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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.

Table of Contents

Prospective culinary students can use the following ranking of the best culinary schools to find the right program for their goals and interests.

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?

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%

Bartender Careers

The Best Culinary Schools

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4

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts 

Austin, TX

About this school

Taking its name from the legendary French chef, the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is a private, for-profit culinary school headquartered in Austin, Texas, with a second location in Boulder, Colorado; it also has distance programs for those seeking to get their chef training online.

At its Austin campus, Auguste Escoffier offers an Associate degree and Diploma programs designed to ensure you are well trained in the culinary arts, and are ready for a career in the industry. The programs culminate in externships that are designed to give students on-the-job experience and help develop professional connections. As a unique bonus, among its course listings, Auguste Escoffier has a farm to table course, keeping up with contemporary culinary trends.

Auguste Escoffier offers lifetime career placement assistance, starting while you are enrolled, and continuing as an alumnus, through job preparation and writing assistance, networking, industry referrals, and job listings.

Degree Programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science - Culinary Arts

Diploma and Certificate Programs:

  • Diploma - Culinary Arts
  • Diploma - Pastry Arts
5

L’Academie de Cuisine 

Gaithersburg, MD

About this school

L’Academie de Cuisine is a private, for-profit culinary school located in the Washington D.C. area. Founded by the famous Francois Dionot in 1976, L’Academie is committed to developing high-caliber culinary professionals.

The schools focuses on quality over quantity, offering two Certificate program options to study Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts that are built on a dedicated focus to skill, knowledge, and job-readiness. The programs are structured in three phases, establishing fundamentals, advanced techniques, and culminating in a paid apprenticeship at a fine restaurant, to develop on-the-job experience and professional connections.

To help with career placement and advancement, in addition to the apprenticeships that are part of the certificate programs, L’Academie maintains a jobs listing board, and has a strong alumni network. The goal of L’Academie is not just to produce great chefs, but to produce great chefs with stable, lucrative careers in the industry.

L’Academie also boasts celebrity chef alumni, such as Carla Hall “The Chew.”

Diploma and Certificate Programs:

  • Certificate - Culinary Arts
  • Certificate - Pastry Arts
6

Johnson and Wales University 

Providence, RI

About this school

Johnson and Wales University is a private, not-for-profit university based in Providence, Rhode Island, with additional locations in North Miami, Florida, in Denver, Colorado, and Charlotte, North Carolina. It is unique because it is a full-fledged university that offers Bachelor and Associate culinary degree programs in addition to more typical degree programs, such as engineering, humanities, and social sciences.

With 10 different culinary program options to choose from, Johnson and Wales presents students with plenty of opportunities for specialization, including the options to combine culinary studies with management studies. Because of this, Johnson and Wales prepares students for a wide variety of industry positions. Their degree programs include internships, so as to give students on-the-job experience and help develop professional connections.

To help you get started on a career, Johnson and Wales offers numerous career placement and advancement services, such as career fairs, seminars, networking events, and a jobs listing database. Another perk is that, as a full university, Johnson and Wales has numerous student organizations and clubs on campus that host events and activities, allowing you to have a complete college experience.

Degree Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science - Culinary Arts
  • Bachelor of Science - Culinary Arts and Food Service Management
  • Bachelor of Science - Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Bachelor of Science - Baking and Pastry Arts and Food Service Management
  • Bachelor of Science - Restaurant, Food, and Beverage Management
  • Bachelor of Science - Food and Beverage Entrepreneurship
  • Bachelor of Science - Culinary Science
  • Bachelor of Science - Culinary Nutrition
  • Associate of Science - Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Science - Baking and Pastry Arts
7

Metropolitan Community College Nebraska 

Omaha, NE

About this school

Metropolitan Community College Nebraska (MCCN) is a public, not-for-profit institution that offers several Associate degree and Certificate options to study the culinary arts and culinary industry management.

The goal of MCCN is to provide quality, low-cost educations that prepare students for careers as chefs, restaurant managers, and more. While it may not have all the perks of a private school, its four-figure tuition price tag is hard to beat; MCCN is the school with the lowest cost of tuition on this list.

Students at MCCN can pursue paid internships, and work in the school restaurant, serving the public while gaining valuable on-the-job experience and engaging in professional networking. In addition to hands-on program curriculums, students can expand their knowledge and hone their skills through the Culinary Competition Team, which also provides opportunities for networking. The Career Services office at MCCN helps students with career placement and advancement through counseling, networking, and other means of assistance.

Degree Programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science - Culinary Arts and Management with option for general study, or Baking and Pastry emphasis
  • Associate of Applied Science - Hospitality and Restaurant Leadership with option for Food and Event Management emphasis, or Hospitality Entrepreneurship emphasis

Diploma and Certificate Programs:

  • Certificate of Achievement - Culinary Arts Management
  • Certificate of Achievement - Baking and Pastry
  • Career Certificate - Culinary Arts Foundations
  • Career Certificate - ManageFirst
8

Kendall College of Culinary Arts 

Chicago, IL

About this school

Another unique option at Kendall is the Accelerated Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts, designed for those who already have a Bachelor degree in another subject. If the Culinary Arts isn’t your first field of study, if perhaps you are coming to it later in life, this could be an attractive option for you, as it will allow you to skip the general education requirements and complete your degree faster.

Students at Kendall are offered numerous career placement and advancement opportunities, such as working in the open-to-the-public restaurant The Dining Room, as well as internships. Kendall also offers career services in the form of counseling, job fairs, workshops, networking, and more.

Degree Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science - Culinary Arts
  • Bachelor of Arts - Business with Culinary Entrepreneurship Concentration
  • Associate of Applied Science - Culinary Arts
  • Accelerated Associate of Applied Science - Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Applied Science - Baking and Pastry
9

New England Culinary Institute 

Montpelier, VT

About this school

The New England Culinary Institute (NECI) is a private, for-profit culinary school that offers numerous Bachelor and Associate degree and Certificate options, as well as online programs for those seeking an online chef school.

NECI offers thorough, hands-on programs that put plenty of emphasis on on-the-job experience through internships (requiring two each for its Associate and Bachelor degree programs). It’s options of study include Business Management in addition to Culinary Arts and Baking, in order to prepare students for a career in running a kitchen, not just working in one.

There are numerous support options available at NECI for career placement and advancement, including the internships, career counseling, professional development workshops, and networking opportunities. In addition to this, there are student clubs and organizations on campus that host events and activities for students, to make sure you are getting the most of your time spent in college.

NECI boasts notable alumni, such as celebrity chef Alton Brown.

Degree Programs:

  • Bachelor of Arts - Culinary Arts
  • Bachelor of Arts - Baking and Pastry
  • Bachelor of Arts - Food and Beverage Business Management
  • Associate of Occupational Studies - Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Occupational Studies - Baking and Pastry
  • Associate of Occupational Studies - Food and Beverage Business Management

Diploma and Certificate Programs:

  • Certificate - Professional Cooking
  • Certificate - Professional Baking and Pastry
10

Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality Studies 

Louisville, KY

About this school

Sullivan University is a private, for-profit university. Although it offers numerous programs in other fields of study, such as pharmacy and business, Sullivan is probably best known for its culinary school division at its National Center for Hospitality Studies. Its main campus is located in Louisville, Kentucky, a city known for bourbon and a rapidly growing culinary scene; Sullivan has a second campus in nearby Lexington.

The programs at Sullivan are committed to ensuring career-readiness, with options to focus on becoming a chef, a baker, or working in management, as well as the unique option of studying to work as a personal chef. Sullivan offers Associate degree and Diploma programs. Through a year-round schedule broken into 11-week quarters, students can earn their titles on a fast track, with the option to complete an AS program in 18 months.

The Career Services office at Sullivan can help you with career placement and advancement while enrolled, or as a graduate, through networking, advising, and other assistance with your job search.

Degree Programs:

  • Associate of Science - Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Science - Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Associate of Science - Hotel and Restaurant Management

Diploma and Certificate Programs:

  • Diploma - Personal/Private Chef
  • Diploma - Professional Baker
  • Diploma - Professional Cook
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End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology
Culinary Schools

Best Culinary Schools Ranking Guidelines

We selected schools based on quality, curricula, faculty strength, school awards, rankings, and reputation. This is an updated ranking. While our ranking continues to weigh general culinary excellence, we added additional considerations for cost as well as degree offerings through the schools and their partnerships with other universities.

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