A chef’s life is fast-paced, exciting and creative. But it’s not for everyone. Thankfully, there are numerous ways you can follow a passion for food and drink. Below, we’ve listed some thrilling careers for anyone who wants to pursue a life in food or drink, but doesn’t want to do it in a kitchen.
For many, wine is one of life’s great pleasures – not only an endless world of incredible tastes and smells, but a doorway to different cultures and world history. Enjoying good wine is also, of course, a lovely experience to share.
Wine merchants share their expertise and enthusiasm for a living, and it’s also a terrific career for anyone with a talent for sales.
A good wine merchant will need to know their shiraz from their zinfandel, but also how to closely monitor the industry and pick up on any trends there might be. What’s commercially viable? Where is the next big thing coming from? What are the margins?
It’s not just about finding value, but about marketing and selling. Unlike, say, a sous chef, who works only with their colleagues; a wine merchant is a salesperson and marketing executive.
Le Cordon Bleu has numerous wine and spirit courses. One of the most popular is the Wine, Gastronomy and Management course, which also teaches students about other drinks such as beer, sake and whiskey.
This is a hugely desirable career, if you’re the right person for it. While some might not like the unusual hours and the pace, others absolutely thrive on the excitement, variety of work and the breadth of people they’ll meet.
Not only is hotel management a fulfilling job, but it is one of the best for those who want to travel: Hotels and guesthouses, after all, tend to be based in the most desirable locations to visit, and a hotel manager’s skills are eminently transferable from one country to the next: An overnight venue in Casablanca would face many of the same challenges as one in New York.
A good hotel manager is passionate, personable and quick-witted. On a more formal level, they should be knowledgeable about running a business, what a kitchen needs and how to trouble-shoot in this industry.
Le Cordon Bleu offers a range of courses in this field, from hotel management, internship pathways to degrees.
It’s a well-known adage in the food industry: A meal should be as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate. And, from recipes to brochures, websites, advertisements, packaging and even our TV screens, we are constantly sampling the art of food photography (both consciously and unconsciously).
Just like any creative discipline, mastering food styling and photography is a combination of talent, knowledge and practice. And, like food criticism and writing (see below), career paths can be indirect, based on building portfolios and contacts.
Le Cordon Bleu’s Food Styling and Photography courses, are very popular but food stylists have also cut their teeth in beginner’s cuisine and cake decorating courses too.
This is one of those professions that seems too good to be true, but it does exist. It’s true that much of a food critic’s job is sitting down to savour a meal, and (if you’re established), you can expense those meals. That said, like any dream job, it’s a competitive field.
The qualities needed to make it as a food critic are expertise in the subject, the tenacity to chase work and make connections, and an open mind.
On that last point, this is not a gig for a picky eater and you will be required to eat exotic foods beyond your comfort zone. This applies not just to food types, but to high-end and casual dining: A good food critic should not only know what makes a perfect foie gras, but also where to get the best fast-food burger in town.
Like any competitive, creative field, the harder you work the luckier you become. It doesn’t hurt to do some formal training (a short cookery course in general cuisine or a specific discipline such as Asian food or Mediterranean cooking, for example). When it comes to finding work, a good start is to build a portfolio of work, which can be shared via blogging (or a curation site, like Medium) or social media.
Paying websites and print outlets won’t commission someone with no experience, but they are open to interesting pitches and story ideas; an unusual dining experience abroad, articles about food trends, interviews with rising stars in the industry or features about interesting aspects of food production (honey farmers or importers of strange food, to use just two examples).
Like being a food critic, the job of cookbook / food book writer is a competitive, but viable career. And the career path is similar; based on building a portfolio, making contacts and developing your expertise.
The more you know about the market, trends and food prep itself, the better. And if you have a good eye for images, that doesn’t hurt either.
There are two clear paths on this road: You can attempt to build yourself as a brand (as many have before), or you can go the route of ghost-writing; i.e., anonymously creating the content for someone else’s book.
The latter might not be considered as glamorous, but it’s a noble, worthwhile pursuit: You’re helping to share the joy of cooking and food, and you’re spreading the word about different cuisines. If it’s a recipe book, you’re making people’s lives better and more convenient.
The career path is similar to food critic – making a name for yourself, building contacts, and developing your skills range. An Instagram or YouTube account of simple, entertaining recipes is another route, and one that has paid off for numerous authors and celeb cooks.
Forging a Path
Just as food, drink and hospitality offers an infinite range of choices for consumers and holidaymakers, there’s a world of options for those willing to work in the various disciplines. Whether you’re a problem-solving hotel manager or an articulate food writer, there is an occupation in this field that plays to your strengths.
Le Cordon Bleu has been the first step in culinary career journeys for over a century. In that time, hundreds of hospitality businesses and thousands of careers have been forged, and yet, every one of them has been its own unique story, shaped as much by the student’s background, imagination and dreams as by the course content.
Le Cordon Bleu London has a course for anyone who wants to work in hospitality, whatever their dream or ambition.