Spotlights: a delicious career, an affordable university, & a monthly scholarship
Updated: Mar 31
Median salary: $48K
Education needed: High school diploma or equivalent
Job growth: 11% (much faster than average)
Maybe you started young, helping your parents in the kitchen while dinner was being made. Maybe you were inspired by Gordon Ramsay or Julia Child to try a new recipe or even invent your own. Maybe you see food as art and enjoy the creative outlet of making each meal a masterpiece. A career in cooking is worth exploring if you find as much (or more) joy in making food as you do from eating it, and there are a few different options under the chef umbrella to consider, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook:
Executive chefs are responsible primarily for overseeing the operation of a kitchen. They coordinate the work of sous chefs and other cooks, who prepare most of the meals. Executive chefs also have many duties beyond the kitchen. They design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train cooks and other food preparation workers. Sous chefs are a kitchen’s second-in-command. They supervise the restaurant’s cooks, prepare meals, and report results to the head chefs. In the absence of the head chef, sous chefs run the kitchen. Private/personal chefs typically work full time for one client, such as a corporate executive, university president, or diplomat, who regularly entertains as part of his or her official duties.
If being a chef sounded simple before, you might be realizing now that they do much more than chop, season, and sauté. In addition to their food expertise, head cooks must have strong business, communication, and leadership skills in order to run a restaurant and the people who work there. Many chefs develop these abilities through years of training, often starting as line cooks, learning and working their way up in the restaurant world over time. Though not always necessary, others choose to pursue a culinary degree, where they are directly taught not only culinary skills but also how to run a kitchen through classroom and internship experiences.
There are a handful of culinary programs offered throughout Oregon, including Cascades Culinary Institute (Bend), Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (Brookings), and the Oregon Culinary Institute (Portland), Linn-Benton Community College (Albany), and Lane Community College (Eugene). Each of these programs offers an associates degree in various areas like Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry, and Culinary Management.
COLLEGE: Eastern Oregon University
Location: La Grande, OR
Tuition: $7.5K on-campus; $2.8K online
Size: Small (2,700 students)
Time and time again, Eastern Oregon University (EOU) is listed as the most affordable college in Oregon, with the lowest tuition around and institutional scholarships available in addition. But the price tag doesn't cheapen the education or options students receive at EOU. Located in a large town, in a rural setting, the public university offers a variety of academic programs, through which students can earn certificates, associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees.
Perhaps EOU's greatest offering, though, is its online program, which by 2017 was ranked by more than a dozen platforms for its excellence and accessibility. Education, liberal arts, fire and emergency services, business administration, sports medicine, economics and anthropology have all earned spots on best-of lists in the last few years.
For students who stick to the on-campus option, a sense of community, connection, and networking is naturally developed due to the small campus and 17:1 student-to-staff ratio. A number of clubs and sports (intercollegiate and intramural) also provide a vibrant campus life. Students can also take advantage of Eastern Oregon's beauty and recreational opportunities through the school's outdoor adventure program.
Visit eou.edu to learn more about this university!
SCHOLARSHIP: Unigo.com Monthly Essays
Type: Creative writing
250 words — that's it! Through the Unigo.com monthly essay contests, 250 well-written words could earn you anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000. The prompts are light-hearted and encourage creativity, self-reflection, and (best of all) brevity. Depending on the month, you might write about the super power you've always wished for, why the number five is significant to you, or which ice cream flavor you would be. The prompt for December's whopping $10K prize: Imagine a historical figure is brought back to life. Who is it? What's their favorite mobile app?
I can't think of a single reason why every student shouldn't enter this monthly essay contest. Whether you're 13 or 23, as long as you're enrolled in a post-secondary program no later than the fall of 2026, you can participate. It's a great opportunity not only to earn some scholarship money, but also get to know yourself better while also practicing creative writing skills. A win-win-win if I've ever heard of one!