Vermont is a small state, but it has a rich agricultural tradition and is emerging as a destination for those interested in all aspects of the local food movement–organic farming, “locavore” diets, and artisan food production. Thanks to a strong dairy industry, Vermont has become known for its specialty dairy products. There is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, of course, not to mention the Cabot Creamery, but also a host of smaller-scale artisan cheese and butter producers that are earning a place in the kitchens of top restaurants nationwide. The maple syrup industry is also a major contributor to the state’s food landscape.
Those interested in pursuing culinary training in Vermont will find a number of good options. Foremost among these is the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, a world-renowned culinary school that offers degrees in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and hospitality and restaurant management. Other schools in the state offer associates and bachelor’s degrees in hospitality areas, including Johnson State College, Champlain College, Green Mountain College, and the state’s 12 community colleges. In addition to degree programs, aspiring chefs can find a wealth of professional level training opportunities in the state. The King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich and the Essex Resort and Spa Cooking Academy in Burlington offer a variety of courses, and many restaurants and resorts throughout the state offer informal training as well.
Vermont’s job outlook for aspiring chefs and bakers is good. In addition to a growing reputation as a home for artisan and local foods, Vermont already boasts a tradition of year-round tourism that supports a robust hospitality industry. Opportunities for chefs exist in a wide range of settings, from ski resorts to hotels to restaurants. Vermont’s largest cities, Burlington, Essex, and Rutland, offer the most opportunities and highest salaries, but tourism in rural areas ensures that opportunities can be found throughout the state. Average salaries for executive chefs range from $50,000 to $58,000; for sous chefs the averages are between $38,000 and $46,000, and for pastry chefs in the mid-30’s. It is worth noting that Vermont also has a relatively low cost of living and good state health and educational services, which can compensate for salaries running below the national average.
If you love making the farm-to-table connection and working with local and organic foods, Vermont may be just the place to embark on your culinary career.