By definition, a chef is the CEO of the kitchen. For this reason, the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall offers both associate and bachelor’s degree programs—we aim to prepare leaders who can help shape how every member of their team contributes. This role requires persistence and diverse skill sets that include not only a mastery of essential culinary techniques, but also knowing how to manage teams, review budgets and develop creative menus that inspire guests. Let’s explore what that that looks like, from one entry point: the menu.
- Professionals in the culinary arts need to know everything from local recipes to an array of regional and international cuisines. There is a very good reason why “culinary arts” includes the word “arts.” This vast knowledge helps professionals and chefs to elevate, and celebrate, food through the menu.
- It’s very important to point out that it’s not always the lead chef who cooks all the food on the menu. Instead, a strong leader will empower and direct his or her team, which include everyone from a sous chef to a beginning cook, to ensure the integrity of the menu is upheld every day, every dish, and for every customer.
- Not only does the CEO of the kitchen need to direct the menu and manage the culinary team, he or she will also need to work with the front of the house staff and sommeliers to ensure a memorable experience—inspired and well-executed menus and service are what keeps guests coming back.
As you can see, simply knowing how to cook is not an automatic license to operate as a leader. Yes, it’s the backbone of culinary arts, but to be a leader you also have to understand business: how to make a profit, how to successfully manage and engage the people who work on your team, learn about every ingredient you buy, and always seek new ways to make your restaurant more sustainable. That may be a long list, but I know firsthand that the people who are passionate about cooking don’t find it daunting—it’s inspiring. We love the challenge. There is always something new to explore.
As a student, you have several options to enter the culinary arts. By earning an associate degree, you’ll be taught the basic skills you’ll need as a chef. By earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll accelerate your training and be positioned to step into leadership roles as your career develops.
By Chef Christopher Koetke, vice president of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts.