Greg Hicks, owner and head chef at Impressions Catering, recently spoke with the Cleveland Daily Banner about why he enjoys working in the catering industry. "Catering is a very personal business," he said. "What makes us different is that we approach each event individually."
The catering industry is founded on creating enjoyable culinary experiences for a range of clients. Caterers might be found serving appetizers at weddings or corporate events, delivering entrees to grocery stores, or working closely with exclusive hotels or conference centers. Workers may eventually rise through the ranks and start their own catering business.
Boost business savvy with a catering degree
Catering professionals need to have a strong knowledge of certain essentials, including kitchen requirements, cooking logistics, storage and transportation, and food safety. The many possible topics for culinary arts training include courses in cooking techniques for poultry and game, fish and shellfish, and baking and pastry.
Aspiring catering workers may choose from three major paths to the career:
- Certificate/diploma: This basic level of training is most commonly added on to existing education or experience. For beginners, the training can lead to more education or potentially an entry-level job.
- Associate degree: This vocational degree can be completed in two years of full-time study and blends business training with food preparation and safety. Graduates may opt for more training or entry-level employment.
- Bachelor's degree: This well-rounded degree generally requires four years of full-time study. The bachelor's degree can benefit future catering managers or those who want to go into business for themselves.
Earning online degrees in catering
Unlike a traditional culinary arts degree, which could require hours of hands-on lab work, business-focused catering degree training can be completed online. For programs which require hands-on training, a hybrid program can offer a combination of online and campus-based coursework.
With online degrees in catering, students gain a national networking platform of fellow students with similar goals. They can gain a familiarity with job markets beyond their current scope of knowledge and even learn about unfamiliar cuisines or traditions in catering.
Distance learning also offers the chance to develop business knowledge--such as budgeting--and computer skills, which are useful in many careers. For example, the O*NET website operated by the Department of Labor explains that food preparation workers may need to use database user interface and query software such as MicroBlast Recipe Wizard for Windows.
Outlook for grads with catering degrees
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 9,160 chefs and head cooks in the special food services industry--a job description that includes caterers--earned mean annual wages of $45,550 in 2010. With keen competition expected in this popular industry, those hoping to work their way up the career ladder may opt for formal training.
Catering at a glance
- Top-paying states: The BLS listed the highest-paying states for chefs and head cooks in 2010 as New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.
- Skills: Useful business skills in the catering industry include hospitality management, event marketing, wine and spirits pairing, and food service trends.
- Self-employment: The BLS reports that 8 percent of chefs and head cooks--a category which includes caterers--were self-employed in 2010.