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Culinary Arts

The Breakdown

Food nourishes us. It sustains us. It brings us together and it brings us comfort. It’s sensual and savory and celebratory. It embodies and embraces tradition and it reflects and reveals cultures. And, simply put, it’s fun. If you’re getting goose bumps just reading this intro (and if you’re always fantasizing about how to improve upon that duck confit recipe), then you’re probably a great candidate for the culinary arts!

In comparison to other undergraduate majors, the culinary arts is a hands-on pursuit. The crux of your coursework will focus on navigating life in the kitchen. You’ll cover topics ranging from basic ingredient identification to the proper way to handle shellfish. You will also learn about food sanitation and preservation, menu planning and the best methods for managing a dining room. Many culinary programs also aim to prepare their students for life beyond the kitchen. Indeed, mixed with courses about soup stocks and knife techniques are often business, math and computer classes. These will give you an understanding and appreciation of the operational fundamentals that concern restaurants and other food service endeavors. Further, internships (and externships) are quite common, allowing majors to graduate with some professional experience under their belt. Lastly, we’d just like to make mention that while there are a handful of bachelor’s degree programs available, many associate’s degree and certificate programs abound as well.

To succeed in the culinary arts takes extraordinary focus, energy and discipline. It’s a demanding field that’s both physically and mentally taxing. You need to be able to think quickly, act with lightening speed and execute under pressure. Additionally, the field is often collaborative so top-notch teamwork skills are essential. Finally, it’s important to be a person who is vigilant about washing his/her hands.

Nuts and Bolts

As a culinary arts major, you’ll learn how to become a master chef with classes such as: Introduction to Garde Manger, Stocks, Soups and Sauces, Sanitation Management, Nutrition, Purchasing, Wine and Beverage Management, Beef and Veal Preparation and Cookery, Menu Design, Traditional European Cuisine, Essentials of Dining Room, Skills of Meatcutting, Introduction to Baking and Pastry, and Classical French Cuisine.

Decisions, Decisions

Culinary arts majors will also find that their interests correlate with subjects like hospitality, restaurant and hotel management, nutrition, food science, event management, family and consumer science, dietetics, home economics, baking and pastry arts, and food service entrepreneurship.

What's Next

A degree in the culinary arts opens a wide range of professional doors. Certainly, many graduates make a beeline for the restaurant industry with the hope of landing a job as a sous chef (and, in time, perhaps rising to chef and then executive chef). Others opt out of the kitchen aiming instead for front of the house positions such as foodservice manager or wine and beverage manager. And, of course, a handful of culinary arts majors might eventually become restaurateurs. Many grads also look beyond the restaurant the world. Indeed, catering is a popular pursuit as is recipe testing and food journalism (including food styling and food criticism). A few graduates may also become personal chefs. Additionally, education and nutrition are also common career tracks. Ultimately, whatever path you choose, you can be assured it will lead to a “deliciously” rewarding career.


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Don Munce