Caterers are responsible for supplying food and sometimes decorations for special events and functions, but may also work with a restaurant or cafe to provide special menus and food items on a regular basis. Completing a formal training program at catering school allows prospective caterers to learn about the food service industry, develop essential skills and gain specialized knowledge to be successful in their field.
Catering involves food preparation, presentation and coordinating inventory and supplies for various functions and events; many people who complete catering school choose to work for hotels and restaurants, while others choose to run their own catering company and offer services to various clients.
How to Be a Caterer
The first step is contacting catering schools in your area for admissions and enrollment requirements. Caterers who receive formal training have the credentials and work experience to provide services for high-profile events, work with prestigious hotels, restaurants and resorts around the world, and offer professional services.
Catering course programs, certificates and degrees may be available through a culinary academy or culinary school, but students may also pursue their training online.
Catering School Programs
Catering course programs and curriculum include several classes in the field of culinary arts, hospitality and food service. Catering schools typically offer the following courses and programs:
Some schools offer a formal Associate's degree in Professional Catering, while others may combine a culinary arts degree with a specialization in catering and food service management. Catering school programs offer students a chance to learn about modern food-preparation techniques, understand the latest trends and news from the culinary industry, and receive hands-on training to develop their skills and talents in food preparation and serving food.
Career Options After Catering Courses
After completing a professional program or obtaining a degree, graduates can explore a number of career options in the field as a:
Catering Team Leader
Private Catering Professional
Many graduates also choose to open up their own business to manage a team of caterers for special events, or to offer consulting services to large corporations and organizations.
What to Expect at Catering School
Catering school provides students with both classroom instruction and kitchen experience so that they can learn and refine their skills and talents, and understand the key principles involved with becoming a professional caterer.
Schools teach students how to:
Select food and design menus
Present food in creative ways
Keep track of inventory and finances
Work with a staff or team of caterers
Buy food and supplies for an event
Work with vendors and suppliers
A catering course may include a 'mock event' component where students are responsible for organizing and executing a trial event to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. These events help students get hands-on experience and direct feedback from instructors so that they can improve and refine their skills.
Many schools also offer continuing education classes where students can explore options for running their own business or developing a business plan to launch their own catering company. These business-focused courses allow students to build their own career and explore non-traditional options after completing their formal training.
Catering Schools: Admissions and Enrollment Requirements
A high school diploma or GED is typically the basic requirement for enrollment in a catering school, and students who have a strong interest in culinary arts and food service may take elective classes in food preparation and home economics during high school. Most schools offer foundational learning programs and very specialized catering course programs, allowing students to obtain the skills and education they need to succeed in the industry.
Many culinary arts programs offer the basic skills and classes needed to begin a catering career, but only a catering school can provide the specialized training and hands-on experience from professional and successful instructors in the industry.
Catering Careers: Employment Prospects
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook expects demand for catering chefs, independent and corporate caterers to increase significantly in the next decade, as more people search for professional catering services for special events and banquets. Caterers that specialize in a particular type of cuisine or provide exclusive services for weddings or social events can build up a steady list of clients.
The starting salary for catering coordinators range from $35,000 - $40,000 depending on location of the company, experience of the caterer and professional training received. Some catering professionals fall under the category of food service managers or banquet managers, and salaries for these occupations varies significantly depending on the location of the venue and nature of the position.