If your favorite shows are on The Food Network, each meal made is a practice in plating, or you are secretly harboring plans to open your own restaurant, then it’s high time to consider earning a culinary arts degree!
It’s a good time to do so. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs for chefs and kitchen workers are expected to increase by 25% between now and 2030 – much, much faster than the average industry!
That’s why College Rank set out to find and rank the top culinary schools in the United States. To determine the best, we began by compiling a list of institutes, community colleges, and universities offering degrees or certificates in the culinary arts. We narrowed down our list with a holistic approach to considerations like facilities, class sizes, variety of degrees, and additional opportunities like study abroad and internships. The following schools and institutes have repeatedly proven their excellence, graduating high numbers of students who have gone on to open restaurants and work in the best kitchens in the world.
The 20 Best Culinary Programs in the United States
#20. Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts
Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
Keiser University is home to the Center for Culinary Arts, which has been recognized by the World Association of Chefs Societies as a Quality Culinary Education program. The university offers an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts.
Over the course of 72 credits, student chefs are hands on as they work in kitchens and labs, learn from real industry pros, and complete an externship.
#19. San Francisco Cooking School
San Francisco, California
Whether you’re seeking a certificate or just want to take a cooking class for fun, San Francisco Cooking School has something for you. For those seeking the former, the school offers two certificate programs: Professional Culinary Arts and Professional Pastry & Baking Arts. Both culminate in “Bakery Day,” during which students conduct a full restaurant service from beginning to end. An externship is also organized for each student.
One hundred percent of the coursework at San Francisco Cooking School is hands on, and guest chefs from the local Bay Area food community are often brought in to teach and network.
#18. Louisiana Culinary Institute
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana Culinary Institute offers Associate of Occupational Studies degrees in Culinary Arts: Advanced Culinary Arts, Culinary Arts: Baking & Pastry, and Hospitality and Culinary Management. Each degree covers a breadth of skills and knowledge, plus some coursework in writing, math, entrepreneurship, and management. Courses are taught on campus in Baton Rouge, Monday through Thursday, five hours per day.
Uniquely, Louisiana Culinary Institute also offers a two-year high school program called ProStart. This program focuses on both culinary arts and hospitality management, and provides younger students with the opportunity to earn transfer credits and scholarships.
#17. Stratford University
Falls Church, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland
Stratford University’s School of Culinary Arts offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in Advanced Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts, plus an Advanced Culinary Arts Professional Diploma. Each degree is thoughtfully designed to provide “a framework for the lifelong learning required for career advancement,” and courses are taught by actual industry professionals.
Both associate’s degrees can be completed at one of Stratford’s campuses or online. Students choose five courses that best fit their culinary interests, each of which lasts just five to 10 weeks. Most students are able to earn their associate’s degree in just 15 months.
#16. Institute of Technology
Students at the Institute of Technology may choose between two culinary programs: a Culinary Arts Diploma or a Baking and Pastry Specialist Program. Both programs are recognized by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC) as “exemplary,” a status awarded to just two other California-based culinary schools.
Students may choose to pursue their chosen program part-time, full-time, or in an accelerated format. From day one, chefs work in the kitchen and learn from real industry professionals. Each culinary program culminates in a 180-hour externship.
#15. The Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College
Traverse City, Michigan
The Great Lakes Culinary Institute is officially a part of Northwestern Michigan College. The Institute offers certificates in Baking Level I and Culinary Arts Level III, plus A.A.S. degrees in Culinary Arts and Culinary Sales & Marketing. The curriculum for each program emphasizes proper techniques and the science behind selecting, preparing, and serving food to groups big and small.
At The Great Lakes Culinary Institute, students have access to five culinary labs, including an advanced cooking kitchen, a garde manger kitchen, and a 90-seat teaching restaurant.
#14. Culinary Arts Institute at Oakland Community College
Farmington Hills, Michigan
The Culinary Arts Institute at Oakland Community College offers a certificate in Baking & Pastry Arts, plus two Associate of Applied Science degrees in Culinary Arts and Management Development/Hospitality. Each degree program uses hands-on coursework, event planning opportunities, and even food competitions to prepare future culinarians for a long and successful career.
Students are given the chance to practice their skills and knowledge in two open-to-the-public restaurants and a campus bakery. The Culinary Arts Institute is also home to an award-winning Ice Carving Team.
#13. Drexel University
Drexel University’s B.S. in Culinary Arts and Science is unique amongst culinary degrees. Instead of focusing on either culinary arts or culinary science, Drexel’s degree program covers culinary arts, food science, business, and hospitality management in equal parts. This makes it an ideal program for the student with grand ambitions. The four-year degree culminates in a six-month co-op during which future culinarians are exposed to real-world professionals at places like Food & Wine magazine, America’s Test Kitchen, and Hershey Foods, among others.
Students pursuing a B.S. in Culinary Arts and Science at Drexel may choose to spend an additional year completing an MBA degree, or they may supplement their undergraduate degree with a minor in Entrepreneurship, Business Administration, or Marketing. An opportunity to study abroad in Rome, Italy also exists for Drexel’s culinary students.
#12. Henry Ford College
The culinary arts program at Henry Ford College has been thoughtfully designed to turn beginners into advanced chefs. Students begin the program by earning a Certificate of Achievement in Culinary Skills, then continue on to an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts or Hotel/Restaurant Manager, before finishing with a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts – all without the trouble of transferring schools, losing valuable credits, or learning a new program.
Students may enter the program at any phase. Two internship opportunities are included, as is valuable coursework in business. In addition to being accredited by the American Culinary Federation, the culinary program at Henry Ford College has been given the “exemplary” seal from the ACFEFAC.
#11. The Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College
New York, New York
The Culinary Institute of New York is officially a part of the private, for-profit Monroe College. The Institute offers Associates of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry, and Hospitality Management, plus a Bachelor of Business Administration in Hospitality Management. Each degree combines hands-on learning with theory, and student chefs have the opportunity to put their learning to use in The Dining Lab, the critically acclaimed student-run restaurant.
Each year, The Culinary Institute of New York plays host to America’s Best High School Chef Competition, a unique educational opportunity for high school seniors. Once enrolled at The Culinary Institute of New York, students are invited to compete with the culinary competition team. The team has won more than 1,000 ACF medals, and has even been named Regional Champions.
#10. The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
St. Helena, California
Situated in the heart of the Napa Valley, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone is the California branch of the prestigious The Culinary Institute of America. The Institute offers a number of associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and certificate programs, the variety of which allows student chefs to study exactly what they want. There are even some online master’s degrees available, as well as some alumni-only leadership and business management courses.
The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone is housed in the stunning former home of the Christian Brothers Winery. Built in the 19th Century and included on the National Register of Historic Places, Greystone offers students and the public an award-winning restaurant, an illy bakery cafe, and a culinary marketplace.
#9. Metropolitan Community College
Metropolitan Community College is home to a top-ranked culinary and hospitality program. The program consists of two tracks – one leading to an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts and Management (Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry), and the other leading to an A.A.S. in Hospitality and Restaurant Leadership (Food and Event Management or Hospitality Entrepreneurship).
Regardless of their choice of track, student chefs at Metropolitan are equipped with the leadership and teamwork skills that make for a successful career in the foodservice industry. Those who want to add to their skillset can even earn a Culinary Arts Foundation career certificate or a Certificate of Achievement in either Culinary Arts and Management or Baking and Pastry.
#8. Culinary Institute LeNotre
Culinary Institute LeNotre consistently ranks as one of the country’s best culinary schools. The Institute offers seven different degree programs and seven electives in the culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and hospitality/restaurant management. Students learn in state-of-the-art kitchens and labs, including brand new baking and pastry and cuisine labs.
Students pursuing degrees at Culinary Institute LeNotre always learn from successful industry professionals. In addition to required coursework, students also have access to hands-on seminars. These seminars, ranging from single sessions to 10-weeks in length, cover a variety of topics and are a great way to add to one’s skillset.
#7. Sullivan University
Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky
Sullivan University is home to the top-ranked College of Hospitality Studies. Sullivan’s student chefs study to earn an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, a comprehensive degree that prepares them to work in the best restaurants or even open their own business. Courses are taught by industry professionals in top-of-the-line kitchen labs. Throughout the degree program, students also take part in practicums and externships with the region’s best restaurants. Sullivan offers courses year-round, meaning students can complete their associate’s degree in as few as 18 months.
For the competitive Sullivan student, there is a Sullivan culinary arts competition team. To date, the team has won more than 400 gold, silver, and bronze medals at regional, national, and even international competition levels.
#6. The Institute of Culinary Education
New York, New York and Pasadena, California
The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) has been educating chefs for nearly five decades. No stranger to “best of” lists, ICE offers a variety of degrees in culinary arts, pastry and baking arts, restaurant and culinary management, and hospitality and hotel management. Uniquely, ICE also offers one of the country’s few programs in health-supportive culinary arts.
Each ICE campus boasts state-of-the-art kitchens, plus education-enhancing features like a bean-to-bar chocolate lab, Mixology Center, Culinary Technology Lab, and a hydroponic garden.
#5. Kendell College of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management at National Louis University
Kendall College at National Louis University offers an associate degree program in culinary arts, plus a bachelor’s degree program in culinary management. A culinary arts certificate is also offered, as is an accelerated associate’s degree. Each program includes a comprehensive curriculum of courses taught in commercial-grade kitchens by professional chefs and bakers.
Students also have the opportunity to add to their resumes by completing the Wine Professional Program. This unique program takes a teacher-directed approach to a “contemporary-driven, rigorous and accelerated programming of wine and beverage education.” Three levels of courses are available, each of which ends in certification.
#4. Walnut Hill College
Walnut Hill College is a for-profit, family-run culinary school that has been training passionate industry leaders for nearly half a decade. The college offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, Restaurant Management, and Hotel Management. Each degree program is built around an experiential curriculum, and students are given the opportunity to work in the college’s open-to-the-public restaurants from the program’s earliest days.
Included in the tuition price is a travel experience designed to showcase “the finest aspects of the industry abroad.” Each associate’s and bachelor’s degree culminates in a trip to England, France, or Florida and the Bahamas to experience firsthand the hospitality and culture emphasized in their coursework.
#3. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts
Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; Online
The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is the largest culinary school brand in the nation, and has even been named by Chef’s Pencil as one of the world’s best culinary schools. No matter what ambitions a student chef may have, Escoffier has a program for it.
Escoffier offers traditional degree programs in culinary arts, pastry arts, and hospitality and restaurants operations management, plus degrees in more unique subjects such as plant-based culinary arts and holistic nutrition and wellness. Students who aren’t located near Austin or Boulder can even earn their degree entirely online via Escoffier’s unique online program.
#2. Johnson & Wales University
Providence, Rhode Island; Charlotte, North Carolina; Online
Johnson & Wales University offers a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts, a Bachelor of Science in Baking & Pastry Arts, plus a slew of other diploma programs in subjects like international beverage management, nutrition, and hospitality management, to name but a few. Students can even pair their degree with a minor in food studies, sommelier management, or culinary sustainability.
JWU has long been known as a leader in culinary education. According to the university’s most recent data, 73% of students complete their internship with a job offer, while an overall 96.8% of students are employed within six months of graduation.
#1. The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park
Hyde Park, New York
Topping our list of the best culinary schools in the United States is The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. Overlooking the Hudson River, CIA New York is often included on lists of culinary schools and beautiful college campuses. Four open-to-the-public, student-staffed restaurants exist on the 170-acre campus, as do a General Foods Nutrition Center, the Colavita Center for Italian Food and Wine, and a student-run craft beer brewery known as The Egg.
CIA New York offers associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, certificates, and online master’s degrees in a variety of subjects, including Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts, Food Business, and Food Studies and Sustainability, among others.
How long does it take to become a chef?
The time it takes to become a chef depends on the degree level you choose to pursue. For example, a culinary certificate program can take just a few months to complete, while associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees traditionally take two and four years, respectively. Because most employers prefer to hire chefs with at least an associate’s degree, it is best to plan on 2-4 years of professional culinary training.
Are culinary degrees worth it?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the culinary arts are expected to increase 25% between now and 2030. This is much faster than the average occupation, and is based on expected income growth and recovery from the Covid-19 recession. Such a positive outlook for restaurants suggests that now is a great time to earn a culinary degree.
What is the difference between a culinary degree and a culinary certificate?
Culinary certificates can be completed in 8-12 months. They are available in culinary arts, pastry arts and baking, and a number of other subjects, though tend to cover just the basics. On the other hand, culinary degrees take anywhere from two years (associate’s degree) to four years (bachelor’s degree) to complete. They provide much more in-depth coursework, and often include other helpful business classes like marketing and hospitality management. Most who are just starting out on their career path choose to earn a culinary degree, while culinary certificates are most beneficial as a supplement.
How much does culinary school cost?
The average cost of a culinary arts degree ranges anywhere from $35,000 to $54,000, depending upon whether an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree is being pursued. A student chef can lower this cost by studying at a smaller university or community college, or by taking advantage of the many financial aid options offered by most culinary schools.
What culinary school did Gordon Ramsay go to?
Gordon Ramsay first studied hotel management at North Oxfordshire Technical College before taking on a number of kitchen jobs at restaurants throughout London and the United Kingdom. At age 23, Ramsay was invited to move to Paris to work with Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy, the latter of which Ramsay credits as his mentor.