It's a good time to look into the best culinary schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for chefs and line cooks is expected to grow 10% by 2026. That's above average, according to the Bureau! Whether one aspires to cook at a local restaurant or become the next Gordon Ramsay, the choice of culinary school matters. That's why we went on the hunt for the 30 best culinary schools in the United States, then ranked them by affordability.
Top 30 Most Affordable Culinary Schools
University of Hawaii — Maui College
There aren't many culinary programs as flexible as that of Maui College. Students can choose to pursue a 20-credit Certificate of Competence in Culinary Arts or Pastry. The tuition for this is listed above. Or they can continue on in their education by pursuing a 31-credit Certificate of Achievement or even a full Associate's degree. Regardless of the educational path chosen, students are well prepared to work in the food industry. Perhaps best of all, students master necessary culinary skills in one of the best tourist destinations — and therefore, food destinations — in the world.
Culinary Institute of Savannah
Aspiring chefs considering Culinary Institute of Savannah have their choice of degree programs:
- Associate degree in Culinary Arts
- Associate degree in Culinary Baking and Pastry Arts
- Diplomas in Culinary Arts or Culinary Baking and Pastry Arts
- Technical certificates for food production workers or prep cooks.
Those pursuing a diploma or associate degree take a variety of classes, including some general education courses, that prepare them for a career in the real world. At the end of training, students are required to pass a practicum to finally earn their chosen degree.
Trenholm State Technical College
Trenholm State Technical College is home to one of the best value culinary schools in the United States. It's also home to the largest culinary arts programs in the state of Alabama. Over the course of six semesters, aspiring chefs studying at Trenholm are exposed to many skills workshops. Here they master food preparation, kitchen safety, nutrition, table service, cost control, and of course, cooking. During the last two semesters, students also gain valuable real-world experience by participating in an apprenticeship of their choice.
Pierpont Community and Technical College
West Virginia residents have the luxury of being close to Pierpont Community and Technical College, home to one of the 30 best culinary schools in America. Pierpont offers AAS degrees in:
- Culinary Arts
- Dietary [Management]
- Pastry & Baking Arts
- Resort & Hotel Management.
Regardless of major, students are prepared for a career in the food industry through classes on everything from food purchasing to preparation. There's also advisement on topics ranging from resumes to networking.
No matter what facet of the culinary industry interests you, you're likely to find a suitable degree program at St. Philip's College. Included are Associate of Applied Arts degrees in:
- Culinary Artslip>
- Baking and Pastry Artslip>
- Hospitality Management
Students may also choose to pursue certificates in:
- Baking Principles
- Cake Decorating
- Restaurant Supervision
- Artisan Breads & Specialty Desserts
- Catering Management.
When not mastering skills in class, St. Philip's students gain hands-on, real-world experience by working at Artemisia's, the popular on-campus restaurant.
Boston University Metropolitan College
Boston University Metropolitan College's culinary arts program was founded by Julia Child and Jacques PÃ©pin. PÃ©pin still serves on the advisory board. The program is designed to get students working in the industry as quickly as possible. Each class of the semester-long program is capped at 12 students. This ensures that each aspiring chef is provided with an intensive, quality, and personal education. In addition to mastered skills, students get resume assistance, networking skills, and their choice of a wide range of certifications.
College of Southern Nevada
Anyone who's been to Las Vegas knows that it is one of the premiere places in the country for food. Nearly every well-known chef in the world has a restaurant here. For those aspiring to make their culinary mark on Sin City, there's the College of Southern Nevada. This accredited program offers associate degrees and certificates in culinary arts and pastry arts. There's also the opportunity to continue to a bachelor's degree program at nearby University of Nevada — Las Vegas. No matter their program choice, students are given ample opportunity for hands-on training in everything from food safety to hospitality. Classes are in state-of-the-art kitchens. Classes are capped to ensure that each chef-in-training receives personalized attention from professional chef instructors.
Sullivan University has campuses throughout Kentucky. However, associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts are only available in Lexington and Louisville.
Sullivan University is a private institution of higher learning dedicated to providing educational enrichment opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of its students. The institution offers career-focused curricula with increasing rigor from the certificate through diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Throughout those curricula, the university seeks to promote the development of critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, computer literacy, and teamwork as well as an appreciation for life-long learning, cultural diversity and the expression of professionalism in all activities. At the graduate level, the university also seeks to promote a culture of research.
Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College
Traverse City, MI
The Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College offers both an Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts and various certificate programs. Regardless of program, students get hands-on training in state-of-the-art kitchens, as well as an internship opportunity for professional networking.
San Diego Culinary Institute
Students at San Diego Culinary Institute have the option of pursuing one of two programs:
- Commis de Cuisine (general culinary arts)
- Commis de Patisserie (pastry arts)
Because "commis" means "apprentice chef," students can be assured that much of their education at San Diego Culinary Institute is hands-on and focused on mastery. Throughout the eight-month program, aspiring chefs take part in small classes and learn from chef-instructors. All instructors have been executive chefs in fine dining establishments. They've worked in the industry a minimum of 25 years. Eighty percent of instruction takes place in the kitchen, with lecture classes limited to topics like safety and entrepreneurship. The program culminates in a 220-hour externship program during which students work in a real kitchen.
Kennedy-King College's The French Pastry School
One of the best and most affordable pastry programs in the United States is The French Pastry School at Kennedy-King College, a branch of City Colleges of Chicago. As the school's name implies, students here are generally immersed in the traditional French styles of baking. The public program consists of 24 intensive weeks. During time students focus on pastry and baking to earn a professional certificate. Students also have the option of adding a unique 10-week course on Artisanal Bread Baking.
Platt College's top-ranked culinary arts program prides itself on its innovative courses and state-of-the-art kitchens. Students pursuing an AAS degree in Culinary Arts learn necessary skills from working chefs. They are then are encouraged to use their creativity to begin forming their own unique culinary signatures. All classes are taught in commercial-style kitchens. Students even have the opportunity to participate in an externship to gain valuable real-world experience.
Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts
If obtaining a culinary degree interests you, consider Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts. With three convenient locations in Florida, Keiser offers an Associate of Science degree in Culinary Arts that's accredited by the American Culinary Federation. As such, this top-ranked program prepares aspiring chefs for careers working in various facets of the food industry. Students take a series of classes on such topics including:
- food safety
- stocks and sauces
- international cuisine
- meat cutting
Students also test their skills in the real world by participating in an internship at a local restaurant, hotel, or resort.
Arizona Culinary Institute
It takes just eight months to achieve a Diploma in Culinary Arts from Arizona Culinary Institute, one of the top-ranked culinary programs in America. More than 80% of the program is spent in the kitchen. Students work closely with chef instructors to master skills necessary to work in the industry. Part of the program even includes a paid internship. No wonder this top-ranked program celebrates a 90% job placement rate! Arizona Culinary Institute also offers a Certificate in Culinary Arts ($10,625) as well as a Certificate in Baking and Pastry ($10,046).
San Francisco Cooking School
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Cooking School offers students the unique opportunity to train at one of the best culinary institutions, in one of the best food cities in the country. This prestigious and highly selective cooking school has working relationships with some of the top culinary names in the industry. Its Board of Advisors which includes such impressive names as Stuart Brioza, Brandon Jew, and Lincoln Carson. Each class focuses on mastering skills and technique, and is limited to 14 students to ensure the most personal of experiences.
The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Washington
The for-profit Art Institute has campuses with culinary programs in nearly every major city in America. But since we're talking about the very best culinary schools, we're highlighting AI's Washington, D.C. campus. AI's accelerated program is specifically designed to prepare students for the real world. In addition to training in the kitchen, students get:
- career advisement
- resume assistance
- guidance with finding internships and full-time jobs.
Students can choose between a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management, or Associate of Science degrees in Baking and Pastry or Culinary Arts.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts
Colorado's Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is named after the legendary French chef credited with popularizing traditional French cooking methods. According to the school's website, the purpose of the program is to train students to "understand where their food comes from and to develop respect for local resources and sustainable practices." The 40-week program prepares aspiring chefs to work in restaurants, resorts, hotels, country clubs, and other food service environments. It includes a 10-week externship opportunity. In addition to the AOS degree listed above, students also have the option of pursuing a Culinary Arts Diploma ($27,675) or a Pastry Arts Diploma ($22,925).
International Culinary Center
The International Culinary Center is recognized as one of the best culinary schools in the world. Founded in 1984, ICC has campuses in the Soho neighborhood of New York City, and in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. Students may choose from seven fast-track programs, including a unique Intensive Sommelier Training program. Each focuses on various technique, hands-on training, and real-world experience. Notable ICC alumni include Dan Barber, Bobby Flay, Jacques PÃ©pin, and Jacques Torres.
Louisiana Culinary Institute
Touted as the "premiere culinary arts school in the South," Louisiana Culinary Institute is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — the heart of the South and Southern cuisine. Over the course of two semesters, students pursue either an AOS in Culinary Arts or an AOS in Restaurant Management. In both, required classes include food safety, necessary techniques and skills, and even specifics such as Bread Basics and Restaurant Service.
The Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College
New Rochelle, NY
The Culinary Institute of New York is associated with Monroe College. It provides a Bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management, or Associate degrees in Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts. Each program is designed to prepare students to work in the industry, whether as a front-of-house manager or a chef on the line. Each student's experience at the Institute culminates in an externship at an on-campus restaurant or pastry kiosk, or an off-campus establishment.
Delgado Community College
Delgado's two-year Associate of Applied Science degree program is consistently ranked as one of the best in the United States. Over the course of the program, students work with some of New Orlean's most notable chefs. They also undergo a unique apprenticeship program to ensure each student graduates fully prepared and qualified for mid-level positions in the industry. Uniquely, Delgado also offers certificate programs in Line Cook, Culinary Management, and Pastry Arts.
Institute of Culinary Education
Since its founding in 1975, the Institute of Culinary Education has consistently ranked amongst the best in the country. The eight-month, 650-hour culinary arts program is rooted in traditional French technique. Additional classes on cuisine range from other culinary hotspots such as Thailand, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain. Ninety-three percent of the Institute's alumni willing to recommend it to others interested in culinary arts. Prospective Institute of Culinary Education students can be sure they are receiving one of the best culinary educations in America.
Henry Ford Community College
Henry Ford offers a variety of study programs, but its culinary program is especially well known. Henry Ford is technically a community college. However, aspiring chefs can pursue a Certificate, Associate's degree, or Bachelor's degree in Culinary Arts, Baking & Pastry Arts, or Hotel/Restaurant Management. In each case, students take a series of classes organized to provide them with hands-on training and practice with real-world scenarios. Students even have various internship opportunities.
Culinary Institute Lenôtre
For culinary students interested in all facets of hospitality, there may be no better choice of culinary school than Culinary Institute LeNÃ´tre. This Houston-based culinary school provides students with experiences working in a gourmet restaurant, a wine lounge, an organic garden, and even an externship in France. Eighty-five percent of class time is spent in the kitchen. Classes are limited to 12 students per highly experienced chef. In addition to classes focusing on various culinary technique, aspiring chefs can choose to take electives in:
- pastry decor
- advanced artistic skills
- hospitality management
- a sommelier course.
Kendall College School of Culinary Arts
Aspiring cooks and pastry chefs get a full educational experience at Kendall. Besides the traditional culinary training, the year-and-a-half-long Associate's program includes some general coursework in subjects like:
- the humanities
- computer literacy
- other non-culinary, yet vital, career skills.
Culinary classes are held in 12 professional-grade commercial kitchens. Students have access to such unique features as an outdoor bread oven, a sustainable garden, a specialized chocolate/sugar kitchen, and a garde manger kitchen.
The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College
Most culinary programs are accelerated for quick mastery and quick graduation. The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College is a full two-year liberal arts program. This longer program, with annual tuition fees of just over $25,000, completely immerses students into the culinary world. It also ensures that each student graduates with the non-culinary skills required to succeed in the real world. Aspiring chefs can choose to major in Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, or Restaurant Management. Students master classic techniques, along with such skills such as kitchen management and menu development. In addition to hands-on coursework, students get real-life experience by working in one of four student-run restaurants on campus.
Drexel University Center for Hospitality and Sport Management
Drexel University offers a number of food-related degree programs, including a unique B.S. in Culinary Arts and Sciences/accelerated MBA combination degree. Regardless of the program chosen, culinary students at Drexel will receive one of the best culinary educations in the country. Courses are hands-on and designed for mastery. Students can even choose from a list of minors to ensure their education is tailored to their specific interests. Drexel-based aspiring chefs have the opportunity to study abroad. They can also gain real-world experience by working in the on-campus Academic Bistro or a number of other local restaurants.
Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts
Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts has trained such notable chefs as Emeril Lagasse and Sean Brock. It seeks to provide its students with "practical education in food production while developing professionalism and excellence in academic achievement." The two-year program consists of one year focused on skill. The next year is spent mastering more advanced techniques. Students also have the opportunity to spend a term abroad studying culinary arts in Ireland or Portugal.
New England Culinary Institute
The New England Culinary Institute has a 100% job placement rate for its graduates. That's just one of the reasons this prestigious institution is one of the most sought-after in the world. Aspiring chefs can choose from a variety of degree programs including Culinary Arts and Baking. Students can expect a ton of hands-on coursework, along with a major emphasis on career preparation and real-world training. The program also helps students with internships, choosing the right career path, professional development, and networking. Alton Brown is an alum of the Institute.
The Culinary Institute of America
This culinary school has trained such notable chefs as Anthony Bourdain, Richard Blais, Anne Burrell, Michael Chiarello, Rocco DiSpirito, Cat Cora, and about 49,000 others currently working in the industry. The Culinary Institute of America is one of the most famous culinary schools in the world. It describes itself as the "gold standard of culinary education." Students receive 21 months of training in the kitchen, including an externship. Don't let the high tuition costs deter you from training at one of America's best culinary schools — approximately 90% of students receive financial aid.
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We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.
||Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates
||Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid
||Admission and enrollment rates
||Number of program options
|Online Enrollment Score
||Portion of learners taking at least one online course
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Factors Considered When Ranking Culinary Schools
To come up with the very best culinary schools, we considered the following factors:
— Variety of Degree Programs: We considered the degree programs offered by each school. While some specialize in one or two culinary fields, others offer a certificate or degree in just about every facet of the hospitality industry.
— Program Length: The length of each program, compared to the types of degree programs offered, was also considered.
— Methods of Preparedness: We considered how each culinary schools prepares its students for success working in the culinary industry. Many of these schools offer networking opportunities, resume and career guidance, and internships and externships.
— Facilities: Where one learns matters, so we considered those culinary schools which provide its students with state-of-the-art kitchens, on-campus restaurants, and even some bonus features like campus gardens.
— Reputation: We considered the reputation of each culinary school within the industry, and even considered each school's list of notable alumni.
— Cost: Though cost did not go into the overall consideration about which culinary schools were best, we did use cost in our ranking. Despite the fact that not every institution offers the same degree programs, we ranked the culinary schools in order from most to least affordable.