This is an article written by me originally appearing on Ringthree's blog.
Critical Break is our crafting and economics column written by Qtipus. Q is an experienced crafter and also well versed in using the Auction House to turn a decent profit. Enough so that he was able to fund his own relic, Gungnir. Every Tuesday you will find Q's rants, raves and good crafting practices here. This week, Q continues his 60-100 series with the sixth installment: Cooking. This week's special guest commentator/contributor is the pun-machine himself: Kaelis.
Cooking, according to the Vana'diel Census, is the most popular craft by far beyond the Craftsman level (58+). It's pretty easy to see why. The craft is rather inexpensive to get to 60 to begin with and probably one of the easiest/cheapest to get up to a very high level.
Does that mean it's worth getting up to 100?
I tend to view the consumables market as a necessary evil. Often times, consumables will sell for faster than you can make them, but the amount of time spent making them is somewhat better served by just going out to farm NPC'able items. Most of the time, the consumables market relies on your ability to HQ reliably. Meaning don't expect to make any money if you can't.
With that said, the three questions I normally ask don't really apply to Cooking in general. It's a consumables-based craft. There is no gear to be made for any level, just food and drinks. With it's variety in consumables, it's hard for anyone to corner the market for any one particular food. This works out to be a good and a bad thing. It's good because it means your competition is likely spread out over said variety. It's bad because your competition is keeping tabs on it all and the second you start making some money, they're going to come flood your market. While that latter part is true for most crafts, it's especially true for cooking since the ingredients are readily available from the AH or NPC. There isn't really a way for you to clear the stock out to buy yourself some time.
Cooking is definitely worth it to level, especially on a mule, just don't expect to make a bajillion gil all at once with it. Also...don't expect a real efficient manner in terms of time spent simply preparing for your final products.
Kaelis' Intro: What people who are going to be leveling cooking have to keep in mind is, you're basically fighting over scraps. Cooking is so easy to level, I did it on a mule back during the major inflation for a total initial investment of 50k. Which means competition is fierce, plentiful, and more than willing to undercut you to the bone. The way to make money in this is via volume, so if you decide to go with cooking, get used to spending most of your time sitting on your butt.
Read on for the guide.
Phase 1: Eggs and Cheese, Cheese and Eggs. Where's the Spam?
Cheap and easy synth. It's possible you were doing this prior to 60. In the 0-60 guide, I suggested using Yag drinks to cap at 60, but this works as well. Buy the milk from it's namesake vendor and the rock salt at the guild. Make these to cap, NPC them and move onto the next item. You should be relatively close to break even on these.
Recipe: Dark Crystal, 1x Selbina Milk, 1x Rock Salt.
Cap: Level 61
The same pattern persists here as a few previous synths. One version uses a lizard egg while the other, that caps higher, uses a bird egg. Definitely farm up the lizard eggs from Crawler's Nest (Labyrinth Lizards) as they drop in spades there. Buy up the rest of your mats from the regional merchants and NPC the results.
Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Lizard Egg, 1x Distilled Water, 1x LaTheine Cabbage, 1x San d'Orian Carrot.
Cap: Level 66
Same deal as above, only with bird eggs. Buying from vendors will put you just about at the break even point or a little above. Turn in some Raisin Bread when you reach cap here for your Artisan rank.
Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Bird Egg, 1x Distilled Water, 1x LaTheine Cabbage, 1x San d'Orian Carrot.
Cap: Level 68
Phase 2: Fruit Au Laits and Fish.
You will need to have Raw Fish Handling before you can finish this section. Rounding up the ingredients for each of the various sushi requires the Tavnazian region be under someone's control so you can purchase Ground Wasabi. Rice Vinegar can be bought from the various Tenshodo merchants (max your Norg fame). This pretty much leaves the Tarutaru Rice to be picked up from the guild merchants or from the AH.
Kaelis Comment: It should be noted that the Tavnazian vendor only sells if you're past mission 3-5 in CoP. In addition, that still leaves in a lot of cases the majority of the cost to be paid for a synth in which the other ingredients are cheap for the wasabi itself, which there is no way to reduce the cost. Sushi does sell quickly, but again, it's a popular market.
Now we're getting into one of the stalwarts of Cooking. Sushi continues to be a popular, albeit not super profitable, synth despite the advent of Marinara Pizza. Round up the ingredients for Sushi per the instructions above. Bastore Bream and Mercanbaligi are regularly available on the AH for purchase and you can generally resell the results on the AH for a profit. Mercanbaligi are easy to catch in Nashmau w/o the risk of monster catches if your fishing is 50 or above as well.
Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Mercanbaligi, 1x Tarutaru Rice, 1x Distilled Water, 1x Rice Vinegar, 1x Ground Wasabi
Cap: Level 72
These are going to NPC for a loss of about 300ish gil each. Which isn't huge, but it's enough to add up over 4 levels. Derfland pears are produced through regional control of Derfland or through Gardening only. Odds are, you're not going to find any on the AH. You can try to farm up the honey portion of this to offset some of the cost, but it's easier to just set aside some money to blow here. My experiences say it takes about 18-24 synths/level beyond 60, so an average worst case scenario here is that you're going to lose about 30k gil in this stretch. You can make that by farming some scrolls up pretty easily. You can attempt to sell these on the AH as well, but you'll need a lot of inventory space and some patience. They do sell, but usually only if there aren't any Pamama Au Lait up. Make these to cap if you don't have Raw Fish handling yet.
Recipe: Water Crystal, 2x Derfland Pears, 1x Honey, 1x Selbina Milk.
Cap: Level 72
Same deal as Bream Sushi. Gugru Tuna are common catches on the various boats using the right fishing set up. Their skill cap makes them easy to catch early on, but unlike Mercanbaligi or Bastore Breams, they do not stack. Make to cap if you have Raw Fish handling and round up your ingredients per usual.
Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Gugru Tuna, 1x Tarutaru Rice, 1x Distilled Water, 1x Rice Vinegar, 1x Ground Wasabi
Cap: Level 77
These still end up being the same sort of loss as it's Pear counterpart if you NPC the results, but they do sell on the AH rather frequently at a profit. Buying all the materials from NPC will usually double your money on the AH. Make these to cap and turn in some Whitefish Stew as you cross 78.
Recipe: Water Crystal, 2x Pamamas, 1x Honey, 1x Selbina Milk
Cap: Level 81
Phase 3: Curry And Pie. Meal Of Champions.
Just adding up the NPC-purchased items, you're going to be sitting at approx. 3.5k per synth. Add in the Coeurl Meat that's missing and you'll likely be around 4-4.5k/synth. Coeurl Meat isn't super difficult to farm and there are a lot of them available to kill in Zi'Tah. However, the rest of the synth doesn't really have an alternate way of obtaining the materials other than through the various NPCs that sell them. You can opt to sell the curry itself (which isn't stackable) on the AH or you can opt to turn it into Yellow Curry Buns. You'll likely make the same amount of money either way, but the buns will sell faster and take up less inventory space. The other good news with turning them into buns is that there's only one HQ level that gives you more of the NQ buns and it's only 2 more buns. This means prices are likely to stay relatively stable even if you NQ all of them. Definitely make these to cap.
Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Curry Powder, 1x Coeurl Meat, 1x Distilled Water, 1x Popoto, 1x Selbina Milk, 1x Tumeric, 1x Wild Onion
Cap: Level 85
A staple of most mages, although some could make the argument it's not used as widely as it used to be with the implementation of other foods. Since they're a T1 only food, they tend to have a stable price range. You're in decent HQ range for Pie Dough at this point too (almost T3). Make these to cap and turn in some Seafood Stew for your final rank up item.
Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Bird Egg, 1x Gelatin, 1x Maple Sugar, 1x Pie Dough, 1x Rolanberry, 1x San d'Orian Flour, 1x Selbina Milk
Cap: Level 90
Phase 4: Julia Child Never Had It This Bad...
This is a popular tanking food, especially for the aspiring PLDs in the process of leveling up. It follows the same pattern as the rest of the sushi you've made so far, but you might be hard pressed to find the Noble Lady that's required to make it. Be patient (or hire out a fisherman with the right equipment/level) and make this to cap.
Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Noble Lady, 1x Tarutaru Rice, 1x Ground Wasabi, 1x Rice Vinegar, 1x Distilled Water
Cap: Level 93
Very popular for melee jobs prior to 50 for the sole reason of it's cost vs. benefits. NQ'ing every synth here will be a slight loss (farm your dhalmel meat to offset this). Everything here can be bought from an NPC, but double check the AH to make sure someone isn't selling some of the ingredients for less than the NPCs do. Make to cap and sell.
Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Bamboo Stick, 1x Coral Fungus, 1x Dhalmel Meat, 1x Distilled Water, 1x Sticky Rice, 1x Rock Salt, 1x Maple Sugar
Cap: Level 95
This is here primarily as an optional bridge synth. Making this means you're going to lose a ton of money due to the Fresh Mugwort prices. These cakes don't actually sell very well, but from 95 up, there really aren't many spammable options. Most just opt to skip to the next synth or try to make Cursed Soup.
Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Cinnamon, 1x Fresh Mugwort, 1x Sticky Rice, 1x Gardenia Seed, 1x Maple Sugar, 1x Distilled Water
Cap: Level 99
Most popular means of finishing Cooking off, but you're sorely limited by options here. There are exactly TWO items in the vast array of recipes for Cooking that will actually cap you at 100. This one relies on your ability to catch Dragon Meat on the AH. It's expensive, but Red Curry, like it's Yellow Curry counterpart, can be turned into other foods that sell for a rather large profit.
Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Coriander, 1x Curry Powder, 1x Dragon Meat, 1x Distilled Water, 1x Kazham Peppers, 1x Mithran Tomato, 1x San d'Orian Carrot.
Cap: Level 100
I mentioned Cursed Soup earlier and while the materials are generally available and relatively cheap, you're going to be parked in Crawler's Nest or Wajoam Woodlands killing bees for Royal Jelly. It is definitely a cheaper option to make than Red Curry though. If you're moving onto this from Rice Dumplings, then you can easily expect average about 24 synths/level. That's a ton of time. This is why most people opt to stick with Red Curry.
Recipe: Water Crystal, 1x Kitron, 1x Persikos, 1x Honey, 1x Distilled Water, 1x Royal Jelly
Cap: Level 100
And with that, you're now eligible to join the cast of Food Network's "Next Top Chef" (or whatever the hell that show is called).
Next week, Smithing and Blaize.