So you love working with food, but you know that a career as a chef isn’t for you. Does this mean you need to give up on your lifelong dream of a culinary career?
Absolutely not! There are plenty of exciting and fulfilling career options outside the kitchen. While you might need to develop different skill sets to work in some of these alternative areas of the culinary arts, you already have the most important ingredients: a love of food, community, and self-expression, as well as grit and the willingness to work hard.
Read on for the top 13 culinary career paths to explore beyond the kitchen.
1. Cookbook publishing
Cookbook publishing is a natural career path for people who love food and cooking. Publishers like W.W. Norton, Clarkson Potter (part of Crown Publishing), and Chronicle Books are all active in the cookbook space. There’s also a vibrant self-publishing cookbook scene, where the need for editors, writers, and publicists abounds.
2. Food magazine writer
From foodies to culinary professionals, many are familiar with magazines such as Bon Appétit, Saveur, and Southern Living. These publications always need writers from the food world to fill their pages. If you’re more interested in food activism, check out these magazines touted by Foodtank, which bills itself as “the think tank for food.”
3. Food stylist
Do you have a strong eye for design? Just as food magazines need writers, they also need stylists and photographers. Look at the mastheads of your favorite magazines, and try to connect on LinkedIn with others in the industry. If it’s food photography you’re interested in, start taking classes at a local art or photography studio.
4. Culinary instructor
Do you possess strong cooking skills but want to avoid the long working hours required of chefs? Do you have a knack for guiding and developing others? Consider being a culinary instructor. This career is a great way to practice the culinary arts — all while cultivating the next generation of chefs.
5. R&D chef
6. Food blogger/food influencer
Social media has made it possible for anyone with talent and passion to carve out a niche in the digital food world. For inspiration, follow food bloggers like Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen and start blogging!
7. Food media
America’s Test Kitchen, Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa, the Top Chef empire, and popular food podcasts such as TASTE. A lot of people — many of them foodies — are needed to keep these big organizations running smoothly. Roles available can range from communications lead and media sales specialist to content manager.
8. Airline caterer
Working for an airline catering company is another way to stay connected to the food world without working in a restaurant. We recently cited a New York Times article about global airline catering company the Gate Group. Read here to learn more.
9. Restaurant publicist
Publicizing restaurants is a fulfilling career option for those who want to support restaurateurs. Search online for PR agencies specializing in restaurants, and find those representing the places you most admire. Love (and knowledge) of food are essential qualifications to be a good restaurant publicist. If you know the difference between a padrón and a ghost pepper, you stand a good chance of getting your foot in the door.
10. Food critic
The next best thing to cooking delicious food? Eating it, and then writing about it. Sure, these types of jobs are few and far between, but you can start gaining experience by writing for small local publications as you develop your craft.
11. Cocktail/Mocktail developer
If you love experimenting with ingredients and love cocktails, why not combine your passions and become a bartender/cocktail developer? To learn more about what this career path involves, read here for our recent blog about mocktail entrepreneur Sean Brock.
12. Restaurant manager
Just because you don’t enjoy the heat of the kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t still work in a restaurant as a manager. Many people have made the switch from the kitchen to the office. Being a manager requires top-notch organizational and leadership skills, which you can learn on the job, or by training at a hospitality program.
13. Sustainability consultant
If you have a passion for sustainability, why not combine it with your love of restaurants and hospitality by becoming a restaurant sustainability consultant? According to careerbright.com, sustainability consultants can earn from 65-90K (and more) per year. Search online for “restaurant sustainability consultant” to learn more about resources and organizations that offer training and certification.
The world is your oyster
There you have it. Just some of the many alternative career paths that exist beyond the kitchen. Doubtless, there are even more options if you’re willing to explore. If you have successfully navigated away from a job in a restaurant kitchen into another area of the food world, please tell us about it in the comments!