A Look At The 10 Best Culinary Schools Every Aspiring Chef Should Apply To

Crackling fire, the rush of knives, the sweat and integrity of a chef. There is no question why people call food their passion. It is a combination of practiced skill, theory, and craft. Many have carved their names into culinary history and found refuge in the war zone of a restaurant. Your career in this field can begin in one of the best culinary schools in North America.

How did the greats first start their artistic callings? Some found their start in the kitchens, clawing their way to the top. Others started in culinary institutions that make the trade more accessible to new prospects. If you are wondering what your options are for a culinary education, we have put together a list of the best culinary schools in North America.

 

FAQ about Culinary Schools

1. Why Go to Culinary School?

2. What Can You Expect after Graduation?

3. What Skills Can You Learn?

4. Why Did You Not Include Acceptance Rates in this Review?

5. What Is the ACF?

How We Reviewed the Best Culinary Schools 

We reviewed these colleges based on what we saw as important factors for choosing the best culinary schools: programs, degrees/certificates offered, price, length of programs, and validation from the ACF. 

 

Overall Price Range of Schools

The average price for culinary school tuition is about $23,00 to $78,000. The cost of the best culinary schools is not cheap: with higher cost colleges offering a more rounded and advanced set of equipment to work with. Cost is an important factor to consider as chefs are not known for their high incomes.

 

Schools We Reviewed

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  • Institute of Culinary Education
  • San Diego Culinary Institute
  • Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts
  • Kendall College School of Culinary Arts
  • New England Culinary Institute
  • International Culinary Center
  • The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College
  • The Culinary Institute of America
  • The French Pastry School
  • Great Lakes Culinary Institute

Institute of Culinary Education


Program Overview

Created in 1975, the Institute of Culinary Education is hailed as one of the best culinary schools in America. Even though they have an emphasis on French cuisines, they also teach a variety of other Asian and Spanish culinary techniques to create a wide skill set. Students will undergo an eight-month program including 650 instructional hours, 440 externship hours, and 210 hours of real-world experience.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Culinary Arts
  • Hospitality Management
  • Restaurant and Culinary Management
  • Pastry and Baking Arts

Pros

  • Varied cuisines
  • Notable alumni and connections
  • Expansive and reputable teaching

Cons

  • Price
  • Intense program
  • Only in New York

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $40,100 for an eight-month course.

San Diego Culinary Institute


Program Overview

Designed to give students a combination of real world experience and in classroom theory and skill development, this program aims to get students industry ready. There are two diplomas you can earn here: one for cuisine, and the other for pastry. What is most notable is that their chef instructors are all required to have at least 25 years of experience in the field. This alone deserves to put San Diego Culinary Institute in the best culinary schools list.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Cuisine
  • Pastry

Pros

  • Small class sizes (maximum 16 students)
  • All chef-instructors used to be executive chefs (minimum 25 years of experience)
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training

Cons

  • Only two options for degrees (cuisine & pastry)
  • Cost does not include equipment
  • Not accredited by ACF

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $23,560 for an eight-month course.

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts


Program Overview

This school offers two, four year diplomas and an associates degree in two locations: a private school in Austin, Texas and another location in Boulder, Colorado. These courses not only ensure that you are industry ready, but offer unique courses such as "farm to table" to keep up with the latest culinary trends. The school also offers their chef training online.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts (two-year)
  • Culinary Arts (four-year)
  • Pastry Arts (four-year)

Pros

  • Accredited by ACF
  • Lifetime career placement assistance
  • Nationally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education

Cons

  • Online training not as extensive
  • Only two categories: cuisine or pastry

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $27,700 for 40 weeks (plus 10 week externship).

Kendall College School of Culinary Arts


Program Overview

In Chicago, Illinois, Kendall College is a private school offering several four-year and associate degree programs. What is great about this school is that they offer an Accelerated Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts for people who already have a Bachelors degree. This is a great help for anyone that did not realize their culinary calling before going to another college.


 Diplomas Offered

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

Pros

  • School has a public restaurant that students work in
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and ACF
  • Lots of program options

Cons

  • Not as widely recognized as other big name schools
  • Very Expensive
  • Requires general education, may not appeal to everyone

Tuition Cost

Tuition cost is roughly $48,250, but that does not include room, board, or other material fees.

New England C​ulinary Institute


Program Overview

In Montpelier, Vermont, this private school boasts a wide range of degrees and certificates that students can earn. They understand that some students may not just want to work in a kitchen, but rather run one. These programs prepare students for both sides of the workforce. This school also includes student clubs and organizations to provide students with the full college experience. To throw more icing on the cake, the classes never exceed a 10:1 teacher to student ratio.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts
  • Bachelor of Arts in Baking and Pastry
  • Bachelor of Arts in Food and Beverage Business Management
  • Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Occupational Studies in Baking and Pastry
  • Associate of Occupational Studies in Food and Beverage Business Management
  • Certificate in Professional Cooking
  • Certificate in Professional Baking and Pastry

Pros

  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Creates a more typical college atmosphere through clubs and activities
  • Huge list of degrees and certificates

Cons

  • Not accredited by the ACF
  • Expensive tuition, though it includes all food, uniform, and other culinary tool expenses
  • Required 700 hours of real experience in a working kitchen through externships

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $31,165 for an Associates degree.

International Culinary Center


Program Overview

The International Culinary Center has two school locations, one in New York City and the other in California. Founded in 1984 with an emphasis on classical French cuisine, they offer a wide range of classes including farm to table, pastry, sommelier, and a separate Italian studies. Interestingly enough, the Italian studies also include a language course mixed in with the cooking.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Professional Culinary Arts
  • Culinary with Farm to Table Emphasis
  • Professional Pastry Arts
  • Cake Techniques and Design
  • Art of International Bread Baking
  • Intensive Sommelier Training
  • Culinary Entrepreneurship
  • Bachelor of Business Administration

Pros

  • Notable alumni like David Chang and Bobby Flay
  • 91.5% graduation rate
  • Great location, in the middle of New York's Chinatown and Little Italy. 

Cons

  • High cost for a shorter than average program
  • Not accredited by the ACF

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $39,900 for six months, which includes 400 hours in the school kitchen and 200 hours in externships.

The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College


Program Overview

Founded in 1974, The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College offers both bachelor and associate degrees that are geared for fast-paced students. This school also offers an extended training program for those who maintain a full-time job outside their studies. The program has four different on-site restaurants that the students can work in, giving experience before jumping into the work force. We saw this college as one of best culinary schools for working adults.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts
  • Bachelor of Science in Pastry Arts
  • Bachelor of Science in Restaurant Management
  • Associate of Science in Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Science in Pastry Arts
  • Associate of Science in Restaurant Management

Pros

  • Nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career School and Colleges
  • Offers unique learning opportunities
  • Has great programs for management and hospitality

Cons

  • Not accredited by the ACF
  • Tuition includes a cruise to the bahamas, could be a pro depending on your preferences.
  • Very expensive

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $39,300 for 6 terms (Associate Degree) or about $78,600 for 12 terms (Bachelors Degree).

The Culinary Institute of America


Program Overview

Founded in 1946, the CIA is a non-profit school that is a renowned for their top-notch courses and education driven view. Perhaps one of the most notable alumni to have graduated from the CIA is chef Anthony Bourdain. Many in the field see the CIA as one of the best culinary schools.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Bachelor of Business Administration in Food Business Management
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Applied Food Studies
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Culinary Science
  • Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts, Advanced Career Experience Program
  • Associate of Occupational Studies in Baking and Pastry Arts

Pros

  • 90% of students receive financial aid
  • Not-for-profit (rare for culinary schools), emphasis on high quality education without the fluff
  • Career placement and advancement

Cons

  • Not accredited by the ACF
  • High price point
  • The average high school GPA for admitted freshman was 3.1 on a 4.0 scale

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $67,100 for an Associate Degree (including a 15 week externship).

The French Pastry School


Program Overview

The French Pastry School is a public, non-profit college that has a highly focused program on pastry. In Chicago, Illinois, these programs study pastry and baking, giving students a fast-track towards getting a career in the dessert world. No prior experience is needed as The French Pastry School works with all students from the ground up.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Professional Pastry and Baking
  • Professional Cake Decorating and Baking

Pros

  • Highly focused pastry program
  • Fast-track
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission 

Cons

  • Not well-rounded for all culinary endeavors
  • Only offers two certificate programs 
  • Not accredited by the ACF

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $23,700 for a certificate.

Great Lakes Culinary Institute


Program Overview

In Traverse City, Michigan, this culinary institute is also a not-for-profit public college that offers a wide selection of degrees and programs. Each program gives students hands on experience, theoretical studies, and classroom discussions.


 Diplomas Offered

  • Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts
  • Certificate in Culinary Arts

Pros

  • On-campus kitchen is open to the public
  • Career placement and advancement help
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and ACF

Cons

  • Difficult to find total cost to attend
  • Not a specified culinary college
  • No notable alumni

Tuition Cost

Tuition costs roughly $396.30 per contact hour.

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The Verdict


Among this list of the best culinary schools in North America, we concluded that the Culinary Institute of America is the best culinary school overall. This school has an extensive alumni networking system, notable graduates, and a steel reputation. The CIA offers six different degrees to choose from with state-of-the-art equipment and industry professionals to guide your education. They provide career placement and help with advancement: a gift that keeps giving long after you graduate. The steep tuition rate is all funneled into a better education, with the CIA being one of the few not-for-profit culinary institutions.

To top it all off, very few schools can boast about offering 90% of their students with financial aid. The best culinary schools come at a price, but a price we believe is worth it. We hope this list gave you a better understand of culinary institutions and what can suit you best in your career. See you on the line, chef.

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