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How to get started in culinary teaching

Question:

I owned my own bakery, have won competitions, and even have a food reality TV show. I have a lot to offer up-and-coming chefs and would like to get into teaching pastry or culinary arts. How do I get started?

– Vincent Buzzetta, The Cake Artist, Staten Island, N.Y.

Answer:

My day job is directing a college culinary program so I get this question a lot. Having part-time instructors who are also current industry professionals is vital to having a program that keeps up with changes and provides a dose of industry reality. Hiring full-time faculty with industry experience is also crucial, so you are well positioned to transition to culinary education.

First, consider that teaching opportunities exist in a variety of settings: high schools, colleges, culinary schools, community-based job training programs, nutrition education programs, children’s programs, recreational/community programs, retailer demonstration kitchens, summer camps, and resort programs, to name a few. Each setting has a unique set of criteria for qualification. For example, because our community college program is housed within a university, a bachelor’s degree is required and a graduate degree is strongly preferred. High schools often require teacher certifications. And culinary schools often require extensive high-end industry experience. Ask for informational interviews where you would like to teach to see if you would be a qualified candidate. Most programs prefer candidates with both industry experience and higher education. Given your television experience, you could be a valuable asset in attracting students to a culinary program.

Next, try to gain some experience by doing guest lectures and demos, teaching part-time, or sitting in on classes. I am always frustrated by a candidate who has absolutely no teaching experience but thinks that he or she would be a promising candidate. Unlike other fields with high barriers to entry, almost any secondary or postsecondary culinary program would welcome you for a guest lecture or demonstration. Even a few of those demos would be enough to build confidence, add a line on the resume, and garner a recommendation letter from a culinary educator.

It is important to remember that transitioning from industry to culinary education is not semi-retirement. Teaching brings with it a new set of challenges different from running a kitchen. Don’t treat teaching as a new job but rather as a career transition.

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