Before you get into a profession that lines pans with parchment paper, you might be asked to put pen to paper. Papers aren’t just for those seeking a liberal arts degree. Many trade schools, including culinary arts institutions, ask for an essay with your application. While formal training isn’t required to wield kitchen shears and fruit zesters, competition is high for work in swanky kitchens with higher pay. That culinary arts degree can give you a competitive edge, and it often begins with writing a paper.
The paper that an admissions office requires is typically a personal essay. So sit back and reflect on why you want to be a chef. Most colleges are looking for diverse and dynamic students for their programs. Think about the enthusiasm that drives your goals and why this is your chosen career path. Connect with that part of you that gets excited about working in a kitchen, tasting sauces and basting ducks. Use stories that describe you, like the time your Aunt Bessie let you season chocolate chips when you were four.
Now that you have reflected on your dream to be elbow-deep in dough, or decked in white in a kitchen of stainless steel, write a first draft. Using your reflections as a source of details, write about your strengths, interests and accomplishments. Always be honest. If you worked in a fast food chain, say so. Don’t try to embellish it as a “quickie steak house.” Focus on the details that make you an individual, including your experience, or lack of it.
Once you have a first draft, structure your information for easy reading. Like any good story, a personal essay has a beginning, middle and end. Introduce who you are, state your experience or interest and conclude with the reasons why you want to be a chef. Think of your paper as a snapshot of you as a student-chef. Like a gourmet summer salad, keep the structure simple while highlighting the fresh ingredients.
Your final step is to review your paper for correctness. Think of it as plating the meal. Your attention to details, such as spelling and complete sentences, adds to the quality of who you are in and out of the kitchen. Make sure you have answered or addressed what it is for you to be a chef. Stay closer to the minimum word count than the maximum, as admissions representatives have many papers to read. Follow all directions for submitting your paper and stay ahead of any deadlines. One day, this paper may be the open door to your career as a chef.
2016 Salary Information for Chefs and Head Cooks
Chefs and head cooks earned a median annual salary of $43,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, chefs and head cooks earned a 25th percentile salary of $32,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $59,080, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 146,500 people were employed in the U.S. as chefs and head cooks.
Charli Mills has covered the natural food industry since 2001 as a marketing communications manager for a highly successful retail cooperative. She built teams, brands and strategies. She is a writer and editor of "This is Living Naturally," a consultant for Carrot Ranch Communications and a Master Cooperative Communicator.