From Concierge to Artisanal Chocolate Maker: Hospitality and Culinary Careers Abound
On a late summer day, Howard Community College (HCC) culinary student Geralyn Brown is all smiles when talking about the college’s recently renovated Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies.
“Howard Community College was already a life changer for me with its wonderful faculty and community— and now we have this space,” she said. Through her work-study position with the culinary program, Brown checks and receives inventory for the kitchens.
The renovated space includes new classrooms, two additional hands-on labs—a kitchen and an advanced baking lab for making pastries and chocolates— and a student-operated restaurant where students can practice their customer service skills while serving food and café drinks prepared on campus. Some of the students’ culinary offerings may also include honey produced by HCC’s four beehives.
The Center for Hospitality and Culinary Services isn’t just a sweet space to learn; it’s an important stop on the way to a dazzling array of both well-known and less familiar career destinations.
Timothy Banks, department chair for the Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies, is closely monitoring the global and local trends impacting his students and industry.
“This isn’t just about a job; we’re focused on guiding our students toward sustainable careers,” said Banks, who has observed the entrepreneurial spirit of younger students, as well as boomer and millennial interest in customized experiences.
Charlotte Berry is proof that this focus is working. She started at HCC to pursue associate degrees in both accounting and culinary management. During her second semester, she landed an internship at Orinoco Coffee and Tea, and later was hired full time.
“I got involved with marketing and sales, trade show planning and management, and product production and packaging. I also handle most of the accounting procedures for the company. The whole process is exciting to be part of,” she said. And, she remains grateful for the role HCC played in helping her get there in the first place.
“I met people at HCC who I never would have had the opportunity to connect with anywhere else,” said Berry. “It’s about more than just building new skills; the faculty is also really committed to helping people find jobs that are a good fit, based on their goals.”
While boutique hotel and cruise ship guests are used to concierge service and friendly activity directors, these types of personalized guest service positions are increasingly found in spaces like residential communities, health care facilities, and senior care buildings.
John Mangione, Jr., an administrator with Lorien Elkridge, noted that his facility has a substantial need for hospitality services, in addition to offering skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. “It’s important we create an environment that lifts spirits and supports our seniors’ mental health, as well as caring for their physical needs,” said Mangione. HCC is preparing students for jobs in these new types of hospitality positions. Guest services, typically found in hotels, are now essential roles in places like Lorien Health, to make connections with families, provide assistance in navigating the facilities, and connecting residents with activities and amenities.
Students who complete HCC’s hospitality management certificate or associate degree have an array of career opportunities, from concierge services to food and beverage positions to online hospitality roles. They might coordinate special events for corporate offices or undertake wedding planning. With digital guest services becoming the norm, online travel agencies such as Expedia and Hotwire need people working behind the scenes to connect travelers to hotels and transportation.
Traditional restaurant jobs still abound in the culinary industry, but with increasingly more niche opportunities. Tamara Griffin, who manages dining services at the Lutheran Villages at Miller’s Grant, noted that the clients at her restaurants have discerning tastes. “Our residents (age 60 plus) are quite well-traveled and aren’t interested in institutional fare,” she said. Staples like mashed potatoes have been replaced by globally inspired dishes, which result in hiring opportunities for knowledgeable cooking staff.
Students in the culinary discipline also have options beyond the traditional kitchen. They can become personal chefs, run food trucks, open food stalls, become entrepreneurs, and establish their own brand. Culinary students can go on to work in food journalism, food styling, or even food photography.
Chef David Milburn, assistant professor of baking and pastries, noted that many students enroll at HCC assuming they will graduate and head right to a kitchen position. While that is one option, graduates may also manage food production flow, work in volume baking for large scale distribution, or focus on a niche market like artisanal candy-making. One of Milburn’s former students turned a special love of bread-making into a career at The Breadery in Catonsville, while another designs and oversees desserts for the Victoria Restaurant Group, with a focus on seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients.