For those with culinary dreams of running bakeries or restaurants, or of writing menus and preparing Michelin-star food, the idea of traditional college classes and degrees can be a bit hard to swallow.
Even for those who have already decided on attending culinary school, choosing a school with the right program, reputation, and industry connections can often seem overwhelming.
The 20 culinary schools on this list are considered to be some of the best in the nation. They are located all over the United States. Some, like those in the famed Le Cordon Bleu network, are well-known and established training grounds for some of the food industry’s leading talent.
Others, like the relatively new San Francisco Cooking School, have burst onto the culinary scene with programs designed to prepare aspiring chefs and bakers to work in the industry in as little time as possible.
But despite their many differences, each school on this list prides itself on its mission to protect and train the future of culinary arts, both in the United States and abroad.
The 20 Best Culinary Schools
Founded in 1975 by Peter Kump, the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) has become the largest culinary school in New York City. The Institute, which is often considered one of the best in the world, credits to its success its “Global Curriculum,” dedicated chef-instructors, clear focus, and entrepreneurial spirit.
The curriculum (which also happens to include the largest wine education program in the country) is intensive, though most students complete their programs in less than one year.
ICE has been named a finalist and winner in the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Awards of Excellence in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2015. Many of its alumni have become recognized industry leaders, and are regularly nominated or win top industry awards such as the James Beard Award, Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs in America,” and Dessert Professionals‘ “Top Ten Pastry Chefs.”
Need help with housing? Check out ICE’s housing options.
Click here for free information about
Institute of Culinary Education!
2Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park
Hyde Park, New York
The oldest culinary school in America is also oftentimes considered to be the very best. Its main campus is located in Hyde Park, New York, though it also has satellite campuses in San Antonio, Texas, St. Helena, California (which also appears on this list), and Singapore.
Started as a non-profit college, the Institute’s stated mission is to offer the best professional culinary education in the world. It boasts the largest staff of ACF Certified Master Chefs, and more than 300 companies actively recruit its graduates each year. In fact, its long list of successful alumni includes Charlie Palmer and Grant Achatz, among many others.
The Institute offers certificates, Associate, and Bachelor degrees in Culinary Arts, Culinary Science, and Baking and Pastry Arts. Many students choose to complete both an Associate and a Bachelor degree, though the Institute does require students complete the Associate before pursuing the Bachelor.
3Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
St. Helena, California
Located in a beautiful stone castle in St. Helena, California (near Napa), the Culinary Institute at Greystone is a sister school to the highly-regarded Culinary Institute at Hyde Park.
Following the same stated mission to offer the best professional culinary education in the world, Greystone’s staff is one of the largest groups of ACF Certified Master Chefs in the nation.
Unlike the Hyde Park campus, Greystone offers only the Associate degree in Culinary Arts, a 21-month program broken into semesters. The rigorous curriculum also includes an 18-week externship in the school’s top-rated restaurant at the end of a student’s sophomore year.
Founded in 1984 as The French Culinary Institute, the International Culinary Center is one of the most award-winning schools for a professional fast-track culinary or wine education. With campuses in New York City and Silicon Valley, California, ICC has trained more than 15,000 alumni, including culinary rock stars Bobby Flay, David Chang, Dan Barber, and Christina Tosi.
Whether the focus is Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, Cake Design, Farm-to-Table, Bread Baking, Italian Cuisine, Culinary Entrepreneurship,or Wine Studies, ICC graduates leaves with the credentials, confidence, and global connections for a rising career. ICC has a 91.5% graduation rate.
ICC is the school for serious cooks and culinary entrepreneurs. The school is known for its original curriculum, small student-to-teacher ratio and individual workstations, along with career support not found at larger schools.
ICC’s legendary deans—Jacques Pépin, Jacques Torres, and José Andrés—and entrepreneurial alumni, have racked up more than 137 Michelin stars. IACP has named ICC the “Best Vocational Cooking School of the Year” multiple times, and ICC holds the highest honor, School of Excellence, by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Students at ICC can earn a college degree + culinary diploma by transferring ICC credits to The New School, a highly respected NYC university.
5Le Cordon Bleu
Chicago, IL (U.S. Headquarters)
Le Cordon Bleu, regarded as one of the world’s leading culinary art institutes, provides training from world class chefs in classic French culinary techniques.
Le Cordon Bleu provides culinary training at schools across the United States. Le Cordon Bleu also provides online classes.
Over the past 100 years Le Cordon Bleu has produced numerous famous graduates such as Julia Child, Dione Lucas, Nathalie Dupree, Nancy Silverton, Allen Susser, James Peterson, Lydia Shire, Ming Tsai and more.
Le Cordon Bleu provides bachelor’s degree and associate’s degree programs as well as diploma and certificate programs in subjects such as culinary arts, patisserie and baking, hospitality & restaurant management and culinary management.
6Kendall College of Culinary Arts
Located in Chicago, one of the food industry’s most vibrant centers, the Kendall College of Culinary Arts is an intensive program that focuses on international cuisine.
Students have the option of pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, which includes general education and can be obtained over six academic quarters.
Students also have the option of a Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts, which follows a traditional, four-year academic plan.
Noteworthy alumni include Michael White (executive chef and co-owner of the Altamarea Group), Mindy Segal (winner of the 2012 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry), and Jose Garces (owner of multiple Garces Group restaurants).
The admissions process into Kendall is easier than most, thanks in part to the school providing applicants with a personal enrollment advisor.
7New England Culinary Institute
With an alumni list that includes names like Alton Brown and Heather Terhune, the New England Culinary Institute is a top choice for aspiring culinary professionals.
The Institute offers a wide variety of certificate and degree options, including the ever popular Associate degree of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts, a 3-year program which includes a six-month restaurant internship.
The Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts is an especially unique program. Students in the five-year degree program spend the first three years alternating between the residency program and internships, before spending the last two years in a long-term internship with online coursework.
An additional campus is located in nearby Essex, Vermont, which includes a four-diamond culinary resort and inn.
8L’Academie de Cuisine
L’Academie de Cuisine is located just outside Washington, D.C., and offers students the choice of Culinary Arts or Pastry Arts. The curriculum for either program is comparatively unique, revolving around three phases of study: classroom lectures, hands-on kitchen training, and a paid externship at a local fine-dining restaurant.
In total, the program consists of 1,620 training hours and classes are available during both daytime and evening.
The Academy’s list of notable alumni include Carla Hall and Angela Pinkerton.
Interested students are encouraged to contact the Academy’s admissions team, which is made up entirely of graduates who can provide prospective students with a firsthand knowledge of the programs.
9Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts
Austin, Texas and Boulder, Colorado
Named after Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), the man who led the modernization of French cuisine and Le Cordon Bleu.
This nationally accredited culinary school was founded in 1981 in Austin, Texas. Since opening its second location in Boulder, Colorado, the school has become one of the top in the United States for training future industry professionals.
Facilities include a state-of-the-art, modern kitchen, and its in-depth curriculum is faithful to the skills, techniques, and recipes developed by Escoffier. Class sizes are small, with an average class size of fifteen students, meaning students receive the individual attention needed to succeed.
The school has an especially strong and well-known Baking and Pastry Program, though its long list of alumni includes world-class chefs from all over the world and across all culinary disciplines.
10 Johnson & Wales University
Providence, Rhode Island
Johnson & Wales University is full university, and it’s also home to one of the preeminent culinary schools in the world. In fact, the university was the first school in the country to offer a full Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Arts.
Today, students can choose to earn an Associates or Bachelor degree in concentrations such as Baking and Pastry, Culinary Arts, Culinary Nutrition, Food Service Management, and Food Entrepreneurship.
The intensive curriculum is designed to provide students with both theoretical and hands-on knowledge of the culinary industry through experienced chef-instructors, small class sizes, and time spent in the real culinary world.
Though the flagship location is at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island (which boasts a nationally celebrated culinary scene), students also have the option of classes in North Miami, Denver, or Charlotte.
Each location also includes a successful job placement program to assist students and recent graduates with finding a job in the culinary industry.
11The International Culinary School
The International Culinary School is located in Washington, D.C. as part of the Art Institute of Washington. The state-of-the-art facilities include the Culinaire Restaurant, a complete instructional environment that is open to the public and provides students with valuable hands-on experience.
The school’s broad curriculum includes classes in baking, culinary arts, and management, as well as time spent working in the campus restaurant.
Students can earn Associate of Arts degrees in the Culinary Arts, in disciplines such as Baking & Pastry, Wine, Spirits & Beverage Management, Culinary Arts Management, Food & Beverage Management, and more.
While classes are available on-site during the day, in evenings, and on weekends, The International Culinary School is also unique amongst other industry schools in that it offers students the option of an online program.
Sullivan University is the culinary part of the National Center for Hospitality Studies.
Located in Louisville, Kentucky (named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of the “Foodiest” Cities in America), Sullivan boasts a 3.5-star restaurant, Winston’s, run completely by culinary students, a retail bakery, and a state-of-the-art catering facility that serves the local community.
The University offers Associate of Science degrees in a variety of majors, including Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts, and Professional Catering.
Students can also choose a shorter diploma program in Professional Cooking or Professional Baking.
Emeril Lagasse recently referred to Sullivan University as one of the best culinary schools in America.
The Culinary Arts and the Baking and Pastry Arts programs at Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies are accredited by the American Culinary Federation’s Accrediting Commission.
For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, visit Sullivan’s site.
13San Diego Culinary Institute
San Diego, California
Not only does San Diego host some of the most renowned restaurants in the nation, it is also one of the most health-conscious cities in the world.
Students at the San Diego Culinary Institute learn from the very best; every instructor has a minimum 25 years experience in their culinary field as well as five years minimum as an executive chef. Though the curriculum is known as one of the most intensive in the industry, dedicated students are able to finish the program in as little as eight months.
Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry are easily the most popular programs offered. The Institute also boasts a unique placement service that is dedicated to connecting students and recent graduates with restaurants and companies across the nation.
14The Culinary Institute of New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
More than once has New Orleans been called the Food Capital of the World.
The Culinary Institute of New Orleans considers itself a pioneer of the culinary world, and continuously strives to improve and update its curriculum and facilities to remain up-to-date with the industry.
Through hands-on classes and experience in many of New Orleans’ local restaurants, students receive comprehensive training for various jobs in culinary arts—from line look to sous chef, patissiér, garde mangér, executive chef, and others.
15The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College
At the Restaurant School, students learn the latest culinary techniques and classical skills required for success in the culinary industry, including menu development, recipe creation, wine selection, and restaurant management.
Possible majors include Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts, Hotel Management, Restaurant Management, and an extended program of career development.
In addition to classroom lectures and hands-on kitchen training, students work in any of the four French-style restaurants run by the School, before comparing it to the real thing during a week-long gastronomic tour of France (included in the tuition).
16The Art Institute of California—Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Part of the much-larger network of the Art Institute (which is associated with Argosy University), the AI culinary program in Los Angeles has proven itself to be one of the premiere choices for aspiring chefs.
The wide variety of career tracks include diplomas in the Art of Cooking or Baking and Pastry, Associate of Science degrees in Baking and Pastry or Culinary Arts, and Bachelor of Science degrees in Culinary Management or Hospitality Food & Beverage Management.
Each career track includes small class sizes, personal attention from chef-instructors, hands-on, real kitchen experience, and the option of morning, afternoon, or evening classes.
Financial aid is also available for those who qualify.
17San Francisco Cooking School
San Francisco, California
Though less than five years old, the San Francisco Cooking School has proven itself a major player amongst those in culinary education.
The 6-month full-time (or 9-month part-time) program begins with an intensive tasting workshop and ends with a two-month externship in a top San Francisco restaurant such as Coi, Delfina, or State Bird Provisions.
Classes are limited to only 14 students, meaning each student receives personalized attention from chef-instructors and the school’s impressive list of Deans and Advisors, which includes names like Daniel Patterson, Craig Stoll, and Bill Corbett.
According to a school representative, the admissions process (which includes an interview) is rigid to ensure that everyone wants to be cooking there for the same reason.
18Boston University Metropolitan College
Boston University Metropolitan College’s intensive, semester-long Culinary Arts certificate program covers classic French techniques and international cuisines. Julia Child and Jacques Pepin cofounded the program in 1989. The faculty includes some of the world’s best chefs.
The Culinary Arts certificate program, which provides more than 400 hours of instruction, includes hands-on learning, lectures, field trips and demonstrations. The program covers a variety of cultures and cuisines. The program prepares students for a wide array of jobs.
Boston University also hosts a multidisciplinary Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy program and a Wine Studies Program.
The school evaluates applicants based on their dedicated interest in the program and their intended seriousness in taking the program. The school considers culinary work experience, but it’s not a requirement.
New Rochelle, New York
Monroe College School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts, one of the largest programs of its type in the United States, provides real-world vocational training. The school provides an Associate in Baking & Pastry degree, an Associate in Culinary Arts degree and an Associate in Hospitality Management degree. The school also provides a Bachelor in Hospitality Management degree with minors in Culinary Management and Tourism and Destination Management and a Master in Hospitality Management degree.
The faculty includes chefs with certification from the American Culinary Federation.
Students gain valuable experience working at the student-operated on-campus restaurant named the Dining Lab and The Pastry Kiosk, a daytime operation of the Dining Lab.
The Monroe Culinary Team has received a large number of medals from competitions. Numerous students have won gold medals as well as best overall in competitions against professional chefs.
Monroe College hosts the America’s Best High School Chef and America’s Best High School Pastry Chef competitions.
20The French Pastry School
As the demand for artisan bakers and qualified pastry chefs grows, Chicago’s The French Pastry School is unique in that it accommodates those students interested solely in baking and pastry arts.
Students will learn everything from the most basic baking skills to advanced cake decorating, to artisan baking.
Students can obtain certificates or diplomas, or strengthen their baking skills through continuing-education courses.
The School is also dedicated to helping students with job placement and career-development issues.
The Rewards of a Culinary School Degree
To choose the right culinary school, you need to think carefully about your talents and interests in the culinary arts. You also need to have access to reliable information about the best culinary programs out there, such as we’ve collected in the above ranking.
Many culinary schools are known for particular specialties, so before you begin, it is important to explore what kind of career in the culinary arts you would like to have. Cook? Chef? Caterer? Baker? If you are looking less at being an artist with food and more at managing a restaurant, consider a degree in hospitality or management.
Shows like “Iron Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen” have glamorized cooking and raised the public’s awareness of the artistry that is involved in food preparation. In response to these shows’ popularity, becoming a chef is now more competitive than ever. At the same time, jobs in the food industry are more available than ever.
Everyone has to eat, and it is doubtful that robots will ever be able to replace a human being, trained in recognizing the size, sizzle, and aroma of a dish that has reached perfection. For those determined to reach the upper echelon of the culinary world, a top-notch education will separate the wannabes from the skilled professionals.
A career as a chef does not merely require the know-how to prepare a dish. In most commercial kitchens, chefs work in an overcrowded, chaotic environment, preparing multiple orders while surrounded by colleagues, each of whom is bustling about performing their own respective roles. Being a successful chef involves multitasking, cooperation, and efficiency, while maintaining composure and precision under pressure.
As such, employers are not just looking for someone with a degree; they are looking for someone with ample experience working in a restaurant or a kitchen. Attending a culinary school is a great way to forge relationships and land internships in establishments that might normally be out of reach for those without the backing of well-known masters of the culinary arts, such as teach at the schools we’ve listed above.
Gaining experience in different cooking roles, combined with a top-notch culinary degree, can pave the way for a rewarding career as a sous chef or executive chef.