Introduction to Culinary Arts

Course Overview

Units at a glance

Can you imagine a world with no restaurants or fast-food drive-thrus? Since nearly every main street in America is now lined with these establishments, it may be hard to envision life without them. Yet there was a time when the only food a person consumed was the food prepared by himself or his family. The food service industry has shaped our society in innumerable ways, from pumping money into the economy to changing the way Americans eat (for better or for worse!). In this unit, we’ll examine the rich history of the food service industry as well as some of its key players.

Why do some people wolf down Brussels sprouts with a smile while others willfully turn away chocolate? Believe it or not, the reasons people like and dislike certain foods are quite complex and go way beyond taste buds (though they do play their part!). In this unit, we’ll examine all the factors that impact why we eat what we eat, including biological, cultural, and even psychological influences.

When you go out to eat at a restaurant, do you order your entrée based on how you think it will taste or on its nutritional content? Many people your age are heavily influenced by the taste of the foods they eat. Even so, if you were to eat nothing but your favorite food every day, then your body wouldn’t get the nutrients it needs to be healthy. That’s why your parents are always telling you to eat your vegetables!

Usually, when we think of what it means to become a good cook, specific recipes, ingredients, or cooking methods come to mind. While all these things are important, we must remember that the primary reason for cooking is to provide others with a nutritious meal that will grant them the energy and nutrients they need to be healthy. Thus it’s important that the food a chef prepares is not only delicious, but also safe to consume. It’s equally important that food service employees use safety practices that minimize the risk of injury in the kitchen. Kitchens are full of potential hazards: slippery surfaces, sharp edges, electrical appliances, open flames, and household chemicals are just a few of the more common dangers. Becoming familiar with safety techniques and best practices is essential. In this unit, you’ll learn how to minimize the risks associated with the food service industry.

When you think of going out to have dinner with friends or family at a nice restaurant, laws and regulations are probably the last thing on your mind. Behind the scenes, though, restaurant employees are following certain procedures and guidelines to make sure they are in full compliance with the many rules and regulations that govern the food service industry. These laws and regulations are similar in each state in the country as they are all based on a federal code. However, states have the right to interpret this code as they wish, so guidelines may vary slightly from one state to another.  In this unit, we’ll be using the state of Texas as a case study. You’ll learn about some of those laws that Texas food service establishments must follow in order to open their businesses and remain in operation. Because there are so many of them that it takes a 180-page document to list them all, we can’t possibly cover each of them, but we will discuss some of the most important ones.

One of the most appealing things about the field of culinary arts is that you’re always learning new skills and techniques. The field is also a creative one, meaning you can even develop your own specialized strategies and dishes. Like any other field, however, you need a basic foundation from which to grow. In this section of the course, you’ll be developing some fundamental cooking skills. You’ll also have the opportunity to add more samples to your culinary arts portfolio for the purpose of showcasing your newly acquired skills!

Do the concepts in this course interest you? If so, there’s good news! Careers in the culinary arts field are abundant and can range from being a busboy at the local restaurant to a celebrated chef on the Food Network. Whether you want to be a server, chef, or restaurant manager, there’s a place for you in this growing industry. In this unit, we’ll look at several of the more popular career paths in culinary arts and food service. Who knows? One (or more) of these might be in your future!

As you’ve progressed through this course and learned more about the culinary arts industry, you may have developed an interest in pursuing a career in this field. If so, you should know that learning how to cook and prepare food is just one of the skills you’ll need to become employed in food service. You’ll also need to acquire some professional skills, such as time management and a good work ethic, for instance. We’ll be looking at these and other skills in depth in this section. Even if you plan to follow a different career path, these skills will help you too! Supervisors in all industries are looking for people who know how to conduct themselves in the workplace!

Food is a basic need, and eating is something most everyone enjoys. That’s why the culinary arts and food service industry is one of the most rapidly growing fields in the country. You likely won’t have too much difficulty finding an entry-level job in the industry if you desire one.  Once you get a job in the culinary arts or foodservice industry, you’re sure to be busy performing your daily duties. Remember to keep building upon your skills though. There’s plenty of room for advancement in the industry. You may start out as a food prepper, be promoted to a line cook, and if you desire, you could even become a sous chef next in line for head cook!

Opening a restaurant is a lifelong dream for many and can have many advantages for those who are successful in their enterprises. As with owning any business, running a restaurant can put you in charge of your own financial success. Ideally, you will be able to set your own hours, pay yourself the salary you need or want out of the restaurant’s profits, and have the kind of lifestyle you’ve always wanted. Running a restaurant isn’t without its risks, however. It takes a lot of work to get the establishment up and running and manage staff and food orders, not to mention the work involved with marketing and advertising the restaurant so that people actually visit! Even after all this work is done, many restaurants operate on a thin margin, making just enough to pay for the expenses of keeping the establishment open. Even so, many entrepreneurs pour their hearts into their restaurants just as they would care for their own children!

As you learned from the previous unit, opening a restaurant can be quite a feat. If you were a restaurant owner, you wouldn’t want all that time and effort to go to waste, would you? That’s why restaurant owners must develop strong marketing plans to make sure their tables are always filled with customers. In this unit, you will learn about different marketing techniques restaurants use in order to attract customers and increase profit.

Opening and marketing a restaurant are important parts of having a successful food service establishment. Once you have the building and equipment and are attracting customers, you’ll need to employ the proper restaurant management techniques to ensure everything runs smoothly in the front and back of the house and that, most importantly, your customers are always satisfied with the food, atmosphere, and service. In this unit, we’ll discuss some of the principles of effective restaurant management.

Course Highlights

Learn about food, food safety, and basic culinary techniques.
Explore the marketing and management of a restaurant.
Investigate the business and personal skills needed to be successful in the culinary arts field.
Examine the relationships between food and culture.

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