Being a chef/cook is a rewarding career, and it can also be a fairly lucrative one. However, sometimes chefs, just like everyone else, get to certain points in their lives where they feel it’s time for a change. This can happen to head chefs, assistant chefs, line cooks, sous chefs, prep cooks or even short order cooks. In fact, a sudden desire to change careers after doing something for several years can happen to just about anyone, no matter his or her current occupation.
Luckily, chefs/cooks have a myriad of skills that transition well into other areas of interest and other career paths. Whether chefs/cooks need to change jobs due to health reasons, new familial obligations, an impending move or something else entirely, there are plenty of career options available to them. If you’re interested in changing careers from cooking, you’ve come to the right place for ideas.
If you still enjoy working around food but want out of the hustle and bustle of restaurant kitchens, you might consider opening a catering business instead. Caterers and chefs need many of the same skills, but catering is less fast-paced and stressful. With a catering business, you can pick and choose your jobs and go at your own pace. You can even designate much of the cooking to your employees, only cooking when you feel like it.
While you won’t necessarily need a business degree to start a catering business, it could help. Either way, you’ll still need to get the appropriate licenses, permits, liability insurance and other required necessities. Still, if you want to continue in the world of cooking, this is a relatively easy transition.
2. Food Writer
Typical Salary Range: $45k-$50k
While there aren’t a ton of desk jobs for chefs unless you want to go into secretarial or administrative work, being a food writer is fairly close. Most of the job will be done sitting at a desk, writing on a computer. You could start your own blog, do freelance work for well-known food publications or possibly have your own column in a well-known publication.
The more esteem you gained during your time as a chef, the more likely people will want you to write food columns for them. This could be a way for you to talk about the art of cooking, to share your favorite recipes with the world or to answer others’ questions about proper cooking etiquette and techniques.
3. Restaurant Critic/Consultant
Typical Salary Range: $45k-$55k
As a critic, you could visit restaurants and review the experience in a column or blog. If you were especially well-known as a person of taste, this could potentially be a very lucrative career. You already know about food, plating and service, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to determine whether or not a new restaurant is worth a visit.
If writing about your experiences isn’t your strong suit, you could market yourself to restaurants as a consultant. The general job description would be the same, only instead of sharing your thoughts with the public, you’d share them with the restaurant owners and staff to help them improve.
4. Cooking Teacher
Typical Salary Range: $40k-$50k
Perhaps one of the most common jobs for former cooks is a cooking teacher. Being able to cook well is the main requirement for this career, and you obviously already know how to do that. If you worked in a busy kitchen, you also likely have the patience and the people skills needed to work with the public.
You can teach cooking with nothing more than a high school diploma; however, if you want to teach culinary arts as a legitimate class at a school or college, there may be additional steps to take, such as earning a specific degree. This is one way for people like yourself to keep your chef jobs outside the kitchen.
5. Start a Soup Kitchen
If you aren’t actually interested in changing careers from cooking but want to aim your focus in a different direction, you might consider opening a soup kitchen. This’ll allow you to keep doing what you love while also giving back to your community and making a difference in the lives of many.
There’s no specific college degree required to open a soup kitchen, but you’ll need to meet several business/legal/health requirements, and you’ll need experience with writing grant proposals, unless you hire someone to do that part for you. While this job may not pay as much as your head chef career, it’s certainly rewarding.
6. Food Stylist
Typical Salary Range: $50k-$65k
Becoming a food stylist is one of the most fun and creative jobs for burnt out cooks. The actual amount of cooking isn’t much; instead, you’ll spend a little time cooking and a lot of time decorating, arranging, plating and photographing beautiful works of art. There’s a huge need for food stylists in online and physical publications, television and movies, advertising and more. While not required, a culinary arts degree could help set you apart from other applicants. You’ll need exceptional plating and presentation skills, as well as an eye for aesthetics and some photography experience.
7. Health Inspector
Typical Salary Range: $50k-$60k
If you’re looking to get out of the cooking/food scene altogether but still want an easy transition, you may want to consider becoming a health inspector. Depending on where you live, you may be required to earn a specific degree, but some states hire high school graduates and train them on the job.
As a health inspector, you’d already know much of what you’d need to know about sanitary and food safety regulations. Because you’ve dealt with inspectors before, you know the kinds of things you’ll be looking for and the most common problem areas. Much of what you’ve learned as a chef/cook could be very useful as a health inspector.
8. Head Cafeteria Worker
Typical Salary Range: $30k-$40k
Familial obligations are chief among the reasons chefs leave their jobs. If you’re reconsidering your career because you want to spend more time with your child but are still looking for chef jobs outside the kitchen, you might apply to work for your child’s school as the head of the cafeteria.
Schools like to hire professional chefs to manage cafeterias because they already know how to cook, and they have lots of experience managing a kitchen and staff. This job would allow you to continue cooking and give you approximately the same daily schedule as your child.
Typical Salary Range: $45k-$65k
If you’re changing careers from cooking and don’t mind going back to college for a few semesters, you could become a dietitian. You won’t be cooking anymore, of course, but you’ll be able to use your knowledge of food, cooking and nutrition to help others live healthier lives. You can help clients understand which foods they should and shouldn’t be eating, help them plan meals and share cooking tips for healthier, delicious meals. It’s a rewarding career, and it’s also challenging. You may have tons of experience creating new recipes and planning meals, but now you’ll have to do those things with your particular patient’s dietary restrictions in mind.
10. Hospitality Jobs
Typical Salary Range: $50k-$65k
Working at a hotel requires many of the same skills as being a cook. You must be organized and good at multitasking. You must have patience, people skills and the ability to mediate situations when they get tense. Being able to work under pressure and knowing about health and safety codes also comes in handy.
There are plenty of hotel-related jobs you’d be able to transition into, and many of them wouldn’t require any extra experience or education. Whether you’re interested in working as a concierge, the hotel general manager, the hotel’s event planner or some other career within the hotel’s catering or food services department, your skills should transfer nicely.
11. Personal Shopper/Meal Planner
Typical Salary Range: $45k-$65k
As far as jobs for former cooks go, this one may not be practical depending on where you live. If you live in a large metropolitan area with several wealthy families, though, it could be the perfect job. Use your cooking expertise to market yourself as a personal shopper and meal planner to those who want to eat the best, healthiest and most exquisite meals but don’t know how to shop or plan for them. You could have several clients for whom you spend your days shopping and planning out weekly meals. (Whether or not you also want to be these families’ personal chef is entirely up to you.)
12. Cookbook Author
Typical Salary Range: $55k-$65k
One of the most upsetting things about finding desk jobs for chefs or non-cooking-related jobs for burnt out cooks is that all their knowledge and expertise is wasted, and all those amazing recipes they created are lost. However, if you decide to become a cookbook author instead, the world doesn’t have to miss out because you’ll be sharing recipes with others instead.
People love cookbooks. They’re some of the most best-selling books there are, and depending on how many years you spent as a cook/chef, you could potentially churn out a ton of them. This is an especially good option if you’re famous for cooking, even if you’re only famous locally. People love to buy cookbooks from famous chefs because they feel like the recipes will be even more delicious. If you can capitalize on that, you might as well do so.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I need to go back to school if I’m thinking about changing careers from cooking?
Just because you want to change careers doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have to go back to school, but in some cases, you might. It mainly depends on what you want to do. There are many careers that’ll allow you to transition into them with no extra education. However, if you’re pursuing a new career that requires a specific degree, you will, of course, have to earn that degree.
What skills should I list on my resume?
As a cook/chef, you’ve gained a ton of valuable skills that’ll transfer nicely into many other careers. These include the ability to multitask, customer service skills, people skills, sales experience and teamwork skills. Additionally, depending on your specific duties, you may have managerial experience, budgeting experience, administrative experience, direct buying experience and more.
What are the easiest jobs into which I could transition?
The smoothest transitions you’ll have will be those that involve other cooking or food service jobs. These could include career changes into catering, hospitality, cafeteria management, personal shopping, food styling or teaching cooking classes.
If you’re considering a career change into jobs outside the kitchen, do your research. Think about what you might want to do, and check out some facts about that career. Will you need additional education? Is there a market for it where you live, and if not, are you willing to relocate? Is it a sustainable career that’ll pay you what you need? These are all questions to ask yourself before embarking on a new career change.
Once you start seeking new jobs, don’t sell yourself short. You’ve gained a ton of experience and many marketable skills during your time in the kitchen. Be sure to include those skills in your resume, and don’t be afraid to expand on them in any interviews you may have. You don’t have to stick to cooking-related careers either. If video game design’s your passion, and you’re dead set on moving into that field, that’s great! Just know you’ll have to take some additional steps to get there.
Finally, remember that any big career change takes time. It won’t happen for you overnight, and that’s okay. A slow and steady process is bound to be better for you in the long-run anyway. Take your time, and make your decisions carefully. Be sure you’re happy in your choices every step of the way.