The 9 Best Culinary Schools in the US

What Are Culinary Schools?

Culinary schools are educational institutions that offer specialized training and education in the culinary arts. These schools provide aspiring chefs and culinary professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue careers in the food and hospitality industry. Culinary schools offer a range of programs, including diploma and certificate programs, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees in culinary arts, pastry and baking, hospitality management, and other related fields.

Culinary schools typically provide a comprehensive curriculum that covers a wide range of topics, including culinary techniques, food preparation and presentation, nutrition, food safety and sanitation, menu planning, kitchen management, and culinary business operations. Students gain hands-on experience through practical training in well-equipped kitchen facilities, where they learn various cooking techniques, work with different ingredients, and develop their culinary creativity and artistic flair.

In addition to practical training, culinary schools often incorporate theoretical and academic components into their programs. Students learn about food science, culinary history and culture, menu development, and the principles of culinary management. They also have opportunities to engage with industry professionals through guest lectures, culinary competitions, and internships, which provide valuable networking opportunities and real-world experience.

Attending culinary school offers several benefits. Firstly, it provides a structured learning environment specifically tailored to the culinary arts, allowing students to gain specialized knowledge and skills that are essential for success in the industry. Culinary schools also provide access to experienced faculty members who are often seasoned chefs or industry professionals, offering valuable guidance and mentorship.

Furthermore, culinary schools often have strong industry connections and partnerships, which can lead to internship and job placement opportunities. Many schools have collaborations with restaurants, hotels, catering companies, and other food establishments, providing students with hands-on experience and exposure to the professional culinary world.

While culinary schools can be found worldwide, some renowned culinary destinations, such as Paris, New York, and culinary regions like Tuscany, have a long-standing reputation for excellence in culinary education. These locations often attract students from around the globe who seek to immerse themselves in the culinary traditions and techniques of those regions.

In conclusion, culinary schools play a crucial role in providing aspiring chefs and culinary professionals with the necessary skills, knowledge, and opportunities to excel in the culinary arts. Whether one dreams of becoming a chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant, opening a bakery, or pursuing a career in food media, attending a culinary school can provide a solid foundation for success in the dynamic and exciting world of culinary arts.

What Degree Do You Get at a Culinary School?

At a culinary school, students have the opportunity to earn various degrees and certifications that are specifically tailored to the culinary arts and the foodservice industry. The specific degree options may vary depending on the culinary school and the programs they offer. Here are some common degrees and certifications that students can pursue at culinary schools:

1. Certificate/Diploma Programs:

These programs provide a focused and intensive curriculum designed to develop fundamental culinary skills and knowledge. They are typically shorter in duration, ranging from a few months to a year. Certificate or diploma programs offer a practical education in culinary techniques, food preparation, kitchen operations, and culinary management.

2. Associate Degree in Culinary Arts:

An associate degree program in culinary arts is a two-year program that provides a more comprehensive education in culinary skills and culinary management. In addition to practical training, students also study culinary theory, nutrition, menu planning, and food safety. This degree is often chosen by individuals seeking entry-level positions in the culinary industry or those planning to pursue further education.

3. Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts or Culinary Management:

A bachelor's degree program in culinary arts or culinary management is a four-year program that offers a more in-depth study of culinary arts, culinary techniques, food science, and business management. Students gain a well-rounded education that prepares them for leadership roles in the culinary industry, such as executive chefs, foodservice managers, or entrepreneurs.

4. Pastry and Baking Programs:

Many culinary schools offer specialized programs in pastry and baking. These programs focus specifically on the art and science of baking, including techniques for bread, pastries, desserts, and confections. Students learn about ingredients, baking methods, and pastry presentation, and may earn certificates, diplomas, or associate degrees in pastry and baking.

5. Specialized Certifications:

Culinary schools often provide opportunities for students to earn specialized certifications in specific areas of culinary arts. These certifications can enhance their skillset and marketability in the industry. Examples of specialized certifications include certifications in wine and beverage, food safety and sanitation, cake decorating, cheese making, and more.

It's important to note that while culinary schools offer degrees and certifications, they may not always be equivalent to traditional academic degrees offered by colleges and universities. Culinary education often emphasizes hands-on training and practical experience alongside theoretical knowledge.

Ultimately, the type of degree or certification you can earn at a culinary school depends on the programs and offerings of the specific institution. It's advisable to research and carefully consider the curriculum, reputation, and accreditation of the culinary school to ensure that it aligns with your career goals and aspirations in the culinary industry.

Do You Need to Go to Culinary School to Be a Chef?

No, you do not necessarily need to attend culinary school to become a chef. While culinary school can provide a solid foundation of knowledge and practical skills, there are alternative paths to becoming a chef. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to attend culinary school:

1. Formal Education:

Culinary school provides a structured and comprehensive education in culinary arts. It covers a wide range of topics, including cooking techniques, food preparation, menu planning, nutrition, and kitchen management. If you are seeking a structured learning environment and want to gain a well-rounded culinary education, culinary school can be a beneficial option.

2. Hands-on Experience:

Culinary school often provides ample opportunities for hands-on training and practical experience in professional kitchens. This hands-on experience can be invaluable in developing your culinary skills and building your confidence as a chef. However, it's important to note that real-world experience in commercial kitchens can also be gained through apprenticeships, internships, or working your way up from entry-level positions in the industry.

3. Networking and Connections:

Culinary schools often have connections with renowned chefs, industry professionals, and establishments. These networking opportunities can open doors to internships, job placements, and mentorship, which can greatly enhance your career prospects. However, it's worth noting that networking and making connections can also be achieved through industry events, culinary competitions, and working in various culinary establishments.

4. Entrepreneurship and Business Skills:

Culinary school programs often include courses on culinary business management, food cost control, menu development, and restaurant operations. These skills can be valuable if you have aspirations of starting your own restaurant or food business. However, if your goal is to work as a chef in an established establishment, gaining experience in the industry and developing your culinary skills may be sufficient.

5. Industry Expectations:

It's essential to understand the specific requirements and expectations of the culinary industry in the region where you plan to work. While some establishments may prioritize formal culinary education and prefer graduates from reputable culinary schools, others may prioritize relevant experience, skills, and a strong portfolio of work. Researching the job market and talking to professionals in the industry can help you gauge the expectations and requirements in your desired culinary career path.

In summary, attending culinary school is not a strict requirement to become a chef. It is possible to enter the culinary industry through alternative paths such as apprenticeships, on-the-job training, or self-study. The decision to attend culinary school should be based on your personal goals, learning style, financial considerations, and the specific requirements of the culinary industry in your desired career path.

9 Top Culinary Schools

Culinary schools provide aspiring chefs and culinary professionals with the opportunity to gain formal education and training in the culinary arts. Here are nine top culinary schools known for their excellent programs and industry reputation:

1. Culinary Institute of America (CIA):

The Culinary Institute of America, with campuses in New York, California, and Texas, is one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the world. It offers a variety of programs, including culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and culinary science, and provides students with hands-on training, industry connections, and a strong culinary foundation.

2. Le Cordon Bleu:

Le Cordon Bleu is a renowned international network of culinary schools with campuses in various countries, including the United States. The program emphasizes classical culinary techniques and offers a range of programs, from basic culinary training to advanced degrees in hospitality management.

3. Johnson & Wales University:

Johnson & Wales University, with campuses in Rhode Island, Florida, Colorado, and North Carolina, offers a comprehensive culinary arts program. Known for its hands-on approach and industry-focused curriculum, the university provides students with practical training, internships, and opportunities to work in their on-campus restaurants.

4. Institute of Culinary Education (ICE):

Located in New York City, the Institute of Culinary Education is well-regarded for its professional culinary arts and pastry and baking programs. ICE offers flexible schedules, experienced instructors, and access to industry events and career opportunities in one of the culinary capitals of the world.

5. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts:

With campuses in Colorado, Texas, and online, the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts prepares students for careers in the culinary industry. The school offers hands-on training, experienced chef instructors, and a curriculum that blends classical techniques with modern culinary trends.

6. The International Culinary Center (ICC):

Formerly known as the French Culinary Institute, the International Culinary Center has campuses in New York and California. It offers programs in culinary arts, pastry arts, and bread baking, providing students with intensive training and a strong foundation in the culinary field.

7. Kendall College School of Culinary Arts:

Located in Chicago, Kendall College offers a variety of culinary arts programs, including professional cookery and baking and pastry arts. Students at Kendall College benefit from hands-on experience, industry internships, and access to the vibrant culinary scene of Chicago.

8. New England Culinary Institute (NECI):

Based in Montpelier, Vermont, NECI is known for its immersive culinary arts programs. The institute focuses on small class sizes, personalized instruction, and real-world experiences to prepare students for careers in the culinary industry.

9. The Art Institutes:

With campuses throughout the United States, The Art Institutes offer culinary arts programs that combine creativity and technical skills. The programs cover various aspects of the culinary industry, including culinary techniques, food and beverage management, and culinary entrepreneurship.


In conclusion, culinary schools provide aspiring chefs and culinary professionals with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to succeed in the culinary industry. These schools offer a range of programs, degrees, and specializations, allowing students to choose a path that aligns with their career goals. Attending a culinary school can provide a structured and immersive learning environment, access to experienced faculty and industry professionals, and hands-on training in culinary techniques and practices. While not mandatory, culinary school can significantly enhance one's culinary expertise, industry connections, and job prospects. However, it's important to carefully consider personal goals, financial implications, and alternative pathways before committing to culinary school.