How to Become a Chef Iowa

To become a chef in Iowa, it takes experience in the kitchen, culinary arts school and culinary arts certifications. With little experience, anyone can begin gaining culinary experience as a cook and work their way up to becoming a restaurant manager or personal chef as they gain more qualifications. The fast-paced food industry requires teamwork skills and passion for food, and offers rewarding career options to those talented individuals who work hard. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Iowa

There are no specific requirements for Iowa culinary artists to obtain work in the field. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED can seek work as a cook to begin their career. Many employers do require ServSafe certification—food safety training that is offered through the Iowa Restaurant Association and many culinary arts education programs.

Culinary Arts Training and Educational Programs in Iowa

Formal culinary education is necessary for those in the culinary arts field who want to advance in their careers. Degrees and certificates can be obtained at quality culinary arts schools located across Iowa, including:

  • Iowa Culinary Institute at Des Moines Area Community College. This school’s Ankeny campus offers an associate’s degree and diploma in culinary arts, and the Newton Campus offers a culinary arts diploma as well. As a reward for their hard work, the top eight graduates each year are awarded a trip to France for restaurant touring, wine tasting and the opportunity to work as apprentices under French chefs.
  • Kirkwood Community College. Located in Cedar Rapids, this school has one of the top-rated culinary arts programs in Iowa. There are Food Service Assistant Diploma and Associate Degree in Culinary Arts options available at Kirkwood, which is accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Kirkwood has also been rated as “exemplary” by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC).

Certification for Becoming a Chef in Iowa

Iowa does not require certification for those who want to work in the culinary arts. However, the job field is competitive, so national certification through the American Culinary Federation (ACF) is highly valuable. ACF was started in 1929 and has over 17,500 members across the nation today. An extension of ACF is the American Academy of Chefs (AAC), which recognizes those in the field who adhere to the highest standards.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations for Chefs and Culinary Artists in Iowa

In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that food service managers in Iowa were paid higher than any other profession in the culinary arts field. Iowa food service managers earned an average of $20.81 per hour, while chefs and head cooks were paid a mean wage of $18.49 per hour. Restaurant cooks, the most employed culinary artists in Iowa, earned a mean income of $11.37 per hour.

Iowa’s restaurant cook employment rate is expected to grow by 11.7 percent in the next decade.

Working as a Chef in Iowa

In 2017, the city of Des Moines had the highest level of employment for restaurant cooks in Iowa, followed by the Southeast Iowa Metropolitan Area. The Des Moines and Sioux City areas were where the highest paid restaurant cooks were found.

With projected increases in culinary arts employment rates by 2026, now is a good time for those interested in careers as cooks or chefs to get started with job experience and training.

Popular Colleges

College Programs

Cedar Rapids, IA Area

Kirkwood Community College

6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52406-2068
(319) 398-5411
Baking and Pastry Arts – Certificate Program

Kirkwood Community College offers various Certificate program options for chefs. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Cedar Rapids, IA. The majority of of the school’s 14,368 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Tuition fees for in-state students are around $4,362 and for out-of-state students approximately $5,202 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $2,500, although this will depend on the program.

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Area

Eastern Iowa Community College District

306 W River Dr, Davenport, Iowa 52801-1221
(563) 336-3300
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Eastern Iowa Community College District offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are offered at their campus in the city of Davenport, Iowa. The majority of of the school’s 8,383 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Fees for tuition for in-state students are around $4,570 and for out-of-state students likely to be about $6,912 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,600, although this will depend on the program.

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA Area

Des Moines Area Community College

2006 Ankeny Blvd, Ankeny, Iowa 50023-3993
(515) 964-6241
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Des Moines Area Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Ankeny in Polk County. Most of the school’s 22,298 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually in the order of $4,410 and for students from outside the state in the order of $8,820 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,526, depending on the program chosen.

Northwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area Area

Iowa Central Community College

One Triton Circle, Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501
(515) 576-7201
Baking and Pastry Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management – Associate Program

Iowa Central Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the town of Fort Dodge. This public college has in the region of 5,634 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The cost of tuition for in-state students is about $5,580 and for students from other states in the order of $7,815 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,200, depending on the program chosen.

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA Area

Iowa Western Community College

2700 College Rd, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503-1057
(712) 325-3200
Baking and Pastry Art – Certificate Program, Food Service – Associate Program

Iowa Western Community College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are taught at their campus in the city of Council Bluffs, IA. The majority of of the school’s 6,472 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Tuition fees for in-state students are generally around $5,472 and for out-of-state students approximately $5,632 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,253, although this will depend on the program.

Sioux City, IA-NE-SD Area

Western Iowa Tech Community College

4647 Stone Ave, Sioux City, Iowa 51102-5199
(712) 274-6400
Hospitality Operation Concepts – Certificate Program

Western Iowa Tech Community College offers various Certificate program options for chefs. All programs are imparted at their campus in the city of Sioux City, IA. This public college has about 6,152 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually about $4,200 and for students from other states in the order of $4,224 per year, while study materials may cost in the order of $1,224, depending on the program.

Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area Area

Indian Hills Community College

525 Grandview Ave, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501
(641) 683-5111
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Hotel & Restaurant Management – Associate Program

Indian Hills Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are taught at their campus in the town of Ottumwa, Iowa. Most of the school’s 4,773 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Tuition fees for in-state students are around $3,960 and for out-of-state students approximately $5,760 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,248, although this will depend on 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.

Neighbor States

See options in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.