There are no educational requirements to work as a catering cook, but a degree in the culinary arts trains you in nutrition, food preparation, safe food handling and kitchen etiquette. The culinary arts program may also include business management courses. The pay scale for catering cooks who work for a catering service, hotel or cruise line increases with a culinary arts degree. An entry-level catering cook without experience or a culinary arts degree can expect an hourly pay scale starting at minimum wage. With a culinary arts degree, the annual starting pay scale is around $21,000.
A catering cook works in the hospitality industry and may be self-employed, work for a cruise line or hotel chain. The experience you gain as a catering cook is not centered completely around food. You have the opportunity to meet interesting people and prepare the food for parties, special dinners and high-profile events.
Your knowledge of table staging, menu planning and team work aid in your employment as a catering cook. Previous catering experience allows you to request a higher pay rate than a beginning cook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that special food service cooks earn an average of about $40,000 per year. The high end of the pay scale is over $46,000, and the lower 10 percent earn less than $19,000.
There are many venues where you can find employment as a catering cook. A small private catering company may employ people to handle setup, serving and cleanup but reserve the cooking to the owners. You may gain more experience as a catering cook for a wedding catering business or a restaurant that offers a catering service. Other businesses that hire catering cooks include party planning caterers, casinos and cruise lines. The BLS reports the average salary for cooks working in hotels ranges from $10 to $12 per hour.
Companies use caterers to prepare food for sales meetings, conventions and other events. The salary for a catering cook is based more on the types of venues than location. While a catering service that provides lunch for a movie set in Hollywood may seem like a high-paying business, a caterer that services charity benefits for executives has the potential to earn more due to the higher cost per plate. The cooks in charge of preparing the gourmet meal often earns more than the catering cook that prepares the food for a buffet line.
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