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Palatable career paths



Hit TV shows “Top Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen” and mega-watt kitchen celebs such as Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay have put a glamorous spotlight on culinary careers.

Luckily for the every-day foodie, there are plenty of options to turn you passion into a profession.

We spoke to Rick Smilow, president and CEO of the Institute of Culinary Education, about some of the possibilities:

What it’s about: Giving your take on food and restaurants in print or on air.
What you need: A good palate and a way with words.
Average salary range: $25,000-six figures

What it’s about: Getting the word out to journalists about great restaurants, products or chefs.
What you need: Good writing and communication skills.
Average salary range: $35,000-$100,000

What it’s about: Usually you work your way up from a line cook to a sous chef to an executive chef.
What you need: Besides being able to cook well and needing to have good taste buds, chefs should have leadership and business savvy.
Average salary range: $8/hour-$150,000

What it’s about: Usually a freelance gig, stylists prep food for cookbooks, magazines and corporate photo shoots.
What you need: Attention to detail, organization skills and a creative flair.
Average salary range: $175-$900 a day (lower for print).

What it’s about: Owning anywhere from one eatery to a restaurant group.
What you need: Business acumen, connections and capital. Smilow suggests opening an eatery with a very specific specialty. “Niche is clearly a trend,” he said.
Average salary range: $35,000-$150,000

What it’s about: Running all food-related events and overseeing catering services.
What you need: Flexibility to relocate and ability to multitask.
Average salary range: $50,000-$150,000

What it’s about: Developing food and packaging for large corporations.
What you need: A background in cooking. Marketing experience is a plus.
Average salary range: $40,000-$200,000

What it’s about: Taking charge of a restaurant’s wine and beverage programs.
What you need: A healthy knowledge of wine or spirits.
Average salary range: $50,000-$150,000

Salary ranges culled from Smilow’s interviews in his book “Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food.”

Q and A with Rick Smilow, head of the Institute for Culinary Education:

Has the economy really hurt the industry?
It’s not really hard to find jobs in Metro New York. In other cities you might not hear as much bullishness. In New York, for every high-end, well-known Manhattan closure, one or two smaller gastro pubs open in Brooklyn.

Are fields opening up for women?
Yes, absolutely. As more women go to culinary school, more women go to kitchens and the environment becomes more accepting. But there are still fewer women executive chefs than you’d think.

What are some negative aspects of these jobs?
Long hours, working on holidays, that sort of thing. The lower pay is at the beginning.

If you could have any of the ICE grads cook you a meal, who would it be?
Missy Robbins, executive chef at A Voce. She’d make marinated seafood crudo, fresh pasta with mushrooms, truffles and fresh herbs. Then a roast veal or pork dish. A night in Northern Italy!




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