A teenager’s first job should be about more than money. It is never too early to start pursuing passions and exploring career paths. When teens hear “food industry”, they may think of sweating over a fry basket at a fast food joint. That does not sound appealing to someone who loves tasty (and healthy) cooking. There are so many valuable jobs available to your budding chef, it takes a little research to find the right fit.
To support your teenager’s job search, consider some of these key factors. What style of cooking does your teen love? Help them choose a job that supports their personality as a chef. Your vegetarian teen should not apply at a BBQ place. Is their long-term goal to become a professional chef? Teens who are still exploring careers should look for jobs that that build transferable skills. Some jobs set a clear path to a five-star kitchen, others are more flexible.
- Front of House
Finding a job in the restaurant industry can be challenging, and most people start in the “front of house”. That includes jobs like the host stand, waitstaff, and bussers. For a kid who dreams of opening their own restaurant, front of house experience is invaluable. Plus, it will build transferable skills for the business world. Even high-end restaurants will hire younger people for the host stand. Your teen can gain experience in a nicer restaurant before they are old to be kitchen staff.
A host/hostess is in charge of greeting and seating patrons. They must communicate with the waitstaff, assure that guests are seated quickly, and welcome each patron. Waitstaff take food orders and serve food and beverages. Good customer service skills and a sharp memory are the key to success as waitstaff. Bussers help serve food, clear tables, and keep everything running smoothly behind the scenes.
- Food Blogger
If income isn’t a priority, encourage your teenager to start a food blog. Blogs for foodies usually focus on a niche, but can range from restaurant reviews to recipes. If a blog is going to generate income, your teenager will need to master valuable skills. A well marketed blog may open up opportunities for your teenager later on, like apprenticeships!
Bloggers have to develop web design skills to create appealing, organized websites. They research, write, and edit content on a regular schedule. Most importantly, a successful blog provides information and entertainment to its audience!
Teens with an entrepreneurial spirit may enjoy baking as a flexible gig. A freelance baker can make their own schedule, set their own prices, and be their own boss. Once your teenager has perfected a few delicious recipes, they can bake for events like birthday parties. Baking can be an excellent side hustle for teens with a busy schedule, but it can also blossom into so much more. Wedding season is in the spring and summer, when a serious teen could really grow their business.
Bakers focus their culinary skills on baked goods such as breads, pastries, and cakes. Whether working from home or in an established store front, your teen will be mastering both the craft of baking and the art of decorating. It is a great job to combine math, science, and artistic skills.
If your busy teen can free up a few nights and weekends for a part-time gig, catering may be an excellent choice. Teens with many interests and obligations will like that catering is so flexible. Many companies have cooks and waitstaff on call as freelancers, rather than on staff. That means your teen can turn down an event if it interferes with another responsibility. A big bonus for catering is the fancy events you get to attend and the gourmet meals you prepare!
Caterers will generally focus on limited, high-quality menus for events. Catering staff often help with multiple elements of food preparation, plating, and serving. Though specific events can be stressful and exhausting, there is plenty of downtime to rest and reflect between jobs. It is a perfect way for young people to learn the chef’s craft without committing to a set schedule.
- Line Cook
Teen chefs who are at least 15 years old should aim to work in a restaurant. If cooking is your teenager’s passion, eventually they will be a line cook. The more experience you get before culinary school, the better. Every head chef spent time as a line cook at some point in their career.
Line cooks are responsible for cleaning and prepping ingredients. They also help cook, portion, and plate a variety of dishes. Being a line cook will teach you excellent knife skills, techniques, and the rules and regulations of a professional kitchen. The pressure of the kitchen will give your teen a realistic view of the restaurant industry.
Ron Stefanski is the founder of JobsForTeensHQ.com and has a passion for helping teenagers find jobs. He created the website because he feels that teenagers need to focus on their professional passions much earlier in life and aims to teach them how they can do that. When he’s not working on his website, Ron is a college professor and loves to travel the world.