Culinary Schools in West Virginia
West Virginia's geography and economy helped the state develop an eclectic culinary history. The Appalachian Mountains discouraged most settlements at times when immigration influenced the palates of bordering states. Before voting to secede from Virginia during the Civil War, West Virginia residents traced their heritage to Scotland and Ireland. As the state's mineral and energy industries expanded at the turn of the 20th century, a wave of Italian mine workers helped make the pepperoni roll a lunchtime staple. The simplicity of that dish masks deeper trends in West Virginia, potentially rewarding culinary professionals eager to champion sustainable farming and farm-to-table cooking.
The Advantages of Culinary Arts Schools in West Virginia
According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, a low cost of living, inexpensive housing, and high job security make the state an attractive place to launch culinary careers (wvcommerce.org). Thanks to a well-maintained highway network, graduates of West Virginia culinary arts schools can get to job interviews in most of the country's biggest cities with less than a day's drive. However, a growing tourism trade based on the state's historic towns and modern golf resorts has created new career opportunities for students who want to remain in the state after their schooling.
According to the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition Program Manager Savanna Lyons, the state boasts more farmers per resident than any other state in the country (statejournal.com, 2013). Thanks to chefs and nutritionists, more restaurants and institutions have shifted to sourcing regional ingredients instead of relying on mass distribution methods. The state's "Road Map for the Food Economy" offers a vision for farmers, entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, and other culinary arts professionals willing to support West Virginia's agriculture community.
West Virginia Culinary Employment Outlook
The state's unique approach to nutrition and hospitality has cultivated demand for skilled chefs, cooks, nutritionists, and dietitians. Although a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only a few hundred traditional "head chefs" work in West Virginia, the state's relatively low population gives it one of the highest densities of chefs to residents in the United States (bls.gov/oes,2012).
In addition, tens of thousands of food professionals call the state home, working in institutional cafeterias, corporate-owned restaurants, and vacation resorts. West Virginia's proximity to major city centers has also influenced the job market for culinary arts graduates. Martinsburg, the fastest growing city in West Virginia, now plays host to professionals who seek homes away from Washington D.C.'s bustle.
West Virginia Culinary Wages
Restaurant professionals in Martinsburg skew the state average, earning some of the country's highest annual salaries. Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that head chefs there earn an annual mean wage of about $59,000 per year, almost as much as their peers in New York City (bls.gov/oes, 2013). Yet, the Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index shows that the town's residents pay less than half to purchase a house there than in nearby Washington.
That kind of stability and financial security might attract ambitious cooks who can hone their craft, supported by the region's adventurous diners. However, West Virginia culinary schools could also help fill demand for talent in other portions of the state.
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