best culinary schools in America

Last Updated on July 31, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

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Blending practical kitchen training with theoretical food services training, culinary school prepares graduates for competitive careers in food services.

Graduates can work as head chefs, sous chefs, pastry chefs, and private chefs. They can also pursue careers in hospitality management or culinary arts management.

During culinary school, students learn foundational kitchen techniques, international cooking styles, and knife skills. Hands-on cooking classes cover skills like sauce preparation, baking and pastry techniques, and menu planning. In addition to cooking courses, culinary programs include classes on topics like food sanitation, inventory and cost control, and kitchen management.

What Is a Culinary School?

Culinary school trains students for jobs as chefs and cooks. Learners study cooking techniques and cultivate knife skills. Culinary arts programs incorporate classes on topics like cooking meats, baking, and plating and presentation. Many culinary arts programs include an internship to give students hands-on kitchen training.

Culinary arts programs incorporate classes on topics like cooking meats, baking, and plating and presentation.

In addition to cooking courses, culinary arts schools include classes on food safety, cost control, and inventory management. Some programs include business and management training. These courses prepare graduates for leadership roles in the kitchen.

Many culinary schools offer electives or specializations, such as hospitality management, that allow students to tailor the degree to their goals and interests. Formal culinary education prepares graduates for professional certifications and competitive jobs in the food services industry.

Are There Online Culinary Schools?

Students with professional and personal responsibilities may prefer the flexibility of online courses. Some culinary schools offer online classes, particularly in areas like food service management, food safety, and cost control. However, as a hands-on field, culinary arts programs require some in-person courses.

How Much Is Culinary School Per Year?

The cost of culinary school varies by school and program. In general, culinary programs offered by community colleges cost less than programs at four-year institutions. Additionally, some programs offer tuition discounts to in-state students. Learners can take advantage of financial aid opportunities, like scholarships and grants, to offset annual tuition costs.

However, tuition isn’t the only important factor when considering the cost of a degree. Prospective students should carefully research the reputation of potential schools, which can significantly impact employment prospects after graduation. A program with a strong reputation may cost more in tuition but offer more long-term value with respect to employment opportunities than a cheaper program with a weak reputation.

How Do You Get Into a Culinary School?

The prerequisites for culinary school vary by program, but students typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent for admission. Many culinary colleges also set a minimum age for admission, often 17 years old. Some programs may feature additional requirements; however, applicants generally do not need to demonstrate cooking skills before entering the program.

How Long Is Culinary School?

The length of a culinary program varies by the type of program and a student’s enrollment status. A culinary bachelor’s degree generally takes four years of full-time study to complete, while an associate degree takes two years full time. Students can also pursue a culinary certificate or diploma, which typically take less than one year to complete.

Students can also attend full-time programs, which more closely align with an apprenticeship model than a traditional university model. Full-time programs typically feature 6-8 hours of class per day, five days per week, similar to a full-time job. This schedule results in an intensive program that often allows students to graduate in 6-8 months.

How Do You Become a Certified Chef?

After attending culinary arts school, prospective chefs can earn certification. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, certification can lead to career advancement and higher pay. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers 16 professional certifications, such as culinarian, pastry chef, and sous chef. ACF also offers certifications for private chefs.

Certification candidates must meet education and professional experience requirements.

Certification candidates must meet education and professional experience requirements. ACF certifications generally require graduation from an accredited program and passing scores on written and performance exams. The certified master chef credential requires lower-level certification, courses in restaurant management, and passing exam scores.

Certified chefs must renew their credentials every 1-5 years by meeting continuing education requirements. ACF offers continuing education opportunities, including online classes and conferences.

What is ACF Accreditation?

Culinary schools that meet standards for quality can earn ACF accreditation. Granted by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC), ACF accreditation recognizes schools based on faculty qualifications, curricula, and student services. Schools must undergo regular reviews to maintain their accreditation status.

Accreditation expands financial aid opportunities for students, and some employers only hire candidates with an accredited degree. Additionally, most certifications require graduation from an accredited program. ACFEFAC holds recognition from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as a programmatic accrediting agency.

Food Service Careers

Cooking school prepares graduates for many roles in the food service industry, including chefs, head cooks, and food service managers. We cover several common careers for culinary arts graduates below.WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A CULINARY ARTS DEGREE?COLLAPSE LIST

Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks oversee food preparation for restaurants. They monitor and train kitchen staff, ensure the quality of ingredients, and inspect work areas to promote cleanliness. They also develop recipes and order food for the restaurant. Many chefs and head cooks attend culinary arts school to build cooking skills and gain experience with menu planning, inventory, and food sanitation.

Median Annual Salary

48,460

Projected Growth Rate

11%CHEF AND HEAD COOK CAREERS

Food Service Managers

Food service managers oversee daily operations at restaurants and other places that serve food and beverages. They manage the business, promote customer satisfaction, and direct kitchen staff. They also hire and train employees, order food and beverages, and oversee food preparation. Additionally, food service managers manage payroll records and make sure employees follow health and food safety procedures. A hospitality or food service program prepares graduates for jobs as food service managers.

Median Annual Salary

$54,240

Projected Growth Rate

11%FOOD SERVICE MANAGER CAREERS

Bakers

Bakers make breads, pastries, and other baked goods by mixing ingredients and following recipes. They must ensure the quality of ingredients, prepare equipment for baking, and mix dough before baking it in an oven or grill. They may produce baked goods for grocers, restaurants, wholesalers, and institutional food services. Bakers often gain training on the job, but attending culinary school can help bakers gain additional training and advance their careers.

Median Annual Salary

$26,520

Projected Growth Rate

6%

Cooks

Cooks prepare foods at restaurants and other establishments that serve food. They check food for freshness, prepare ingredients, and cook dishes. Cooks may also arrange and serve food. Additionally, cooks must clean their work area and store ingredients. Many cooks attend culinary school to gain training in advanced cooking techniques.

Median Annual Salary

$25,200

Projected Growth Rate

11%

Bartenders

Bartenders mix drinks and serve them to customers at restaurants and bars. They often welcome customers to the establishment, provide information about daily specials, and take drink orders. Bartenders may serve wine, beer, and mixed drinks. They may also check customers’ identification, accept payments, and oversee the bar’s operation. Some bartenders attend bartending school or take culinary school classes to build their skills.

Median Annual Salary

$22,550

Projected Growth Rate

8%


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