Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Career Options Expand for Culinarians

Into the frying pan


Jerome Darby was a successful fashion designer whose clothing sold in

Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. But he never gave up his dream of working in a restaurant.

So he enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in SoHo, and after graduating last June, he went to work as a pastry chef at Mario Batali’s trattoria Lupa.

So how does he feel about trading in a six-figure salary for toiling in a kitchen?

“It’s been awesome,” he says.

As America’s interest in food continues to rise like a well-timed soufflé, more and more people are setting their sights on culinary careers.

“There’s been a huge, huge interest in cooking schools,” says Irena Chalmers, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in upstate Hyde Park, and author of “Food Jobs: 150 Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers.”

In the past six years, applications spiked nearly 50 percent at CIA, which added a satellite campus to cope with the demand. At the Institute for Culinary Education in Chelsea, the surge in interest has been “staggering,” says admissions director Brian Aronowitz. Meanwhile, after a decade when enrollment doubled, the French Culinary Institute just had “our best year ever,” says founder Dorothy Hamilton.

The weak economy has actually boosted interest, in part because people often return to school during slowdowns, and in part because food careers are popular with career changers — including those motivated by a layoff. And to some extent, the food business is recession-proof.

“There will always be jobs in the culinary field,” says Hamilton, who’s written a new book, “Love What You Do: Building a Career in the Culinary Industry.”

One big change, however, is the sheer range of jobs falling under that umbrella. That range has grown a lot wider in recent years, notes Chalmers, who was inspired to write her book by all her students who “had no idea there were so many jobs outside of working in a restaurant.”

From food historian to recipe tester, “There are so many things you can do,” she says.

With that in mind, here’s a look at a few of the food world’s growing niches.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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