Florida is one of the most densely populated states in the country, with over 19.5 million residents. The state reaches its peak during summer, when vacationers crowd the state’s largest cities of Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa. Tourist season presents lots of opportunities for new chefs to prove their skills.
Residents and visitors alike have a wide range of restaurants and cuisines to choose from while dining in Florida. Some of Florida’s busiest restaurants are Baoli Miami, the Bazaar, and STK Miami. If you plan on working in Florida, it’s important to be innovative and unique with your cooking. Residents enjoy frequent menu changes, and preferences vary with every new wave of tourists.
With 53 culinary schools, it is clear that Florida takes cooking very seriously. The average cost of tuition in Florida is $7,179, and the average scholarship award is $1,540. Overall, you can complete a one or two-year program with very little student debt.
One of the first steps to succeeding in culinary school is figuring out what type of degree you want. Since there are so many schools in Florida, you have many options. The shortest is a culinary certificate, which you can generally complete in one year or less. The next step up is an Associate’s degree, which is a bit more comprehensive and requires two years of full-time study. The longest undergraduate option is a Bachelor’s degree, which requires four years of full-time study. Two schools in Florida also offer Master’s degrees.
Culinary Schools in Florida
All Florida culinary programs cover the same group of topics: how to quickly and accurately prepare different type of food, how to consistently meet state health standards, and how to work efficiently in any type of kitchen.
This starts with basic cooking skills, like prepping food for dinner service, prioritizing and carrying out kitchen tasks, and following the rules of your executive chef. You will continue to build on these core skills throughout the course of your program, while also learning more advanced cooking skills.
While there are generally lots of career opportunities in Florida, the job openings available to you depend on where you live and if you are willing to relocate. You may work for a catering company or as a private chef, both of which require working erratic hours. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that fully 46% of chefs work in restaurant settings. You may work as a line chef for an established restaurant or, if you have business skills, you may choose to open your own restaurant.
In Florida, some of the largest culinary employers include Gate Gourmet, Del Frisco’s Grille, and BBRG.
Florida offers lots of flexibility to its cooks and chefs by not requiring them to become licensed or certified. However, many employers require you to complete their specific food safety training to maintain safety standards in the kitchen.
American Culinary Federation certification is an optional certification you can pursue to demonstrate your abilities to potential employers.
When you start out as a chef, you typically start as a line chef. Your salary potential tends to increase as you move through the ranks of line chef, sous chef, and executive chef. Even within each rank, there are great variances in salary. The average salary for a cook in Florida is $22,600 per year, while the average salary for a chef is $46,700 per year (O*Net, 2012).
In general, the job outlook for cooks and chefs in Florida is significantly brighter than national averages. O*Net predicts that the demand for chefs in Florida will increase by 8% between 2010 and 2020, significantly more than the national average. The demand for cooks is expected to grow by 24% in the same time frame (O*Net, 2010).