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 chef schools in the United States. We know how important it is to find the best culinary school to meet your needs and achieve your professional goals. 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:
- class sizes
- variety of degrees
- 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. We consider these to be the best culinary schools in the country.
Related Resource: 30 Best Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management
The 20 Best Culinary Colleges 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 a Culinary Arts associate degree. Major courses include:
- Pastries and Desserts
- Classical French Cuisine
- Farm to Fork
- International Cuisine
Over the course of 72 credits, student chefs attending culinary school are hands on as they work in kitchens and labs. They 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 culinary 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 is the premier culinary school of the south. Louisiana Culinary Institute offers several outstanding culinary education opportunities with their Associate of Occupational Studies degrees in:
- Culinary Arts: Advanced Culinary Arts
- Culinary Arts: Baking & Pastry
- Hospitality and Culinary Management
Each culinary arts associate degree covers a breadth of skills and knowledge. Coursework covers essential areas like:
- foodservice business management skills
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. The School of Culinary Arts also offers 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. Key areas of focus include:
- culinary technique
- customer service
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 :
- in an accelerated format
From day one, chefs work in the kitchen and learn from real industry professionals. The Institute of Technology recognizes that experience goes a long way in the culinary world. Each culinary program culminates in a 180-hour externship to prepare students for a successful culinary career.
#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 within the culinary arts school emphasizes proper technique 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
Oakland Community College features one of the best culinary schools in the country. 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.
Culinary arts school 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 is one of the top universities with culinary programs. They offer a 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:
- Business Administration
An opportunity to study abroad in Rome, Italy also exists for Drexel’s students interested in international culinary arts.
#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. From there, they continue on to earn an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts or Hotel/Restaurant Manager, before finishing with a Culinary Arts bachelor degree. They can complete these degree programs without the trouble of transferring schools and losing valuable credits, or learning a new program.
Students may enter the program at any phase. Two internship opportunities in the food industry 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
- Hospitality Management
They also offer a Bachelor of Business Administration in Hospitality Management. Degree programs combine hands-on learning with theory. 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
One of the best culinary schools in California is the Culinary Institute of America. 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 variety of degree programs for aspiring culinary professionals. They offer an Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts and Culinary Arts. They also offer an Accelerated Culinary Arts Certificate Program (ACAP). Online master’s degrees are available in a variety of areas including:
- Food Business
- Sustainable Food Systems
- Wine and Beverage Management
CIA California also offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Business Leadership for CIA alumni.
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:
- award-winning restaurants
- illy bakery cafe
- culinary marketplace
#9. Metropolitan Community College
Metropolitan Community College is home to a top-ranked culinary school 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 best cooking schools in the country. The Institute offers seven different degree programs and seven electives in the:
- culinary arts
- baking and pastry arts
- 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 one of the top culinary arts colleges in the country. Their College of Hospitality Studies offers 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 degree programs in:
- culinary arts
- pastry and baking arts
- culinary arts management
- restaurant management
- hospitality and hotel management
Uniquely, ICE also offers one of the country’s few programs in health-supportive culinary arts.
Each Institute of Culinary Education campus boasts state-of-the-art kitchens, plus education-enhancing features like:
- a bean-to-bar chocolate lab
- Mixology Center
- Culinary Technology Lab
- 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. They also offer 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. They have 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
- Hotel Management
Each degree program is built around an experiential curriculum. 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 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. It has even been named by Chef’s Pencil as one of the top culinary schools in the world. No matter what ambitions a student chef may have, the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts has a program for it.
The Auguste Escoffier School offers traditional degree programs in:
- culinary arts
- pastry arts
- hospitality and restaurants operations management
It’s no wonder they are considered among the top 10 culinary schools. They also offer degrees in 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 and a Bachelor of Science in Baking & Pastry Arts. They also offer a slew of other diploma programs to help you begin your career in the culinary world including:
- international beverage management
- culinary science
- hospitality management
Students can even pair their degree with a minor in an area like:
- food studies
- sommelier management
- culinary sustainability
Johnson and Wales University has long been known as a leader amongst colleges with culinary programs. Their programs prepare students for a successful career in the culinary field. 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 top culinary schools in the US 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
- General Foods Nutrition Center
- Colavita Center for Italian Food and Wine
- a student-run craft beer brewery known as The Egg
CIA New York offers culinary programs at all levels including:
- associate degree programs
- bachelor’s degrees
- online master’s degrees
Their culinary school programs include:
- Culinary Arts
- Baking and Pastry Arts
- Food Business
- Food Studies and Sustainability
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 school 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. If you are planning to pursue a culinary career, it is best to plan on 2-4 years of professional culinary training from an accredited culinary school.
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. That projection 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 school degree.
What is the difference between a culinary degree and a culinary certificate?
Culinary school certificates or diploma programs can be completed in 8-12 months. They are available in:
- culinary arts
- pastry arts
They are also available in other related subjects, though tend to cover just the basics.
On the other hand, culinary school degrees take anywhere from two years (associate’s degree) to four years (bachelor’s degree) to complete. Culinary schools 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 school 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. They can also take advantage of the many financial aid options offered by most culinary schools.
Culinary students may have additional expenses to consider. They may need to purchase a culinary tool kit with the items needed in their trade. These items may include:
- chef’s knife
- wire whisk
- meat thermometer
Students may also need to purchase a uniform.
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.
Are Their Any Specializations in the Culinary Field?
There are plenty of different concentration options for future culinary professionals. The best culinary schools offer a variety of options for their students so they can develop niche areas and focus on their passion. Some of the most popular specializations include:
- Baking and Pastry Arts
- Culinary Arts
- Culinary Arts Management
- International Culinary Arts
- Food and Beverage Management
- Restaurant Management
- Professional Cake Decorating
- Farm to Table
A specialization can help you stand out from the competition. It can also provide you with the advanced training top restaurants are looking for.
What is the college admissions process for a culinary degree?
Students planning to pursue a culinary degree will likely have the same admission process as any other college major. They will need to complete an application for admission and pay an application fee if required. The culinary institute will require proof of a high school diploma or equivalent.
You may be invited to an interview if the program is extremely competitive. You might also be asked to submit an essay. You will need to explain why you want to earn a culinary degree and share any relevant experience. While many students have culinary experience before applying to a culinary program, it’s usually ok if you don’t. The program will teach you what you need to know to be successful!