Employment opportunities in every industry are subject to cultural, social, and economic changes that the population faces as a whole. This is equally true of the culinary arts industry. While the opportunities are always likely to exist, there are regular shifts in the need for top chefs and cooks. A major increase in fast food cooks has been witnessed that has only recently begun to slow. The Department of Labor expects further changes to occur in the coming years that all culinary students should be aware of.

Dual Income Families and Their Impact on Culinary Demand

One of the major factors likely to determine the increase in culinary careers is the number of working families and their subsequent income. More and more households contain two working adults and as working days and working weeks grow steadily longer this leaves very little time for the preparation of home cooked meals. A consequence of this is that couples and families will come to rely on meals cooked by others.

Disposable Income Levels are Increasing

Another important fact on the subject of demographics is the disposable income of the average household. Higher wages generally means greater expectations and in terms of food and meals, these expectations will likely be met by high-end restaurants rather than take-out and fast food joints. Whereas we have previously seen an increase in the number of low-paid fast food cooks, it looks increasingly likely that this will turn in favor of highly-respected chefs.

Increased Life Expectancy Means an Older Population

Another demographic factor is the age of the population. As life expectancy continues to increase, the population becomes older. This older generation is already witnessing a greater level of disposable income than once associated with the retired class and the consequence may a higher demand for restaurant-prepared meals.

For Convenience’s Sake

On the flip side of this is the argument of convenience. As more and more of the younger generation seek convenient meals they may turn to the ready cooked meals offered by grocery stores and super stores. For this reason it is expected that cooks who also have serving capabilities will prosper in this area.

Institutions such as schools, hospitals and large companies are becoming more dependent on outsourcing work such as the cooking of meals so that they can concentrate on the core aspects of their business. This trend looks certain to continue meaning that there will be fewer jobs available in the institutional sectors but more opportunities in the food preparation companies that will be formed as a result.

Overall View of Culinary Careers and Education

Overall, the future is bright for anyone looking to start or advance a career as a chef or a cook. The bigger increases are likely to be seen in casual and formal restaurants as well as convenience meals. There will always be a demand for high-end chefs but there will also always be a fairly high level of competition for positions. One of the best ways to get ahead is to combine a culinary course with a math, economics, or business course. This combination lends itself perfectly towards restaurant or hotel management as well as being able to establish your own business.

Further Consideration

A general trend toward healthy meals will be witnessed in most areas of the industry from the under-fire fast food restaurants to the trendy, upscale restaurants. While this will not have any significant difference on employment levels it is likely to see a change in certain aspects of any culinary curriculum.

View a list of culinary arts schools in California.