What’s cooking in Arkansas’ hospitality and culinary industry?

A new web site that hopes to match those looking for food-related jobs to employers wanting to hire talent.

A new online job search tool began operations last week called ARFoodJobs.com. The web site seeks to link employers and “qualified job seekers” in Arkansas’ culinary industry.

“Our goal is to match the most qualified culinary and hospitality workers in the state with the employers who need them,” said founder Christie Ison, who is also a cooking instructor and blogger at Fancy Pants Foodie.  “We also want to encourage professionalism, training and certifications that will further the industry, not to mention just a sense of community among the state’s food workers.”

Users can register at ARFoodJobs.com as either a job candidate or an employer. From there, candidates can browse employment opportunities by list or post their resumes. Employers can post jobs and search resumes for specific skills or certifications they desire.

For the first month of April, Ison said employers can use it for free. Eventually, job listings will start as low as $50 per month. Stair-stepped plans will allow for multiple listings up to $199 per month. Job seekers do not pay a fee to use the site.

A blog will also delve into topics of importance to the food industry and its workers.

Ison, a former public relations specialist, said the site was an outcome of her search for a job as a culinary student after she exited the PR ranks.

“Since entering the culinary world as a student in 2009, I noticed there was no reliable system for filling our state’s food-related positions.  Job openings were filled by word of mouth, which isn’t always a bad thing, but with limited reach, newspaper listings, Craigslist, and a flurry of emails between those in the industry,” she wrote on her blog.

Ison also said that during the past 12-18 months the birth of new chefs and restaurants in Arkansas – particularly in central Arkansas – necessitated better networking and communications regarding food industry employment.

Arkansas’ leisure and hospitality industry, which is the category for most of the food-service related jobs in the state, has seen a strong rebound since 2010. In February 2010, employment stood at roughly 97,500 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of February 2014, the most recent statistics available, industry employment had risen by 11,500 to an estimated 109,000 workers.

Ison said she hopes many of the candidates who utilize the site will have a healthy combination of certification, training, and previous work experience.

“Our candidates are more likely to have certifications such as those from ServSafe and the American Culinary Federation. They’re also more likely to have formal culinary or hospitality education and real-life experience that employers are looking for,” she said.

The site currently has two affiliate partners: Pulaski Technical College — Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute and the Arkansas Hospitality Association.

As part of their affiliation, Ison said these organizations will assist in bringing candidates and employers to the site, as well as offering discounts to their members and affiliates for listing jobs.

“Of course I hope we fill a lot of positions with this site, which is the main intention,” Ison said. “But I also hope we do something much bigger, which is to elevate the work that we do. People are starting to realize that highly trained culinary and hospitality workers are a boost to the economy and to our way of life here in Arkansas.”