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Culinary Schools to Kick-Start Your Cooking Career

5 minute read

By Imogen Sharma

Hospitality is one of the most rewarding, vibrant, and fun industries to work in. You spend your days immersed in creativity and teamwork in a challenging, hands-on environment. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a top chef, you’re probably thinking about attending culinary college.

This list covers the top culinary schools in the United States where you can hone your craft and meet like-minded budding chefs.

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1. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

Course Duration: 60 weeks

Cost of Tuition: Between $17,258 and $35,685, depending on the program and campus1

When it comes to legendary chefs, there are few bigger names in the entire world than Auguste Escoffier. Not only did he invent the “brigade system,” which is still used today, but he also invented the concept of à-la-carte dining and developed more than 5,000 recipes.

Despite its fame for being one of the best schools in the world, Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts offers small class sizes, and learning is personal. The majority of classes are experimental and hands-on, but they also offer online programs as well if you aren’t able to relocate to the Austin or Boulder campus.

2. Culinary Institute of America

Course Duration: Varies

Cost of Tuition: $16,925 per semester, not including room and board2

Set against the backdrop of New York’s Hyde Park, The Culinary Institute of America boasts the highest number of Certified Master Chefs compared to any other culinary school. Students benefit from more than 1,300 hours of bakeshop or in-kitchen learning, which is exceptionally high.3

Associate and bachelor’s degrees are available, and you can choose between a culinary arts course and a baking and pastry arts program, depending on your ambitions.

3. Institute of Culinary Education

Course Duration: 8 to 12 months

Cost of Tuition: $36,120-$40,730 plus fees, depending on the campus4

The Institute of Culinary Education is one of the biggest culinary schools in North America, with campuses in both New York and Los Angeles. Classes are aimed at budding chefs and chef managers with entrepreneurial aspirations. Course options include hospitality management, culinary management, culinary arts and pastry and baking.

As a student at ICE, you can expect to learn about cutting-edge trends and techniques. With awesome resources, such as a hydroponic garden and a bean-to-bar chocolate lab, you can let your culinary creativity shine.5

4. Kendall College School of Culinary Arts

Course Duration: 1 year

Cost of Tuition: $35,9146

One of the most attractive elements of studying at Kendall College School of Culinary Arts is the accelerated associate degree program. Opt for the associate program to get qualified and start working within a year or choose the four-year bachelor’s degree program for a complete education.

You can choose between degrees in the culinary arts or baking and pastry. In lessons, you learn to use industrial-grade equipment to prepare you for work in a real-life restaurant.

5. Culinary Institute LeNotre

Course Duration: 100 weeks

Cost of Tuition: Approximately $11,9887

If you’re from the South and have designs on a career in the kitchen, Houston’s Culinary Institute LeNotre could be the perfect college for you. Alain LeNôtre, who trained at Paris’ three Michelin-star Grand Véfour and comes from a long line of chefs, owns the school. His motto is, “tradition, quality and respect.”

You can follow in his footsteps by attending his small, private culinary school. Associates degrees are available in hospitality and restaurant management, baking and pastry arts, and culinary arts.

6. Le Cordon Bleu

Course Duration: 12 months, 15 months, or 3 years

Cost of Tuition: Varies significantly depending on the campus8

Cordon Bleu is renowned as the “guardian of French culinary technique.” It boasts a faculty of Master Chefs and lauded industry professionals with distinctive teaching styles and approaches to hands-on learning.

If you see yourself preparing exquisite dishes in a fine dining setting, this culinary school has locations all over the world that provide all the training a future chef could need. Course options at the school include pâtisserie and baking, hospitality and restaurant management, and culinary arts.

7. Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Science

Course Duration: 2 years

Cost of Tuition: $32,012 per year9

Back in New York, you can attend Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Science to kick-start your culinary career. High-end establishments from around the world seek to hire alumni from this highly respected culinary college due to its blended offering of experiential learning and academics. It has six commercial-style food labs and a separate lab for pastry for hands-on learning, which is complemented by real-world work experience.

8. Monroe College

Course Duration: 2 years

Cost of Tuition: $7,164 per semester10

New York is a hotspot for culinary colleges due to the state’s bustling hospitality industry. Monroe College takes a blended approach to teaching culinary arts and hospitality management. As a student, you’ll learn about food education theory, then apply what you learn through hands-on experience in a kitchen environment.11

Degree courses in hospitality management, baking and pastry, and culinary arts are available. Monroe College is affordable compared to other New York culinary schools.

9. Johnson and Wales Culinary College

Course Duration: 2 years

Cost of Tuition: Average of $37,896 per year12

If you’re attracted to the idea of learning at a college on the leading edge of cuisine, Johnson and Wales Culinary College in Miami is an excellent choice. You can choose between culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, or nutrition. Every course weaves management, nutrition, science, and work experience throughout, so you get a complete practical and theoretical education to prepare you for the world of hospitality.

10. Henry Ford College

Course Duration: 8 months to 2 years

Cost of Tuition: $13,099 to $32,100, depending on the program and whether you’re applying from within the state13

At Henry Ford College, you have the option of studying for an associate’s degree in hospitality studies or culinary arts or a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts. Henry Ford has six leading-edge kitchen laboratories, a video production studio, and a computer lab for a complete modern learning experience.

You must pass rigorous internships and demonstrate your aptitude to mentors in the demo kitchens to graduate. Alumni possess the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in the real world of hospitality.

Desirable Personality Traits for Chefs

If you’re thinking about going to culinary school, it’s important to consider whether you’re a good fit for this career. This profession can be physically and emotionally demanding, with long hours and a tough work environment. It’s these factors that light a fire under top chefs, propelling those who thrive on a challenge forward.

Common characteristics of high-earning chefs include:

What To Look for When Choosing a Culinary School

Choosing the right culinary school can make all the difference in your journey to becoming a top chef. It’s important that you research each culinary school carefully to learn about each program and how well-suited it is for you.

Everyone is different, but there are some common criteria to assess while deciding whether a culinary college is for you:

Imogen Sharma


Imogen Sharma is a culture, science, tech and business expert with a passion for learning. She aims to help people improve their lives in some way, whether it's starting a business, learning new skills or getting more out of their free time. Imogen loves classic literature and going to restaurants or the theater.