Catering can be can be a demanding occupation; working long hours and weekends is almost always a must, and employees must deliver high-quality food service to new and regular customers — many of whom have dietary needs and/or food allergies — at remote sites such as hotels, businesses and homes. Catered events involve not only high-quality food service, but also a significant degree of organization as managers coordinate with various staff to ensure the presentation goes smoothly.
Many food service professionals enroll in accredited online certificate programs in catering to advance their career or build their business. These programs concentrate on event presentation, sanitation procedures, service staff management, culinary skills in baking and pastry, menu planning, and sales and marketing.
Types of Catering Vocational Certificates
Many successful caterers start off small by using their own recipes and cookware to cater parties for friends. As word spreads about their catering skills and event-planning skills, they often see referrals and repeat business. They build a savings base that may be invested in marketing and training. Others start working in restaurants and hotels. They develop their culinary skills and learn appealing ways to present food.
Regardless of how one starts, earning an education in catering builds valuable experience that can be used in restaurants, hotels, and other establishments. Caterers with a passion for cooking and baking establish a clientele, create their own menus and, in the process, build a profitable business. Vocational certificates in catering can help open the door for individuals to seek work in restaurant, executive, or private chef positions. The certificate also provides training in other areas, such as business management, marketing, and communications.
Catering certificate programs online teach students basic skills related to culinary preparation, presentation, and service. Foundation classes include the practical aspects of maintaining a clean kitchen, safe food handling, and essentials of baking bread and pastries. Students learn measurements, terminology, standards, and organizational techniques commonly used in a caterer’s kitchen. Reputable culinary schools train students to realize their own style with courses in stocks, mother sauces, formal knife cutting, and cooking with vegetables, grains and eggs. They may learn the stages of meat and seafood preparation; identification, butchery, and fabrication. They may also learn skills in charcuterie meat preparation with techniques in curing, smoking, creating forcemeats, and making sausage.
Inside a Catering Vocational Certificate
In this certificate program, students will learn the art and business side of catering theme parties, weddings, and worksite meals. Students often acquire a professional grade culinary arts toolkit through the school, which includes knives, thermometers, heat resistant scrapers and glass spoons, and stainless steel measuring spoons and cups. Programs run as long as one year, and are usually comprised of 15-30 academic credit hours. Accredited online certificate programs in catering provide an opportunity not only to learn methods and skills used in food preparation, but also an opportunity to network with other caterers, instructors, client business managers, and food service workers.
Generally a high school diploma or GED is needed to enter a culinary arts program. Higher degrees, such as associate or bachelor’s in culinary arts, require the diploma or GED.
Many aspiring caterers pursue the associate in culinary arts program to gain experience preparing and serving classical dishes in a variety of settings; this hands-on education builds the student’s confidence and enables him or her to develop a distinct culinary style. This degree program usually features additional courses that cover the diversity, history, and development of culinary arts. Students acquire basic kitchen management skills, marketing knowledge, and interpersonal communication skills. They also learn business operations like purchasing and inventory, and front-of-house-operations like customer service, training staff, interior design, and promotional planning.
Many students advance with the bachelor’s degree in culinary arts to learn to work in a broad range of positions in the food service industry, such as hotel chefs, garde mangers, restaurant managers, and caterers. In addition to food service and catering, bachelor’s students typically study facilities planning, menu planning, nutrition planning, marketing, and financial management of restaurants, and catering businesses. Some schools offer the four-year major degree in culinary arts with a minor in catering that adds special focus courses in food service and catering.
What’s Next for Catering Vocational Certificate Holders?
Caterers can add to an event with their flair for food presentation. Where there is a wedding, birthday party, celebration, fundraiser, and location work with onsite food, caterers coordinate food preparation and provide appealing food service. They also work diligently with funerals and memorials to provide appropriate food service. As with any business, the initial stages of development can require long hours and test the resolve of even the most ambitious entrepreneurs. The fast pace, long hours and high energy required often leads to a high turnover of not only jobs, but also businesses. Jobs in the catering industry are projected to decline 3% between 2010 and 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Successful caterers typically use skills from the vocational certificate to grow a rewarding catering business. The business skills and food service training also gives certificate holders an edge when competing for positions as chefs, cooks, and food service managers. In May 2011, the BLS reported that food worker supervisors earned a median salary of $30,370, and food service managers earned a median salary of $48,130.