A Career In Culinary Arts Is Prime
The bustling Chicagoland area offers an array of career options, including a prime opportunity for a career in hospitality management and culinary arts. Those interested in this field sharpen their skills by getting professional career training in a college or culinary school program.
According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 1,000 college-level programs focus on restaurant or hospitality management, and hundreds of schools and programs specialize in culinary arts.
"Culinary arts allow students to tap their creativity and find rewarding, meaningful work," said Wendi Safstrom, Vice President of Educational Programs, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. "Whether students aspire to become chefs or open their own restaurant businesses, the restaurant industry offers a wide range of long-term, upwardly mobile career opportunities."
On the college level, whether one has prior training or is a novice, many culinary arts programs offer true hands-on learning through student-run restaurants open to the public — typically with an affordable menu. Students take control managing, hosting and serving, as well as creating and executing menus from appetizers to desserts to beverages.
"Hands-on training is where the real learning and fun begins," said Faith Jennetta, Certified Executive Pastry Chef, Pastry Arts Instructor and Program Coordinator at Technology Center of DuPage, a technical high school serving DuPage County that offers culinary arts. "It helps a student measure what they have learned and build confidence. Being book smart is the essential beginning of an endless journey of world cuisine. Being able to experience and share it is the addiction that captures and impassions us."
College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn offers two "learning labs" open to the public. One is the highly rated, professionally run restaurant located on its campus, Waterleaf, and the other, Wheat Café, is student-run under faculty supervision.
"Like any vocational skill, hands-on experience is necessary to reinforce concepts taught in lecture classes," said COD's Timothy Meyers, Coordinator, Associate Professor Culinary, Pastry Arts, Culinology Program. "This kind of training gives students real world experience that they may take with them wherever they go. Working in the restaurants also gives them a window into their chosen career."
Students in Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts can become everything from dieticians to chefs and owner/operators to managers and food and beverage salespeople. Their education opens doors to a wide variety of career paths. In addition, Culinology and Food Science degree programs prepare students for occupations in food product development, food research, food manufacturing, food processing inspection and flavor development.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, jobseekers with a combination of long-term work experience in food service and a degree in hospitality, restaurant, or food service management will have the best job opportunities. Recent COD graduate Alex Ciciora created his own opportunity. He is the owner of The Pizza Via, a mobile catering business based out of Downers Grove and Schaumburg that has a wood-fired oven in a trailer and in the back of a food truck allowing him to fire up pizzas from backyards to boardrooms.
Ciciora credits his continuing education with preparing him for his career choice. "I learned a ton from the chefs at COD," he added. "Lots about cooking and knife skills, obviously, but they taught me a lot about what to expect in the restaurant industry, which helped with my internship and running my business." As a student in COD's culinary arts program, Margaret Glenzinski not only put in her time in Wheat Café, she also seized other opportunities — one that paid off with a job at Waterleaf this past March.
"My classmates and I were offered the opportunity to work at Waterleaf with their staff and visiting chefs on two separate occasions," she related. "I took the opportunity and worked both events. It was on these evenings I was introduced to the staff at Waterleaf and was later asked to intern. I believe without these experiences I would not have been offered a position in such a high caliber restaurant." The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation offers a variety of merit-based scholarships for students who wish to pursue a career in the foodservice industry.
College of DuPage
425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn IL, 60137
(630) 942-2800 (Main)
(630) 942-3000 (Student Services)
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