Arkansas Culinary Schools
With a population of 2.9 million people, Arkansas has plenty of hungry residents that you can serve as a chef. The overall cost of living in Arkansas is 14% lower than the national average, making it easy to get started as a culinary student and new chef. If you plan on owning your own restaurant, knowing the cost of living can help you price your menu effectively.
Some of the best restaurants in Arkansas are Brave New Restaurant, Big Orange, and James at the Mill. While most restaurants serve American comfort food, there are ethnic restaurants that allow you to explore your culinary options.
Arkansas is home to six culinary schools with an average tuition cost of $3,240. That's already very affordable when compared to other states, but there is also an average scholarship award of $2,140 to consider.
There are a variety of programs offered in Arkansas, including culinary arts, chef training, and baking & pastry arts. Most schools give you two options: a certificate or an Associate's degree. You can usually complete a culinary certificate in one year. This option is great for those who don't have many kitchen skills and need to brush up on basics. An Associate's degree takes about two years, and it is more comprehensive than a certificate.
Culinary certificates and degrees are designed to give you skills and knowledge in a wide variety of areas. Early in your program, you'll tackle basic cooking skills like knife skills, cooking methods, and food pairing. Your program may require you to prove your skills in several different ways; you may have to take written exams in addition to practical exams.
The higher-level courses depend on which program you attend and what your concentration is. If you want to go into restaurant ownership, you may take business courses that prepare you for the business aspect of being a chef. If you go into baking and pastry arts, you may be able to focus on different types of desserts and creating your own recipes.
Exploring your career options is one of the most exciting parts of completing culinary school. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that almost half of chefs work in restaurants, although a significant amount of chefs also work in hotels or special food services. If you pursue a restaurant job, you will likely have to start out as a line chef. Most restaurants require you to prove your skills and worth before you can move up to the level of sous chef or executive chef.
There are many excellent restaurants in Arkansas that hire chefs. Some of the main employers include BBRG Bravo, Eurest Dining Services, and Bon Appetit.
Like most other states, Arkansas does not have any licensing or certification requirements for cooks or chefs. Most jobs base their employment decisions on your education and experience. However, there are third-party certification options that can demonstrate your skills. The American Culinary Federation offers a variety of certifications, including those in gourmet cooking and baking. After passing a written and skills test, you can get a certificate that proves your competence in a specific field.
Cooks in Arkansas earn an average salary of $18,600 per year (O*Net, 2012). Once you move to the job title of chef, earning prospects increase significantly. In Arkansas, chefs earn an average salary of $29,400 per year (O*Net, 2012).
Earning potential tends to increase as you take on more responsibility as a chef. Executive chefs usually earn the highest salaries, followed by sous chefs and then line chefs.
The overall job outlook for restaurant cooks is very good. O*Net predicts a 14% increase in job openings for cooks between 2010 and 2020, which is 1% higher than the national average. This outlook may get even better as the economy turns around and people go out to eat more often.