Cooking is one of those secondary professions that anyone can learn, even if they already have two primary professions. Because of this fairly low barrier to entry, there are a lot of cooks around. So many that I've actually never leveled it myself! I just rely on the generosity of friends for my cooking business.
How profitable is cooking? That all depends on what you cook. I got into this because I once paid 100g for five Spiced Mammoth Treats for my hunter's raid night. Why was I buying them on a Tuesday? Poor planning. What did I learn? The value of planning. We're going to start with a very important concept for auctioneers, here: tenacity.
I'm not talking about tenacity that makes you pwn noobs in Wintergrasp better; I'm talking about the ability to keep a business running for the long haul. More than just this batch, just this week. I reasoned that because everyone can cook, there must be tons of incredibly cheap food for sale on the AH. I reasoned wrong, mostly because most people who can cook only cook for themselves. Instead of increasing supply, they're lowering demand.
Having the tenacity to acquire supplies and keep stock for sale in the long run can be very profitable. In the short run, you may be undercut, but unless you're up against someone else with the same tenacity as you, you'll come out ahead at the end. You can sell raiding consumable food at a very nice markup on raid nights.
Getting mats is the hard part
Northrend cooking for raid consumables requires a lot of random bits of meat and fish. These days, Northrend Spices go for a song (25g for 100 on my realm), but unless you happen to have the time to grind the other mats, you'll find that the biggest difficulty in getting and holding a stat food market is in procuring mats. You should be checking for food on the AH as often as possible (twice a day, in my case), and don't forget that if you use Auctioneer, you can set up your snatch list to automatically notify you if your scan contains good deals.
I hear you asking why I wouldn't recommend just farming it yourself. First of all, farming fish means fishing. Leveling fishing in World of Warcraft is the absolute worst thing you can do to yourself, in my opinion. You must do a repetitive task thousands of times. Each cast takes variable amounts of time, can't be automated and forces you to not look away. At least I can watch a movie while I mill. Additionally, all the meat you'll need drops off animals scattered about all over Northrend. Even if you have an epic flier and time to kill, you'd be better served by using that time in a more profitable manner and using those profits to buy what you need from the auction house.
The exception to this is if there is absolutely nothing for sale and the market will support a high enough profit margin that you will make more in the end that you would have by doing whatever your alternative was.
Also, this same logic applies to leveling cooking. Why spend the hours needed to do this, when chances are you can find someone on your server who already has done it, has the most awesome hat in the world (which, by the way, should totally have an equivalent for every other crafting skill) and is willing to cook for you for a tip?
So many recipes!
How do you choose where to start? For starters, take a look at this nice list put together by Michael Gray. You have your raid-wide feasts and some of your stat food. For the sake of completeness, here is the complete list of all the current end-game raiding food:
- Fish Feast for most classes (at least some of the time)
- Blackened Dragonfin for agility classes
- Dragonfin Filet for strength classes
- Hearty Rhino for ArP classes
- Imperial Manta Steak and Very Burnt Worg for haste classes
- Mega Mammoth Meal or Poached Northern Sculpin for AP classes
- Rhinolicious Worm Steak for expertise
- Snapper Extreme and Worg Tartare for hit rating
- Spiced Mammoth Treats for pets
- Spiced Worm Burger and Spicy Blue Nettlefish for crit
- Tender Shoveltusk Steak for spellpower
List a little stock every day. If you're the only person making this stuff, decide whether to sell high volume at low prices or lower volume at higher margins. Base this decision on your ability to find mats. I have trouble getting Chunk O' Mammoth reliably, so I sell mammoth-based foods fairly expensively and never undercut. Don't forget that if you are being undercut and have reason to believe that the person doing this is farming it themselves, this is an opportunity to overcut and buy them out. They have a supply limited to their willingness to spend another hour killing Stoic Mammoths for six stacks of meat.
Being an auctioneer is like being able to print money (or gold, as it were). Wait, that doesn't make sense ... You can print on gold, but you can't print gold. That would be closer to transmutation? I can transmute titanium, but that's only worth it if the price of saronite is low enough to justify the time spent making it. I need some sort of analogy here. ... Whatever, I'll figure it out later. Making gold? Every time they let Basil write Insider Trader, he will endeavor to teach you the tricks of the trade.