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Culinary arts, in which culinary means "related to cooking", is the art of the preparation, cooking and presentation of food, usually in the form of meals. People working in this field – especially in establishments such as restaurants – are commonly called "chefs" or "cooks", although, at its most general, the terms "culinary artist" and "culinarian" are also used. Table manners ("the table arts") are sometimes referred to as a culinary art.
Expert Culinarians are required to have knowledge of food science, nutrition and diet and are responsible for preparing meals that are as pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate. After restaurants, their primary places of work include delicatessens and relatively large institutions such as hotels and hospitals.
The Culinary Arts is said to be the only medium of art which stimulates all five senses.
The Culinary Arts, in the Western world, as a craft and later as a field of study, began to evolve at the end of the Renaissance period. Prior to this, chefs worked in castles, cooking for kings and queens, as well as their families, guests, and other workers of the castle. As Monarchical rule became phased out as a modality, the chefs took their craft to inns and hotels. From here, the craft evolved into a field of study.
A great deal of the study of Culinary Arts in Europe was organized by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a man famous for his quote "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are," which has since been mistranslated and oversimplified into "You are what you eat." Other people helped to parse out the different parts of food science and gastronomy. Over time, increasingly deeper and more detailed studies into foods and the Culinary Arts has led to a greater wealth of knowledge.
In Asia, a similar path led to a separate study of the Culinary Arts, which later essentially merged with the Western counterpart. In the modern international marketplace, there is no longer a distinct divide between Western and Eastern foods. Culinary Arts students today, generally speaking, are introduced to the different cuisines of many different cultures from around the world.
Today, there are thousands of Culinary Arts schools around the world. Additionally, most universities, as well as many smaller tertiary schools like community colleges, offer some type of Culinary Arts Degree, which is technically a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
Modern Culinary Arts students study many different aspects of food. Specific areas of study include butchery, chemistry and thermodynamics, visual presentation, food safety, human nutrition and physiology, international history, the manufacture of food items (such as the milling of wheat into flour or the refining of cane plants into crystalline sucrose), and many others.
Training in culinary arts is possible in most countries around the world. Usually at tertiary level (university etc.). With institutions government funded, privately funded or commercial.
Like many other industries, careers in the Culinary Arts follow a hierarchy. Also like many other industries, there are many different paths that can be followed in an individual's career. Not every person who works in the Culinary Arts world has (or will) earn a Culinary Arts Degree. There are also positions that are specific to certain types of foodservice establishments
Academic credentials and specializations aside, the overall hierarchy of a career in the Culinary Arts industry is generally as follows:
- Table Busser (a.k.a. "Busboy") - Person who works mainly in the dining area of a foodservice establishment. People in this position are responsible for cleaning tables in between seatings of guests. Most fundamental in the position is wiping down the table to remove food scraps as well as applying a chemical sanitizer (typically a quaternary ammonium salt solution known as "Quat"). Additional responsibilities include removing dirty dishes from diners' tables, either before or after the diner has left, and taking them to the dishroom to be washed, as well as restocking items like sugar packets, refilling salt shakers, laying out clean placesettings. Bussers also occasionally are expected to refill drinks for diners and similar duties, although as cross-contamination has become the focus of concern for food safety issues, this type of duty is less commonly assigned to the same people who are removing dirty dishes from tables. Bussers are sometimes also assigned basic food preparation duties such as peeling potatoes; this is generally done at the beginning of their shifts before they have handled dirty dishes.
- Maitre d'hotel (Master of Hotel) (a.k.a. "Host" or "Hostess" - Person who greets guests of a restaurant, manages table seating, and takes guests to their tables. This person frequently also takes an initial drink order prior to the server first arriving at their table. This position is commonly associated with restaurants where diners typically sit down to eat and are served at their table.
- Table Server (a.k.a. "Waiter" or "Waitresse") - Someone who takes the food and/or beverage orders from the guests, relays the order to the kitchen staff, and takes the food to the table. Sometimes servers have assistants to bring out food to large numbers of guests. Servers sometimes also do some food preparation beyond pouring drinks, including making side salads, plating desserts, etc.
- Bartender - Person responsible for mixing beverages, typically ones containing alcohol. This person is frequently also expected to limit the amount of alcohol an individual may be served so as to avoid problems from "overserving" (which can include unpleasant behavior, alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, and many others), which can be a liability for the people serving such a person.
- Dishwasher - Person who washes dirty dishes and makes them clean, sanitary, and available for reuse to serve more diners. This person also sometimes takes the responsibilities of a Table Busser.
- Prep Cook - Person who processes food prior to service time. Responsibilities include making sauces, cutting and peeling vegetables, baking bread, and other things which are either time consuming or most economical to prepare in large batches.
- Line Cook - Person who prepares food at the time of service. Responsibilities including processing food to order in a timely manner.
- Sous Chef ("Under Chef") (a.k.a. Head Cook) - Person who works as an intermediary between the Chef (or Kitchen Manager) and the cooking staff. This person frequently also works as a Line Cook, overseeing the production of food to ensure it meets established standards.
- Kitchen Manager - Person who oversees the entire "Back-of-House" operation of an establishment. This person typically manages scheduling and personnel, maintaining inventory, cost of food, establishing or maintaining procedures and standards.
- Front-of-House Manager - Person who oversees the operation of the dining room. This person is responsible for scheduling servers in accordance to anticipated levels of business, ensuring guest satisfaction, and manages the Servers, Bussers, Bartenders, and other people who work with the guests.
- Chef ("Chief") - Person who has earned a Culinary Arts Degree and who makes the Culinary decisions of a restaurant, such as menu, recipe adjustment, plating, etc. This is one of the highest ranking position in a restaurant, and the highest rank in the Culinary Arts world.
- General Manager - Person who oversees the entire restaurant. This person is responsible for managing the staff of a restaurant, maintaining a budget, and ensuring established standards are maintained and procedures are adhered to.
- Owner - Person who owns the business.
Below is a list of the wide variety of culinary arts occupations.
- Consulting and Design Specialists – Work with restaurant owners in developing menus, the layout and design of dining rooms, and service protocols.
- Restaurant management – Manage a restaurant, cafeteria, hotel dining area, etc.
- Food and Beverage Controller – Purchase and source ingredients in large hotels as well as manage the stores and stock control.
- Entrepreneurship – Deepen and invest in businesses, such as bakeries, restaurants, or specialty foods (such as chocolates, cheese, etc.).
- Food and Beverage Managers – Manage all food and beverage outlets in hotels and other large establishments.
- Food Stylists and Photographers – Work with magazines, books, catalogs, and other media to make food visually appealing.
- Food Writers and Food Critics – Communicate with the public on food trends, chefs and restaurants through newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books. Notables in this field include Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and James Beard.
- Research and Development Kitchens – Develop new products for commercial manufacturers and may also work in test kitchens for publications, restaurant chains, grocery chains, or others.
- Sales – Introduce chefs and business owners to new products and equipment relevant to food production and service.
- Instructors – Teach aspects of culinary arts in high school, vocational schools, colleges, recreational programs, and for specialty businesses (for example, the professional and recreational courses in baking at King Arthur Flour).
Aspects of Culinary Arts
There is a wide range of aspects to the world of Culinary Arts. Below is a brief list of concerns for Culinary professionals.
- Menu Planning
- Human Nutrition
- Food Chemistry
- Methods of Production
- Food Safety
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- Institute for Research. Careers and jobs in the restaurant business: jobs, management, ownership. Chicago: The Institute, 1977.
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