Are you one of those people who ogle the fresh produce in farmers markets in your spare time, whip up a new recipe in the kitchen or intrepidly try out all the new restaurants in town? Then read on — there could be a job in it for you.
Employment in food-related occupations is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
"Population growth will increase demand for food preparation and serving-related occupations," the BLS predicts.
So grab your trusty wooden spoon and discerning taste buds. Here are five great food jobs to consider.
1. Restaurant Greeter
The nitty-gritty: Meet, greet and seat customers with a smile. Keep an eagle eye on the ebb and flow of the dining crowd as you nimbly make adjustments so everyone feels special. You're the first impression a visitor gets of the restaurant, so a positive vibe is key — even though you'll be on your feet for long stretches of time and the atmosphere can be chaotic.
Pay range: Generally $7.33 to $11.66 an hour, but varies widely by size and popularity of the venue, according to Payscale.com. At some venues, servers share a cut of their tips.
Perks: Free food and employee meal discounts.
Qualifications: Prior experience is not always required. What is: a genuine gift for making people feel welcome and ready to spend. You'll need the cool to deal with those inevitable times when a table of guests lingers over coffee while hungry patrons wait impatiently for a place to sit down.
Tip: During the holiday season, or in popular snowbird towns or summer vacation getaways, there's often a swell in job openings.
2. Dietitian and Nutritionist
Nitty-gritty: Employment of dietitians and nutritionists, two closely related occupations, is projected to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.
More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, which means there's rising demand for special diets to address aging, allergies and ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. And staying fit and eating healthy is a mainstream life goal, particularly for boomers.
Duties range from meal planning to doling out expert advice on concerns such as weight loss and lower cholesterol levels. Potential employers include operators of wellness programs, supermarkets, restaurants, hospitals and nursing-care facilities. You might opt to open your own practice as a nutrition or health coach.
Pay range: Dietitians generally make $19.79 to $35.54 per hour, according to Payscale.com. Nutritionists get $10.52 to $30.05 per hour.
Qualifications: You'll generally need a state license or certification, which requires a bachelor's degree in food and nutrition, a supervised internship and a passing grade on an exam. You can get more information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Other options include a health coach certification from the American Council on Fitness and various certifications offered by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates.
The nitty-gritty: As a caterer, you're the power behind the scenes at events ranging from small birthday brunches to office holiday parties and blow-out weddings and bar mitzvahs. You might be in charge of menu planning, food preparation and setup. Time management skills will come in handy.
Pay range: Generally $8.56 to $17.66 per hour, but it can run up to $20, plus tips, according to Payscale.com.
Qualifications: While food is the core of this job, you must also have a knack for event planning and keeping to a budget. You might bolster a loyal corps of clients by offering your service gratis, charging for the cost of food alone in exchange for a professional reference. If you haven't worked in a restaurant kitchen, consider moonlighting at one.
Community colleges typically offer cooking classes, and culinary arts schools can sharpen your food preparation skills. Consider hanging out a shingle as a personal chef.
The American Culinary Federation certifies personal chefs in addition to other types, such as sous chefs or pastry chefs. Certification standards stress work experience and formal training. Minimum work experience for certification can range from six months to five years.
4. Food Stylist
Nitty-gritty: A picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to marketing food. As a food stylist, you'll work closely with chefs, food retailers, editors, restaurant owners and photographers. Your job is to artfully pose food to make it look delectable whether it's in a display case, on a plate, or in an ad or online posting. Can you say eye candy? While there are full-time positions, freelancing is the norm.
Pay range: Hourly rates vary, but an experienced freelance stylist can earn $450 to $850 per day.
Qualifications: It's best to have logged some time in a commercial kitchen. You must be au courant with food styling trends on websites, blogs and magazines.
Consider classes at a culinary institute, and volunteer work with an established stylist. A degree in photography or design will give you a leg up. Go to CulinarySchools.org for roster of programs near you or online tutorials.
5. Food critic/food blogger
Nitty-gritty: You're a foodie and you're bursting with writing talent. Blend those skills to produce articles, blogs and reviews that give diners the inside scoop on food quality, decor and service at the hot restaurants, gourmet boutiques and farmers markets of your community. Keep in mind that if you're starting from scratch, you won't make a lot of cabbage, at least initially. There's lots of competition out there. But if you steadily build a following, you can generate income from ads on your web page.
You can also make money by selling merchandise directly — from books to T-shirts. Sign up for Google AdSense, which allows Google to place ads on your website, determined by your blog content. You get paid a small fee for each time someone clicks on an ad. With an Amazon Associates affiliate program, you can create an online store for Amazon products, and get paid an advertising fee when someone makes a purchase through your site's link. Chitika, an online advertising network, is another income stream to consider.
Pay range: As a freelance food critic for a media company, you might command 50 cents to $1 a word. An in-house food critic might make $39.95 an hour, according to Salaryexpert.com, or a blogger $17.95 an hour, according to Indeed.com.
Qualifications: Success stems from a savvy knowledge of the culinary arts and having something to say … with chutzpah. You'll need top-notch writing skills. Photography and computer skills are obligatory, and journalism experience is ideal.
Don't see the right job for you here? Check out GoodFoodJobs.com, a site that connects people with food jobs, including opportunities with "farmers and food artisans, policy makers and purveyors, retailers and restaurateurs, economists, ecologists, and more."
Kerry Hannon is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies. She has also written Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Find more from Kerry at Kerryhannon.com.
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