by Poppicnic, Bangkok
search programs
10Ways

to Make a Living from Your Art

Quick Start Guide

The Best Culinary Arts Schools in the U.S. 2017

Culinary schools and colleges have one primary goal: to prepare you for a successful career as a chef or cook. The purpose of training and education for both the novice and the experienced cooking student is to develop a thorough knowledge of cooking techniques and procedures while nurturing one’s understanding of various ingredient combinations. Programs seek to provide insights into the culinary traditions of different cultures around the world while teaching formal concepts and theory of food. Students who complete a culinary arts degree will also learn the practical aspects of business management while honing their skills to be more efficient, and artistic in food preparation. Listed below are the top culinary schools in the U.S. with a proven track record of graduate success:

  • School Name

    14 schools ranked

  • ICE is recognized around the world as being one of the largest and exceptionally diverse culinary institutions. Individuals discover and develop their “culinary voice” through formal training and masterclasses, inspirational to professional development.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 626
  • The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Greystone is a not-for-profit, private college in California. As one of CIA’s international campuses, the school offers Associates, Bachelors, certificate, and business management programs.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,859
  • CIA’s Hyde Park campus is located on 170 acres; has 41 professionally equipped bakeshops and kitchens; science and sensory labs; demonstration theaters; meat/fish fabrication rooms and an 800 seat auditorium.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,859
  • ICC has campuses in New York and California; both offering a maximum amount of education in a minimal amount of time. Their award-winning Total Immersion curriculum has over 15,000 alumni form over 80 countries.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 470
  • Kendall hails as a division of Laureate International Universities, which consists of over 70 online and campus-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Located in 25 countries, students from more than 80 countries have enrolled.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 1,275
  • NECI has discovered that the recipe for student progress is their unique apprenticeship approach to education. Unparalleled personal attention in notably small classes, as well as extensive internships, prepare students for professional success.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 379
  • JWU’s College of Culinary Arts is offered in Rhode Island, Florida, Colorado & North Carolina. Programs combine the craft and art of cooking with science, nutrition, management skills and work experience.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 9,454
  • L'Academie de Cuisine offers substantive educational and professional training programs in the culinary and pastry arts. To prepare students for future employment opportunities; graduates are highly skilled, focused, industrious and well-trained.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 161
  • Taking the farm-to-table philosophy of Chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935); the school utilizes the methods, systems and principles which made its namesake an international culinary icon. Modernized instruction and small class size characterize the school.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 369
  • Sullivan offers an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts which is obtainable within 18 months. Their top-of-the-line kitchen labs, practicums and externships at Louisville and Lexington’s best restaurants ensure professional success in the industry.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 3,797
  • In 2000, Harold & Lili Meyberg, pursued their dream and opened a culinary school emphasizing technique versus recipes, small classes, exceptional kitchens and unprecedented experience requirements for instructors. The family-operated school flourishes today.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 104
  • WHC offers future chefs extensive hands-on experience, unique cross-training opportunities and 4 majors from which to choose. Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s thriving hospitality industry; networking possibilities abound.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 407
  • The Culinary Arts program uniquely addresses the disintegration of culture barriers and the subsequent evolving nature of culinary tastes. Students become proficient in international flavoring and the associated techniques used in preparation.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
  • Critically acclaimed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, CINY is an award-winning culinary institute. Near NY City and its 23,000 restaurants; students receive the very finest real-world and theoretical education.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 6,858

Key Traits of the Best Culinary Colleges

Choosing the best culinary school to help you meet your career goals is an important decision. The training and education you receive, the skills you master, and the connections you make will play an all-important role in the success you experience when you start working in the real world. To make an informed choice, it’s important that you do more than just read a college catalog or visit a school website. It’s imperative that you thoroughly research the programs you are considering, and look for the following key traits shared by top culinary programs.

A PROVEN TRACK RECORD OF GRADUATE SUCCESS

The best culinary schools consistently demonstrate high rates of graduation and employment. Students who receive their training and education from a top college can often be met by job offers and attractive salaries upon graduation, due to the reputation of the school and an extensive, successful alumni network. It’s also vital to measure a school’s success based on how well students learn and if they know how to use that knowledge post-graduation. Employers prefer graduates who can hit the road running, (or in this case, someone who is oven ready) rather than spending additional time training students who should have gained the knowledge in college. That’s one of the many reasons why it is so necessary to check out all of the colleges on your list prior to applying. And, just because a college is considered prestigious, like the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City or La Cuisine in Paris doesn’t necessary translate into career success. Applying yourself to your education is more important than the school you attend because not all schools are created equal, and most strive to offer all students the same opportunities. After all, to succeed in school and in the super-competitive culinary world, it’s essential to be on top of your game at all times, and also consistently raise the bar for yourself. Ask alumni and current graduates about their career success. Are there opportunities to experiment and grow in the culinary world while in school, and do you feel challenged? Do you feel your professors care about your success after you graduate, and are they willing to provide professional contacts?

REGIONAL ACCREDITATION

Culinary school programs face regular review by the Regional Accrediting Commissions for Higher Education to ensure that the programs provide high-quality curriculum and that students who graduate are experiencing successful employment outcomes. Accreditation by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC), which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, also assures that programs are meeting a minimum of competencies and standards set for curriculum, faculty, and student services. It also assures that programs are current and up-to-date on all practices. Regional accreditation is most often required for credits earned to be accepted by other institutions if you plan to further your education.

Because of accreditation, students, returning students, and their families can trust that the education they are receiving is worthwhile. However, a school’s accreditation does not automatically guarantee a student’s success; that’s up to each individual student. But, if the accrediting organization sees that many students at a particular school are not successful or can’t demonstrate a high level of knowledge, the accrediting body may step in and examine the effectiveness of the programs, and how the institution can improve.

Other accrediting agencies that are generally accepted by the food and restaurant industry include:

ACCOMPLISHED FACULTY

Top culinary schools are easy to recognize for their accomplished educators and diverse instructors that hail from a variety of cultural backgrounds. It is important to note the differences between schools who are endorsed by celebrity chefs, and institutions who actually have world-class faculty providing hands-on instruction in the kitchen. Master chefs and bakers should be leading your training, not just promoting the school. That said, not all great chefs make great teachers, and it is smart to ask current students what they like (and dislike) about their professors; if they are good teachers, and if they, the students, are learning new techniques and the latest cooking methods and approaches.

In addition, the reputation of the faculty is often one of the main reasons students choose one school over another. Your college professors are much more than just teachers. They are counselors, mentors, and advisors. They offer advice based on their professional experience and help you develop your strengths and identify opportunities in your chosen field. As a mentor, they can guide you into areas you didn’t know existed, or help you with career choices in the culinary industry. Take a good, hard look at the professors who teach at the schools on your list, and make sure their experiences, philosophies, and their style of educating and approach to the culinary industry, in general, are in line with your expectations. After all, you want to be sure that the professors you are with in class are committed to you as much as you’re committed to your education.

INTERNATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

For many culinary students, there is nothing better than hands-on experience cooking cuisine of another culture. Resumes from some of the most famous chefs contain work from around the world. Some culinary schools offer apprenticeships and internships aboard as part of the curriculum. Have you considered studying abroad? Are there cities and foods that inspire you? If so, you may want to take a look at the schools on your list and see if they offer study abroad opportunities, and if so, how you qualify, costs, locations, etc. Some school programs in the US partner with international schools for work-study reciprocity, so costs are kept down and travel to another country is made possible by enrollment in a culinary arts degree program.

CAREER ASSISTANCE & A STRONG ALUMNI NETWORK

The best culinary schools in the country have strong alumni networks. Most college students are aware of alumni associations, but few understand what they do. Membership in a college alumni association can help graduates enhance their social life and further their career. Alums increase the value of their education and many school’s reputations are measured by the strength of their alumni. Large active alumni increase a school’s prestige, which reflects on your resume. In addition, certain scholarships and grants are alumni-funded, and a robust network can often mean the difference between cooking utensils, ovens, and cooktops that are outdated and obsolete, and the very latest in appliances and equipment. An active alum association is also a real good indicator of how graduates feel toward their alma mater. And, while a strong alumni network is probably not the first concern when choosing a school, it is still helpful to consider when weighing your choices.

In addition to a strong network of alumni, career assistance should be another consideration when picking a culinary school. Besides the obvious – offering career assistance – campus career counselors have the educational background to focus on student development issues and help guide graduates in choosing a direction for their career. Staff members work very closely with employers who may someday hire you, and most career offices contain information regarding internships, specific companies related to the culinary field, and sometimes even salary information. The career office is a great place to meet other students with similar concerns. Plus, the more you take advantage of career counselor’s assistance, the better you will be known to staff and thought of when jobs become available. Besides, your tuition helps pay for career counselor’s salaries and resources in the offices so you ought to take advantage of their knowledge, contacts, and advice.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A CULINARY PROGRAM

At culinary school, students taste, touch, and feel ingredients used in entrees, pastries, meats, fish, vegetables, seasonings, etc. They may learn regional cuisines, ethnic and cultural cuisines, cooking styles, history, and ingredients in certain foods. In their freshman year, students might take a physiology of food course that teaches things like why certain colors of food have a psychological effect on people. They learn how a restaurant runs, how to prepare, budget for, and buy food, and how and why things happen in a kitchen. Students may learn why mayonnaise breaks and how to fix it, as well as how two ingredients react together. Students will cook for each other and their professors, and as they progress, they may even cook for the public, or perform externships. Of course, culinary schools differ in what is taught and how it is taught. Prospective students should research each school on their list to determine which curriculum best suits their goals and temperament.

Culinary programs also vary in length, focus, and class structure. However, no matter which program or school you choose, you can have a reasonable expectation you will graduate with a foundational knowledge of terms used in a kitchen, an understanding that one tiny change to a recipe can make a big different in the outcome, how to cut and prepare all kinds of food, as well as develop good hand-eye coordination and an exceptional sense of taste and smell. Most schools with bachelor’s degree programs will also have some liberal arts classes, such as writing and history, and business classes.

Although the benefits of attending culinary school far outweigh the negatives, you must understand up front that culinary school can be expensive. For example, the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco offers a culinary arts certificate for $19,200. The Culinary Institute of America and the New England Culinary Institute (among others) offer both two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelor’s degrees averaging between $53,000 and $100,000. The Stratford University culinary arts associate degree program costs about $33,000, or about $20,000 less than some of the big-name culinary schools. The International Culinary Center in New York City has a 600-hour classic culinary arts course that ranges between $38,500 and $48,750 to complete. Even though they are expensive, most professional chefs agree culinary arts programs are not unreasonable for the education you receive. So, you must ask yourself if you are willing to fork over the necessary tuition to get a first-rate education in the culinary arts?

But, one solution to the high cost of tuition is obtaining scholarships. In fact, about 90 percent of Culinary Institute of America students receive financial aid in the form of scholarships, loans, grants, or work-study. Some scholarships are need-based, while others are based on merit. It pays to check out if the schools offer scholarships, grants, or work-study options as part of their culinary program.

In addition to two-year and four-year programs at colleges, universities, and private institutes, there are also programs at the community level that are more accessible and affordable than going to college. That said, it is wise to check out these programs prior to signing up, because, in order to have a successful career as a chef, you must know a lot more than how to boil an egg. Some of these programs only teach the basics, and some employers are leery about hiring someone who doesn’t hold a degree or hasn’t at least graduated from a two-year program. And yes, you can learn on-the-job, but the high stress of a kitchen environment can be too much to handle for many first-time cooks, and learning in a safe classroom environment is preferred by many. Besides, many professional chefs who are hiring will check in at culinary schools to find employees before ever posting a job listing.

No doubt about it, apprenticeships, externships, and internships are some of the best ways to get into cooking. However, these opportunities are somewhat rare in the US. However, some restaurants and famous chefs have initiated programs to pay for apprenticeships for those students who show creative flair and technique. And, these programs are also sometimes available through university culinary programs. Again, although these opportunities are somewhat rare, it is worth it to ask around, ask at the campus career office, or visit a restaurant or two and find out if anybody in the area is willing to offer you a chance to “practice” while attending school.