Who says you have to be a great cook to be a foodie? If you love great food — eating it, discussing it, studying it or just being around culinary creations — you could turn your passion into your profession. There are so many food jobs that don’t require a chef hat or working in a busy kitchen for which you can still earn a great living and be around food, glorious food, all day long.
Come sample our menu of food careers to see if any of them whet your appetite. Then, find out how to break in and whip up a huge batch of career success.
While this profession is more about drink than food, how cool would it be to make beer for a living? With more and more microbreweries and craft beer businesses booming, brewmasters are like beer scientists, overseeing the production process of man’s favorite beverage. The job involves a bit more chemistry and heavy-lifting than most food jobs, and requires a huge amount of time and hard work. But it usually pays off. Depending on the size of the brewery you work for, salary can range widely, with large breweries offering as much as $100k, according to Monster.com.
How to become a brewmaster
While formal education isn’t necessarily required since you can learn on the job or as an apprentice, there are programs of study at culinary arts schools across the country.
Brewmaster fun fact
Being a brewmaster isn’t all about knowing your ale from your lager. Be prepared to do a lot of equipment cleaning and maintenance, and follow formulas to the letter.
If you really know your meat, you’ll appreciate the art of cutting it correctly. Being a butcher is in fact a culinary art, whether you own a butcher shop, work in an upscale steakhouse or head up a supermarket’s meat department. Of course, where you work will really dictate your earning power. PayScale reports that the median salary for butchers/meat cutters was $32,770 in 2014.
How to become a butcher
This profession is all about hands-on experience and on-the-job training. Depending on the complexity of the job (creating portions in a supermarket versus curing meats and preparing expensive cuts), training will vary. Butchers who follow religious guidelines may require certification and formal training through the organization that is certifying them.
Butcher fun fact
Butchering is an ancient trade, one that even formed its own guild in England in the 1200s.
If the smell of roasted coffee is your definition of heaven on earth, than this career might be your cup of tea, or better yet, java. Also referred to as a coffee roaster, a coffee purveyor selects and roasts coffee beans to bring out their flavors, and prepare them for drinking. The career could involve choosing where the beans are grown to physically working the roasting machines to control the flavor, and the lightness or darkness of the coffee. PayScale reports that coffee roasters made an annual salary of $33,674 in 2014.
How to become a coffee purveyor
While there’s not a designated degree in coffee roasting, there are a number of educational options that could help prepare you for a career in this field. You could consider an agricultural studies if you’re interested in how coffee is grown, or perhaps if you’re more into the business side of things, a degree in supply chain management could help.There are also training and certificate programs via the Specialty Coffee Association of America, which include coursework for becoming a barista, coffee buyer, coffee roaster and coffee taster.
Coffee purveyor fun fact
According to The SCAA Chronicle, in 2013, the U.S. was the world’s single largest buyer of coffee beans, accounting for almost 25 percent of global coffee imports.
If you take the phrase “say cheese” literally, you might be someone who loves snapping photos of food. The good news is if you’re really good at it, you can do something with those skills beyond making your Instagram followers hungry. With the growth of digital media, food photography has become bigger than ever. While there’s no food photographer-specific salary data, photographers in general earn an annual median wage of $40,474 per year, as reported by 2014 BLS data.
How to become a food photographer
Although improved camera technology has made photography accessible to the masses, making it a career takes a bit more skill and creativity. Certainly some people are self taught, but serious food photographers typically go through formal photography training at an arts school or public university. A talented food photographer knows how to make someone smell, taste and feel a food just by looking at an image, and that really has to do with proper lighting, styling and staging.
Food photographer fun fact
Someone who works hand in hand with a food photographer is a food stylist (or some people do both). These people set the scene, and often manipulate the food so that it looks more appetizing.
Food scientist/agricultural scientist
If you want a food career that’s of a more academic nature, becoming a food scientist might be perfect for you. More and more, people care about the nutritional content of their food, and everyday you hear about food safety or product recalls in the news. That’s why food science is such an emerging field. The BLS reported an average yearly salary of $58,610 for food scientists in 2014.
How to become a food scientist
Expect to hit the books if you want to go into food science. The BLS points out that you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to learn about food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering and food processing operations. Many people do go on to earn advanced degrees in areas like nutrition as well.
Food scientist fun fact
Food scientists do sometimes get to invent new foods, whether it’s a new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, or a new type of apples — the delicious honeycrisp was invented by the University of Minnesota.
Graphic designer (food product packaging/logos)
If you have a knack for design and creativity, and a special love for food, how’s this for the perfect career blend: food product package design. Anyone who has ever gone grocery shopping could tell you that certain products just pop off of the shelves, and that’s largely because of the way they are packaged. Most designers or graphic artists typically don’t have this specific of a focus when starting out, but if you know you want to work on food-related designs, then you can tailor your portfolio to fit those needs.
How to become a graphic designer
Earning a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, possibly with a focus on user experience, is a good route to take into this profession. If you plan to work for a corporate brand or agency, employers will be looking at your credentials, as well as your portfolio/samples of your work. In addition, add a few marketing and business courses to your curriculum, as product design is just as much about consumer insights and brand messaging as it is about art.
Graphic designer fun fact
From Tootsie Roll wrappers and Pringles cans, to quirky Trader Joe’s labels and squeezable ketchup bottles, food packaging can be functional, fun and iconic. They also help create a brand awareness and recognition so that consumers can spot them right away.
Let’s see… get paid to eat whatever you want in fine restaurants, and then write about what your meal was like? Sounds like a dream job for wordsmiths who happen to also enjoy dining culture. Make no mistake: Earning a healthy living as a food writer is challenging since there are only a handful of elite food critics, and many food writers may work as freelance contractors. However, there is more to being a food writer than just doing restaurant review. You could become a food writer to help supplement other areas of writing, or take it to the next level by becoming a recipe developer or writing about unique aspects of the food industry. PayScale says that the average salary for food writers is $47,684.
How to become a food writer
Depending on the nature of the food writing you’d like to do, developing an expertise in journalism and/or culinary arts could help you. For instance, if you write about fine dining, you’ll have to know about very unique culinary creations that might not be mainstream. If you’re writing about the business of food, you could be interviewing high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, who will expect that you’ve had formal journalism training. You could also take food writing courses and workshops to help develop your writing style.
Food writer fun fact
Many food writers do their work in “disguise,” so to speak, as they try out new restaurants anonymously so as not to receive the typical experience any other patron would.
A sommelier is an expert in pairing wine with food, which is why they’re often employed with fine dining restaurants. This job is not just about being up on vintages, good years and pricey wine lists. You’ll also have to be able to develop a good rapport with customers to learn about their preferences and budgets. Once again, this is the kind of job in which salary will vary depending on the location and type of restaurant, but PayScale reported an annual salary of $45,689 for sommeliers in 2014.
How to become a sommelier
While technically you don’t need to earn a degree to become a sommelier, there are training courses via wine and spirit organizations and societies. Some very high-end restaurant may look for evidence of formal training at a culinary school, but as long as you know your wines and work well with clientele, you can do well.
Sommelier fun fact
A good sommelier will not only make suggestions, but will offer a mini tableside wine class, sharing facts and tips about wine. In other words, sharpen up your conversation skills.
Even if winemaking is something your grandparents did in their basement when you were growing up, being a winemaker — also known as an enologist or vintner — is a lot more complex. Winemakers are almost like chemists, carefully mixing the ingredients to control each wine’s taste. They also must know a good deal about agriculture in order to get the best out of their crops.
How to become a winemaker
While you don’t need a full-fledged degree in winemaking to succeed in the field, that’s probably the best way to learn all of the necessary skills, unless you grew up learning the business in a family-owned winery. Otherwise, you can pursue a certificate program or even a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology. Areas with a big wine industry are where you’re likely to find work, such as California or upstate New York, buy it’s not uncommon for culinary schools and universities all around the country to offer wine-related programs.
Winemaker fun fact
While Italy and France are know for their wines, it’s definitely big business here in the U.S., with sales of California wine totaling $24.6 billion in 2014.
Here’s a career that’s sort of food related, but only in the sense that we tend to throw a lot of it away. A garbage anthropologist — an official title for a New York City Department of Sanitation professional — studies trash, and what it says about us as a society. Think about that next time you toss a bunch of brown bananas in the pail. In general, anthropologists make $57,420, as reported by 2014 BLS data.
How to become a garbage anthropologist
In order to do meaningful field work, research or teach anthropology, like most of the sciences, it’s necessary to pursue a master’s degree or higher.
Garbage anthropologist fun fact
William L. Rathje, a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona pioneered the study of “garbology,” when he began “the Garbage Project,” in which he and his students collected trash in Tucson and correlated it with census data.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/home.htm
- 10 Cool Jobs and What They Pay, Monster, http://career-advice.monster.com/salary-benefits/salary-information/cool-jobs-and-what-they-pay/article.aspx
- PayScale, September 20, 2015, www.payscale.com
- Specialty Coffee Association of America, www.scaaeducation.org
- Meet Our Flavor Gurus, Ben & Jerry, http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/flavor-gurus#2timeline
- Honeycrisp Apples, University of Minnesota, http://www.apples.umn.edu/Honeycrisp/index.htm
- 2014 California Wine Sales, Wine Institute, May 19, 2015, http://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/pressroom/05192015
- A city’s trash becomes a woman’s treatise: Anthropologist analyzes NYC’s garbage, Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/08/30/city-trash-becomes-woman-treatise-anthropologist-analyzes-nyc-garbage/.
- You’re a What? Roastmaster, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/yawhat.pdf