Why not turn your passion for food into a career? Food industry jobs are highly varied, and chances are you'll find a way to channel your love into a rewarding career - and a sizable paycheck. (We look at four celebrities who followed their dreams and ended up filling their wallets. Don't miss Celebrities With Big Dreams, Bigger Payoffs.)
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You may dream of owning a five-star restaurant in L.A., or perhaps a corner coffee shop in your home town. Either way, restaurant owners blend their culinary zeal with their business know-how. Owning a restaurant means dealing with a lot of people and a lot of stress. But it comes with the upside of being your own boss, and sharing your food vision with others.
According to PayScale.com, restaurant owners earn anywhere between $40,540 to $101,053 per year.
If you've ever longed to be on Hell's Kitchen, this might be the job for you. Beyond preparing meals, executive chefs are responsible for creating recipes, designing menus, ordering supplies and overseeing the kitchen staff. Executive chefs may run several different restaurants or oversee a chain. If that sounds like a bit more responsibility than you're looking for, there are many levels of chefs and cooks, each with their own role in the food experience. Generally speaking, chefs have a higher level of training and/or experience than cooks do. The type of food preparer ranges from sous chef, who serves under an executive chef as the "vice-president" of the kitchen, to specialty workers like sushi chefs or bakers, who may work anywhere from small restaurants and bakeries to grocery stores.
Because this industry is so varied, the salary and benefits that go along with it are as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May, 2008, the annual median wage for a chef or head cook working in a full-service restaurant is $39,930.
You not only love food, you love entertaining, hosting parties and you've got a knack for business, too - well, at least the first three. Catering managers oversee a staff of servers, chefs and cooks in a hotel, function hall or club. They coordinate with venue staff to ensure your event goes off without a hitch. They may assist with the marketing aspect, and work with the client to make sure everything is as the client envisioned it – and on budget. The ability to effectively organize and manage is crucial for this career, and if you are particularly strong in that area, you may consider running your own catering business. Doing so will allow you the flexibility to take on as many events as you like, making it an ideal second or part-time job. (An increasing number of seniors are taking on post-retirement jobs - and catering is one of them. Learn the others in 8 Popular Post-Retirement Jobs.)
The earnings of those who go the self-employed route are limited only by the amount of time they have, and the number of clients they can attract. Those who are employed by venues, supermarkets or privately for an individual home enjoy a median wage of $40,660, according to the BLS.
Food TV Host
You want to show off your skills to a wider audience. Cooking shows are so popular, there are entire networks devoted to them. And it isn't just cooking – shows about where food comes from and the best restaurants in the country are just as popular. It's undoubtedly difficult to break into this market, and it goes to show the wide variety of options when it comes to turning your passion for food into your career.
Salaries for television hosts range from $33,871 to $72,726, according to PayScale.
If the spotlight doesn't interest you, you might consider taking that recipe box and turning it into your very own cookbook. Authors may have the most unreliable source of income on this list, but those that hit it big do very well. Cookbook authors may also go on book tours, or host cooking classes to demonstrate their culinary prowess. There are also new ways to share your recipes, like the Nintendo DS game "America's Test Kitchen", which has voice-activated step-by-step instructions for 300 recipes. Successful cookbooks may lead to television shows or products lines. You may also consider blogging your recipes from the comfort of your home.
An author's income will depend on how many books are published, sold, and if any spin-off products are created. In the United States, PayScale reports author income to fall between $31,078 and $75,428.
A Tasty Career
Turning your love of food into your day job doesn't mean your options are limited. Whichever way you choose to express your culinary passion, you can bet it will be a rewarding – and tasty – experience. (For more, see 10 Ways To Cut Your Food Costs.)
Feeling uninformed? Check out the financial news highlights in Water Cooler Finance: Greece Is Burning And Buffett's Under Fire.