Culinary Schools

Culinary schools offer the perfect blend of creativity and technique, preparing aspiring chefs for successful careers in the culinary world.

Culinary Schools

Culinary schools provide a hands-on, immersive learning environment to help students develop the practical skills necessary to excel in the food service industry, such as mastering culinary techniques, honing knife skills, understanding flavor profiles, learning about ingredients and food safety, and gaining experience in commercial kitchen operations. In a culinary arts school, you’ll have the opportunity to work with professional-grade equipment and learn from experienced chefs who can offer invaluable insights and techniques.

Types of Culinary Schools

Choosing the right culinary school can make or break your career as a chef. There are so many different options out there, from large universities with broad hospitality management programs to small, specialized culinary schools that focus exclusively on culinary techniques and food preparation. And with the cost of education continually rising, it’s more important than ever to choose a school that fits your budget while still providing the skills and knowledge you need to succeed.

Culinary Arts Schools

Culinary arts schools offer specialized hands-on training in culinary techniques, food preparation, and kitchen management. These schools provide a diverse range of culinary arts disciplines, such as baking and pastry, international cuisine, and wine studies. Students can expect to learn everything from knife skills and food safety to the art of plating and presentation, and many programs offer internship and job placement opportunities for real-world experience in a professional kitchen. With a focus exclusively on culinary arts, culinary schools are an excellent choice for those looking to enter the food service industry and gain a competitive edge.

Hospitality Management Schools

While not exclusively focused on culinary arts, hospitality management schools offer programs that teach management skills for the hospitality industry, including restaurant and hotel management. These programs provide students with a broad understanding of the industry, including marketing, accounting, and human resources, and often include culinary classes as well. By taking these culinary classes, students can gain a well-rounded understanding of the industry as a whole, including the importance of food preparation and presentation in the hospitality industry.

Community Colleges

Community colleges offer practical and accessible culinary programs, including associate degrees and certificates, that provide students with fundamental culinary skills, including knife handling, cooking techniques, and baking. These programs also offer a solid foundation in culinary techniques and kitchen management, allowing graduates to pursue careers as line cooks, prep cooks, or catering assistants. Additionally, community colleges often have partnerships with local restaurants and food service establishments, providing students with valuable on-the-job training, internships, and job placement opportunities.

Four-Year Colleges and Universities

Some colleges and universities offer culinary degrees as part of their broader hospitality management programs, providing students with a well-rounded education that includes business management skills and culinary arts training. These programs offer a wide range of areas of specialization, such as culinary arts, baking and pastry, and food service management. In addition to culinary training, students learn about topics like accounting, marketing, and human resources, preparing them for leadership roles in the hospitality industry. Graduates of four-year culinary programs can work in a variety of fields, including fine dining restaurants, hotels, resorts, and catering businesses.

The Best Culinary Schools in America for 2023

Graduating from one of the top culinary schools in the U.S. will help students nurture their talent into a career and pay big dividends throughout their professional lives, with higher earnings potential, invaluable exposure and connections, and opportunities that only a prestigious credential can unlock.

While each aspiring chef has their own unique goals in mind, there are a few key factors that should be considered to ensure the best return on investment. A culinary school with an innovative curriculum, accomplished instructors, strategic partnerships, modern equipment, a successful track record of graduate outcomes, and a strong alumni network are all important factors to keep in mind. To help narrow down the search, here are ten of the best culinary schools in America:

1. Culinary Institute of America

1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499

The Culinary Institute of America, established in 1946, is a renowned institution setting the benchmark for professional culinary education. With campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore, they offer diverse degree programs, certificates, and courses for culinary enthusiasts and experts. Their visionary approach acknowledges the profound cultural significance of food and its impact on health, the environment, and the economy. CIA’s mission revolves around providing top-notch education, practice, and scholarship in the realm of food, molding future leaders and experts in the food industry.

2. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

6020-B Dillard Circle, Austin, TX 78752

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts distinguishes itself through affordability, acclaimed chef instructors, a strong emphasis on the Farm to Table® experience, and a commitment to sustainability. Rooted in the foundation of French cooking and the timeless legacy of Auguste Escoffier, the King of Chefs, this culinary institution stands out among its peers. If you seek culinary excellence, Escoffier is the place to explore.

3. Institute of Culinary Education

225 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10281

Founded in 1975, the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) is an renowned institution specializing in culinary and hospitality education. With campuses in New York City and Los Angeles, as well as an array of online training options, ICE offers a diverse range of programs, from diplomas to degrees and certificates. Situated in two culinary hubs, the institution provides students with opportunities to learn from industry thought leaders and launch their careers. ICE remains dedicated to guiding the next generation of culinary professionals towards culinary excellence.

4. Culinary Institute LeNotre

7070 Allensby St. Houston, TX 77022

The CULINARY INSTITUTE LENOTRE® (CIL), located in Houston, Texas, is a distinguished culinary institution committed to transforming the lives of aspiring chef-students. Established in 1998 by French chefs Alain and Marie Lenotre, the institute is renowned for its expertise in French cuisine and pastry arts. CULINARY INSTITUTE LENOTRE® offers a comprehensive culinary education, blending classic and contemporary culinary techniques and a broad spectrum of culinary topics. Students can choose from associate degree and diploma programs, each offering specialized electives such as restaurant management and pastry decoration.

5. Kendall College of Culinary Arts

122 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603

Kendall College of Culinary Arts, strategically situated in the bustling hospitality hub of Chicago, stands as the premier choice for aspiring chefs, bakers, hotel managers, and tourism professionals. The college offers Chicago’s top-ranked culinary arts degree, emphasizing a well-rounded approach that combines classroom knowledge with hands-on culinary experience. This unique blend equips students with a profound understanding of the foodservice industry and a competitive edge in the job market.

6. Johnson & Wales University

8 Abbott Park Place, Providence, RI 02903

Johnson & Wales University offers a Bachelor of Science program in Culinary Arts, designed to foster culinary excellence. Expert chef-instructors guide students through state-of-the-art labs, where they master the fundamentals of food preparation and explore specialized areas like garde manger, pastry, and beverage production. This comprehensive program not only hones culinary skills but also imparts essential knowledge in areas like financial management and leadership. Graduates are well-prepared to assume leadership roles in diverse culinary production environments worldwide.

7. Walnut Hill College

4207 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Walnut Hill College, established in 1974 as The Restaurant School, is a pioneer in hospitality education. Located in the vibrant University City, Philadelphia, the college offers a unique blend of classroom teaching and hands-on training in its acclaimed restaurants. Students benefit from easy access to top internships and job opportunities within the bustling local hospitality scene. Beyond Philadelphia, they embark on tuition-paid global adventures, including tours of France and England and cruises in Florida & the Bahamas. Walnut Hill College prepares students for success in the dynamic world of hospitality.

8. Sullivan University - College of Hospitality Studies

3101 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40205

Sullivan University’s College of Hospitality Studies offers an Associate of Science Degree in Culinary Arts that balances the art and science of cooking. Committed to producing highly sought-after culinary professionals, this program equips students for diverse culinary careers. With extensive kitchen lab training, real-world practicums, and externships, you’ll master culinary techniques and gain practical experience.

9. Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College

2501 Jerome Avenue, Bronx, NY 10468

The Culinary Institute of New York (CINY), part of Monroe College, offers a dynamic culinary arts and hospitality management education. Located within a short distance of New York City, this program blends passion, professionalism, and pride. Established in 2009, CINY has a track record of award-winning culinary teams and acclaimed student-run restaurants, such as The Dining Lab. Students receive a comprehensive education with hands-on experience in culinary arts, pastry arts, and hospitality management. The program is recognized as a “training ground for students” by The Wall Street Journal and “the little kitchen that could” by The New York Times.

10. Louisiana Culinary Institute

10550 Airline Highway, Baton Rouge, LA 70816

The Louisiana Culinary Institute, situated in Baton Rouge, is a dynamic for-profit college renowned for its two-year programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality and Culinary Management. Notably, it gained recognition when featured on The Cooking Channel’s “The Freshman Class” in 2013. This institute boasts a cutting-edge 40,000 square foot facility equipped with spacious classrooms, demonstration labs, bakery facilities, and a fully equipped restaurant kitchen. This modern setup provides students with an excellent learning environment to develop their culinary skills.

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Career Paths for Culinary Graduates

After completing culinary school, graduates have an abundance of opportunities to explore in the culinary industry. The food industry is ever-expanding, and with the rise of food trends, cultural influences, and increasing interest in healthy eating, there is no shortage of exciting career paths to pursue. Whether your passion is to create elaborate menus, design beautiful pastry creations, or write about food, the culinary world offers a diverse range of career opportunities that cater to various interests and skill sets. 

Some of the popular career paths include:


As a chef or sous chef, you will play a critical role in managing the day-to-day operations of a restaurant or other culinary establishment. You will be responsible for creating and executing menus that showcase your culinary skills and creativity, while also meeting the needs and preferences of your customers. This will require you to have a deep understanding of various cuisines, cooking techniques, and ingredient pairings.

In addition to creating menus, you will also be responsible for managing kitchen staff, which includes hiring, training, and supervising cooks and other kitchen personnel. This will require strong leadership and communication skills to ensure that your team is working together effectively to produce high-quality dishes.


As a caterer, you will be responsible for creating memorable dining experiences for special events such as weddings, parties, and corporate functions. This dynamic field requires not only culinary expertise, but also strong organizational, logistical, and customer service skills. You will work closely with clients to understand their unique event requirements, including menu preferences, dietary restrictions, and budget considerations. 

Pastry Chef

As a pastry chef, you will be immersed in the art and science of creating delectable baked goods that delight the senses. This career path offers a unique blend of creativity and technical expertise, as you master the intricacies of working with dough, batter, and other baking ingredients to produce a wide range of baked goods, including bread, pastries, cakes, and confections.

Food Stylist

As a food stylist, your role is to create visually stunning food presentations that are captured through photographs, commercials, videos, and other media. You would use your artistic skills, culinary knowledge, and attention to detail to craft food arrangements that are visually appealing and appetizing. This may involve carefully selecting and arranging food items, garnishes, props, and background elements to create visually compelling compositions.

You will work closely with photographers, videographers, and other members of the creative team to bring the desired aesthetic vision to life. This could include creating mouthwatering images for cookbooks, advertisements, menus, food packaging, and social media posts. You may also be involved in food styling for television shows, films, and commercials.

Food Writer

As a food writer or food critic, your job is to use your writing skills and culinary knowledge to share your experiences with others. You would be responsible for researching and evaluating restaurants, food trends, and products, and writing articles or reviews that inform and entertain your readers. You may also be responsible for creating content for food blogs, social media, and other online platforms.

In this role, you need to have a deep understanding of different cuisines, cooking techniques, and food culture to produce informative and engaging content. You may also be required to attend food events and tastings, interview chefs and other culinary experts, and keep up with the latest food trends and industry news.

Culinary Schools FAQ

Is culinary school even worth it?

Yes, culinary school can be worth it, depending on your goals. It provides structured training, culinary knowledge, and industry connections. However, you can also learn through apprenticeships or entry-level jobs. Your choice should align with your career objectives and preferred learning style.

How much does it cost to go to a culinary arts school?

The cost of culinary school varies widely, but it typically ranges from $5,000 to $35,000 or more per year. Factors include the school, location, program length, and degree type. Financial aid, scholarships, and grants can help offset costs, making culinary education more accessible.

Does GPA matter for culinary school?

GPA can be a factor in culinary school admissions, but it’s not always a strict requirement. Some schools prioritize a student’s passion for food, relevant experience, and a strong personal statement over academic grades. However, maintaining a decent GPA can improve your chances of admission and scholarships. It’s a good idea to check the admission criteria of the specific culinary school you’re interested in.

Is chef a good career?

Becoming a chef can be a fulfilling and rewarding career for those with a passion for culinary arts. It offers creative opportunities, potential for advancement, and the chance to share your love for food. However, it’s a demanding field with long hours, high-pressure environments, and physical challenges. Success often requires dedication, continuous learning, and hard work. Ultimately, whether it’s a good career for you depends on your passion for cooking and your willingness to commit to the demands of the profession.