Chef jobs served piping hot in NYC

There is a high restaurant job placement rate in NYC, experts say.
There is a high restaurant job placement rate in NYC, experts say. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kelly Anderson

If you’re thinking about cooking up a career as a chef, New York City restaurant industry experts say there’s plenty of opportunity waiting for you.

There is a shortage of chefs and line cooks, as well as front of the house managers and other restaurant positions in the city right now, which is leading to high job placement rates, according to insiders like Stephen Zagor, director of culinary business and industry studies at the Institute of Culinary Education on West 23rd Street.

“We talk to restaurants all the time, and they’re constantly calling us because they know we’re a reservoir of talent,” he said. “They keep saying, ‘We need, we need, we need.'” This is partially due to the high turnover rate in restaurant positions, which are often day jobs for artists and performers, and also because of the explosion of the foodie scene, Zagor said.

Not only are there increasingly more food spots to work at in the city these days, but culinary and hospitality professionals are enticed into niche dining like independent ice cream shops and eateries that sell only meatballs, and general restaurants struggle for staff as a result, he added.

The explosion of the scene can mean a lucky break for those who want to work in restaurants and kitchens, added Maureen Drum Fagin, director of career services at the Institute of Culinary Education.

“There’s so many different types of venues, everything from pop-up food tables to food trucks to more casual-style service restaurants, that because of that trend there are so many more avenues for a cook to head into,” she said.

Wages in New York are competitive as well. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for all restaurant professionals in New York state was $50,430 in 2014, compared to $42,570 nationwide.

Chef Jesse Schenker, who started his culinary career in Florida and now owns Recette on West 12th Street and The Gander on West 18th Street, said he’s seen the opportunity in the field first-hand, but added that working in the restaurant industry still requires drive and commitment.

“I try to stay humble and am not afraid to put in the hours required to maintain a secured job in this industry,” he said.

Schenker, who earned a culinary degree at the Atlantic Technical Center in Florida, said a formal education in the field helps but isn’t a requirement.

“It’s really a question about one’s commitment because this industry is truly a lifestyle,” he said. “There’s so much sacrifice but there’s much to be gained.”