Getting a job in the food worldTruly, the best way to break in is to take culinary arts classes. There are degree programs (even PhD) and certificate programs, and there are also apprenticeships such as the one at The Balsams Hotel in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. However, that's not the only way to get started. It's essential to have knowledge as well as interest, so you should read as much as you can (food publications -- magazines and the food sections of newspapers -- and cookbooks), eat in fine restaurants as much as possible, and constantly try new foods. When I see something new at the supermarket (usually produce, but sometimes even a packaged food) I buy it and, if necessary, look it up online to learn how to cook it. And you should take at least a few cooking classes. I still do this. My philosophy is that if I don't learn something new about the food, I will at least learn something new about teaching. Naturally, all teachers have their own styles, and there is always something to be learned.
Another thing you can (and probably should) do is to join at least one culinary organization. Some are open only to professionals, but there are some groups open to anyone with an interest in food or cooking. If you are really new to the business, it's best for you to start locally. Chat with people in local markets, go to wine tastings (most people who like wine also like food), go to cookbook signings and try to meet local food writers, go to food fairs and cookbook fairs (such as The Book and The Cook, in Philadelphia in March), get to know the better local restaurants and the people who own them or work there. Try to get a small job at a place that interests you, to see if you like it. Restaurants often have fund-raising events, and you can volunteer to be involved -- but do explain that you are looking for experience and want to be in the kitchen or public relations, etc. If you know how to write, be bold and talk to the editor of your local newspaper. A free publication isn't likely to turn you down if you are volunteering. Once you have a few published writing samples, take them to a publication that will pay you, and work your way up. The easiest way to break into recipe testing is to test your own recipes. If you write an article about food, try to include one or two recipes. Ask the publications for a sample, ideal, recipe so you can see what format they use.