Career as an instructor.

Joined Dec 20, 2017
Hi everyone, I'm currently 28 years old and have been thinking lately about what I want to do when I'm too old/broken down for general Kitchen work, and thought that maybe instructing in a culinary school might be a nice way to continue being involved in the industry without being stuck to a desk all day.

Are there any instructors/teachers here who can tell me a little about how it differs from general kitchen life? What kind of skills or further education would I need before looking into culinary institutions? I'm currently a sous at a ski-resort/spa, and quickly realizing just how different it is having to supervise and teach multiple people on multiple stations.
Joined May 5, 2010
Perfect. This is what I did after culinary school. I went on to get my BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management, then got a Masters in Education to do exactly what you mentioned. What I was not prepared for was the evolution of the human species tendencies. While I am very good at public speaking, and was able to project and plan a semester of culinary knowledge, I was not able to deal with the students. I found myself being more of a disciplinarian then a teacher. I got frustrated and left.
I enjoyed teaching, really I did. I got to share my knowledge and experiences of 20 years to these bright eyed young people.

As for you....It will get easier. You have many years yet to gain enough experiences to teach others in a classroom setting.
In a is make or break with timing and stress...In a classroom it is boring and necessary to excite and motivate.
Joined Jun 23, 2015
All should note your education with the experience you have. Just because a cook can work the line or a chef can run a kitchen does not mean they are educators. A masters or doctorate are required for those teaching above the community college level in most cases.
Joined Feb 18, 2007
In addition to culinary teaching (after you want to move on), you could also consider becoming a health inspector, or teach ServSafe classes.....
Joined Nov 28, 2014
Are there any instructors/teachers here who can tell me a little about how it differs from general kitchen life? What kind of skills or further education would I need before looking into culinary institutions?

I'm the chef instructor of a rural high school Culinary Arts program in Nevada. This will be my 13th year teaching Culinary Arts.

1st question: Do you have a bachelor's degree?

Most states have an alternative path to teacher certification PROVIDED the applicant has a bachelor's degree. If you have a BA and verifiable experience in the food service industry (the number of hours varying depending upon which state you're applying for certification from), you should be able to get a provisional teaching certificate.

Most provisional teacher certificates are temporary. Most are also non-renewable which means that during this time you'll have to jump through various academic hoops to qualify for a standard teaching certificate.

I can't list what courses you'd have to take because the requirements vary from state to state. The best thing you can do is to identify what state you're interested in working in. Google the department of education for that state and look for information about alternative certification. Better yet, just call the state department of education, office of certification and talk to them about what you want to do.

In terms of answering your question - how does teaching differ from general kitchen life ...

1. I basically work 50 hours a week. In general my nights are my own and unless my Culinary Arts classes are involved in an extracurricular school related catering gig, I also have the weekends off. I'm also off on holidays which for my district (Clark County Schools in Nevada) include a week for Thanksgiving, 2 weeks for Christmas, and a week for Spring Break. We also get a day off each month for various holidays like Labor Day, Nevada State Day, and MLK Day. On top of that we get two MONTHS of paid summer leave.

2. Most of us work in kitchens that are former home economic kitchens. This means that each station is basically a kitchenette with a counter, cabinets, 2 tiered sink, drawers, stove, oven, microwave, and mixer.

In every Culinary Arts kitchen I've worked in, I've acquired wire shelving and bus bins to consolidate small wares like measuring cups, measuring spoons, cutting boards, knives etc. into a centralized location. I don't subscribe to the home economic philosophy of having students keep tools at their workstations in drawers and cabinets partially because this isn't an industry standard but also because some students will be lazy and they'll put away tools that are wet and dirty. Short of opening every cabinet and drawer to look at every tool, you'll never be able to stop this if you continue this storage practice.

3. Although most of us work in kitchens that are not commercially licensed, we're still subject to random inspections from the county health inspector.

4. Although we're supposed to be CTE instructors (Career and Technical Education) which means that we're responsible for training students for entry level restaurant positions, the reality is that most schools regard us as teachers of elective subjects. Unless you're actually working at a CTE Academy i.e. an entire school comprised of CTE students such as wood shop, welding, automotive, health care etc., the vast majority of your students will most likely NOT be interested in pursuing a career in the food service industry.

My personal take on this which I share with each class at the start of the year is that even if the students aren't interested in pursing a career in the food service industry, knowing how to keep a kitchen clean, knowing how to keep food safe, and knowing how to cook or bake are all useful skills. For those students who are bound for college, I also point out that they could always work part time in the food service and if they have skills that they acquired in Culinary Arts, they'll probably be able to get jobs that pay above minimum wage.

5. Whereas in the industry you have the ability to fire members of your crew who are absolutely useless ... in public education we have to educate everyone regardless of whether or not they want to learn.

The kid who's always on his cellphone, the spoiled little princess who doesn't want to get her hands dirty, the football player who wants to chit-chat but won't lift a finger to help his group clean because "cleaning is girls' work" will all be students that you as an instructor will have to redirect along more productive lines.

The only students I've been able to metaphorically boot out of my classes have been those who were clearly (and repeatedly) disruptive.

This year I managed to get rid of one problem student on the 2nd day of school. I was starting my lesson and the kid who was seated within 5 feet of me began to loudly talk. When I asked him to stop, he momentarily paused, but when I tried to resume my lesson, he also resumed speaking.

When I asked him a second time to stop, he told me to get out of his face. When I said, "Excuse me," he waved a dismissive hand and told me that I could "go away now." Instead of dropping this, I told him to leave the class. I wrote out a disciplinary referral for insubordination and disrespect. Since I had had previously had this student for two years and administration knew that we had a long history of bumping heads, the student was permanently pulled from my class.

6. Whereas in the kitchen you may work alongside your crew for an entire shift (or longer), most schools are on a period schedule. The period will last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Assuming a minimum of 5 minutes to take attendance and to briefly discuss the day's production, another 5 minutes to set up their work stations with soapy water in a sink, sanitizer in a red bucket, hair restraints on, and hands washed, and on the back end at least 10 minutes for breaking down the station and cleaning everything ... this will leave you 25 minutes of hands-on production time in the kitchen out of a 45 minute period. That's not much time to do anything ... so depending upon what we're doing I usually allocate one (or more) class periods to prep work and a period on another day for production. For example, when teaching mother sauces I'll spend one lesson on the production of a tomato sauce. I'll spend the next day having the students use the tomato sauce to make a Marinara derivative. On the third day we might mix and form meatballs. On the fourth day they'll boil spaghetti, bake the meatballs in the oven, and will reheat their sauce to create spaghetti with meatballs.

With this being said, some schools (especially CTE Academies) are on block schedules where instead of a single period of 45 minutes to an hour, you may have as many as 3 hours with a class. It all depends upon where you're working.

7. Whereas restaurants make money through sales, as a non-profit, Culinary Arts kitchens are funded through their respective school districts. Half of my funding comes from the state. I also get a Federal Perkins grant. My combined state and Federal grants for this year will be about $1900. The rest of my money comes from collecting $40 student lab fees. This generally comes to around $1100. My total budget for this year will be about $3000 and these funds will be used to purchase ingredients, cleaning supplies, foam plates, to-go boxes, zip-lock bags, food levels, hair restraints and any other consumable items I need to teach my class.

Additional funds may be raised through catered lunches that are produced by culinary students and sold to faculty and staff.

Some schools have commercially licensed kitchens with attached limited service restaurants or bakers. Sale to the general public (only done through commercially licensed kitchens) can generate a lucrative revenue stream to augment school funding.

8. Salary and benefits: Most districts have a salary schedule in which you can get raises after a certain amount of time on the job. You don't need to apply for a raise. This will happen automatically once payroll has determined that you qualify for a step increase.

If you have a Master's degree, having this degree will automatically give you an additional step increase.

Teachers have a certain number of days for paid sick leave. We also usually have a personal day that may be used like a sick day for any reason we care to name. There will either be a website or a phone number that you'll contact to arrange a substitute. Unlike the food service industry, you don't have to find a chef on another shift who would be willing to take your place. As long as you have lesson plans for a substitute and have notified the school secretary and your immediate supervisor, you'll be good to go. NOTE: The kitchen is usually closed when Culinary Arts instructors have a sub. Most lessons for the sub will include some sort of written seat work.

Once you've been on the job for a certain number of years (which varies from state to state but in general averages 3-5 years on the job), you'll be vested for retirement.

9. Lay-offs. In the food service industry if the worst happens and your restaurant closes, unless you're part of a bigger corporation which can absorb employees by reassigning them to other units, you're usually out of a job. The same is true of smaller school districts. If you work for a smaller school district and there are budget cuts, teachers of "elective" subjects like art, music, and Culinary Arts will be among the first teachers to be laid off. Having worked in Arizona, I've been laid off three times over a 6 year period ... which is part of the reason I moved to Nevada. Not only was the pay better but working for a larger district has minimized the possibility that I'll be laid off.

In Nevada, my contract says that if I'm ever laid off due to budget cuts, I have first dibs on any job within the district that I'm qualified for. Last year budget cuts forced my school to lay off my department chair, a business teacher, at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The business teacher was chosen because he had the smallest class sizes of any teacher at my school. Since we work for a large district, he was able to transfer to another school and was able to retain his employment.\\

10. Catering support: Most school administrators will use their Culinary Arts classes to provide school related catering support for various functions. Catering is usually paid through the principal's discretionary fund and does not come from culinary funding. In the past, my culinary classes have catered for the occasional lunch and dinner. This year we have 2,400 Christmas cookies to produce for the local elementary schools. The drama teacher also wants us involved in a dinner theater to be put on sometime in April.

Whereas in the food service industry, employees would not expect to partake of anything they catered, whenever I'm catering I generally have students produce extra product so that each student will be able to enjoy a portion of what they made. Doing this helps to motivate them to do their best since they'll be eating part of what they made.

11. In the food service industry each employee is subject to an annual performance review. It's the same in education. Teachers are subject to annual evaluations from their supervising administrator. Novice educators usually have a bi-annual review. Some even have a quarterly review depending upon who you're working for.

I hope this overview has helped. If you have more specific questions, feel free to ask.
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