How To Make a Cooking Portfolio: What Is It and Who Needs a Culinary Profile?

Similar to a resume, a cooking portfolio is one of the most important tools to have in your culinary kit. While an aspiring chef's most prized possession may be a set of finely-honed and precision-sharpened knives, or a pastry chef's most essential gadgets might include a favorite rolling pin or a set of decorating tips and spatulas, the one item that really sets them apart is their individualized culinary portfolio. A professional-looking portfolio is essential for anyone looking forward to a successful culinary career.

Think of your portfolio as a customized toolbox filled with important information about you that showcases all your culinary achievements. Key elements of a cooking portfolio include a list of food-related jobs you've had in the past, references, high-resolution photos of the best dishes you've created, recipes you've developed and anything else that shows off your accomplishments.

The About Me Page: Introduction and Contact Information

This may be the most essential element of your portfolio. Prospective employers and paying customers need to know who you are, what services you offer and, most importantly, how to contact you — tempting photos of elaborate wedding cakes are of no use if people can't reach you. This section should include a current photo of yourself; images of pastries and catered affairs can be added later.

Photographs of Food

This is the tastiest section of your cooking portfolio and the area that attracts the most attention. Everyone loves gawking at glossy pictures of mouth-watering food. Your photos will make an impression, especially if they were professionally taken or expertly edited. Make sure to fill your portfolio with the best and most appetizing photos you have available.

Award-Winning Recipes and Menus

Are you known for your exquisite pastries and savory stews? Show off your award-winning recipes, and include catering brochures or restaurant menus you've created for your own business, employers, clients or customers. Include a variety of cuisines, and show options for different styles and tastes.

References and Accolades

As you continue working your way through culinary school or the food industry, be sure to collect as many references as you can to add to this section. Go back and ask past clients, culinary instructors and employers to give you glowing reviews of your work. These reviews will go a long way when clients and employers are searching for the very best.

Culinary Awards, Degrees, Certificates and Achievements

Have you worked hard for a culinary degree? Are you a cookbook author or food columnist? Perhaps you've been featured in television cooking shows, made appearances with celebrity chefs doing cooking demos or received awards for your distinctive meals and menus. Don't be afraid to boast about yourself in your cooking profile. Let everyone know what you've accomplished and why they should choose you.

Social Media and Advertising

A digital portfolio is the most accessible way to reach people searching for your information. If you're particularly tech-savvy, designing your own website or blog gives you the ability to continually add fresh content and update your seasonal menus and current food images as often as needed. It's important to have a hard copy of your photos, information, references and achievements, as well. It can be extremely satisfying to show a prospective client impressive photos of your latest creations; you can use a simple pocket folder filled with glossy photos and information or a professional-looking leather binder with your brochures and business cards.

The power of social media can be a valuable asset in getting your name noticed. Set yourself up with a Facebook page and Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus accounts and keep them active.

Whichever format you decide on, keeping your culinary portfolio updated and polished will set you apart when searching for a job.

Photo credit: morgueFile