the repetitive process of mise en place at the garde manger station. Scientific types may choose to work in a test kitchen or research and development lab—refining recipes, working with nutrition challenges or developing new products. Artistic minds may be drawn towards plating in a fine dining restaurant, food styling, cake design or photography. And business savvy individuals—like those in our culinary management program—are often thrilled by entrepreneurial ventures and or the opportunity to work in restaurant development.
After in-depth self-reflection, students leave the workshop ready to research career options and gain experience by volunteering, interning or applying for entry level positions. These in-person experiences help them test the hypotheses they’ve developed about their working style, so that when they graduate, they have a solid foundation for choosing a career path.
So where do your ambitions and working style fit into the food industry? In NYC, there are endless culinary employment opportunities, for all types of personalities. Some graduates choose catering for its flexible schedules; others opt for corporate dining, to maintain a more traditional Monday through Friday lifestyle. Hotels offer a multi-tiered structure with ample room for growth. What’s more, many students find non-traditional roles in marketing or PR side for restaurant/hospitality groups, as well as positions in food media.
In short, finding success and satisfaction in your work is a question of the right match. If you are passionate, driven and open to a little critical self-evaluation, the right food career is waiting for you.