How to Become a Chef Hawaii

The cuisine of Hawaii is truly unique and different from that of every other state. It’s a place where several cultures have come together to create a food scene that is special. If you hope to be a part of it as a chef or cook, attending culinary school in the state is a great place to start. With the right education and training, you’ll have options including working as a chef, as a baker, in restaurants and resorts or even as a food service manager. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Hawaii

Hawaii has no official requirements for working as a chef or a cook, but most restaurants and other facilities will only hire those employees with at least a high school diploma or GED. A degree or certificate from a post-secondary culinary school is a bonus that can help you get a job, while also providing a solid foundation in cooking and baking skills. Another option is to learn on the job and train in a kitchen as you work your way up from serving, washing dishes or working on the line as a cook.

Culinary Arts Programs in Hawaii

When looking for a culinary arts program in Hawaii, consider accreditation, class schedules and flexibility, class size, instructor experience and the hours spent working hands-on in a kitchen. Some great options for culinary programs in the state include:

  • Kapi’olani Community College, Honolulu. This culinary program in Honolulu is accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC). The school offers associate degree programs in culinary arts, pastry arts and food service management. The school also offers the option to complete fundamentals and safety classes and to then work as an apprentice. The program requires three years or 6,000 hours of on-the-job training, which has the benefit of being paid work.
  • Hawaii Community College, Hilo. Located on the Big Island, this program is also accredited by ACFEFAC. Students can earn an associate’s degree, certificate of achievement or certificate of completion in culinary arts. The numbers of credits included are 68, 51 and 22, respectively. In addition to culinary classes, students learn about hospitality management, cost control, baking and food service.
  • Culinary Institute of the Pacific, various locations. The Culinary Institute is headquartered in Honolulu but also has campuses in other locations throughout the state, including Maui and the Big Island. Programs include associate degrees, certificates and bachelor degrees in culinary arts, baking, dining room, institutional food service management, pastry arts and culinary management.

Certification and Licensing

Certification and licensing are not required by law to work in cooking and food service. However, it does help to have certification to prove that you have the skills, knowledge and education to work in the industry. Institutions like the American Culinary Federation (ACF) offer several different types of certification: culinary fundamentals, executive chef, working pastry chef and more. To qualify for certification, you have to pass a practical and written exam in each area you choose.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

Growth in the culinary industry in Hawaii is a little slower than in some other states, but with a thriving food scene there will always be job opportunities for experienced and dedicated chefs. Current growth for chefs and head cooks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 9.3 percent. For institutional and cafeteria cooks, growth is 14 percent, while for restaurant cooks it is 11 percent.

Salaries are among the highest for culinary professionals in Hawaii. Head cooks and chefs on average earn $33.89 per hour and $70,480 per year, while the top 10 percent of chefs make over $102,000 per year. Top restaurant cooks earn $55,320 on average, while bakers at the top of their game earn an average of $53,240 per year.

Working as a Chef in Hawaii

The culinary scene in Hawaii ranges from beachside food trucks to high-end urban restaurants and everything in between. Working as a chef or cook here is to be a part of an exciting melting pot of Asian, American and traditional Hawaiian cuisines. You can expect to find the most job opportunities in and around Honolulu, Kailua and Waipahu on the island of Oahu and Hilo on the Big Island. Throughout the state, resorts are also great places to look for work as a chef or cook.

Popular Colleges

College Programs

Hawaii / Maui / Kauai nonmetropolitan area Area

Hawaii Community College

1175 Manono Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720-5096
(808) 934-2500
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Hawaii Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the town of Hilo, Hawaii. Most of the school’s 3,087 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are in the order of $3,084 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $8,220 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $952, depending on the program.

Kauai Community College

3-1901 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, Hawaii 96766-9500
(808) 245-8225
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Kauai Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Lihue in Kauai County. This public college has approximately 1,401 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be about $3,132 and for students from other states likely to be about $8,268 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $952, although this will vary with the program.

University of Hawaii Maui College

310 W Kaahumanu Ave, Kahului, Hawaii 96732-1617
(808) 984-3500
Culinary Arts – Associate Program, Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

The University of Hawaii Maui College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are offered at their campus in the city of Kahului, HI. The majority of of the school’s 3,593 students are on 4-year programs. The University of Hawaii Maui College has institutional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are around $3,150 and for out-of-state students likely to be about $8,286 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $952, although this varies from program to program.

Honolulu, HI Area

Kapiolani Community College

4303 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96816-4421
(808) 734-9000
Pastry Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Kapiolani Community College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are based at their campus in the city of Honolulu. The college has in the region of 7,816 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be in the order of $3,084 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $8,220 yearly, while study materials may cost about $952, depending on the program.

Leeward Community College

96-045 Ala Ike, Pearl City, Hawaii 96782-3366
(808) 455-0011
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Leeward Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Pearl City in Honolulu County, HI. The majority of of the school’s 7,535 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is around $3,084 and for out-of-state students around $8,220 for each academic year. Study materials can cost roughly $952, depending on the program chosen.

Travel Institute of the Pacific

1314 S King St Ste 1164, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
(808) 591-2708
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

Travel Institute of the Pacific offers various Certificate program options for chefs. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Honolulu, HI. The college has in the order of 71 students in total, with the majority of students on programs that last under 2 years. The college is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. The cost of tuition is in the order of $14,737 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $4,908, although this will vary with the program.

* Tuition fees and accredition status are correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm with college before applying.