How to Become a Chef Kentucky

If you live in Kentucky and are looking for a new career, consider working in the culinary industry. With southern cooking at the heart of its food industry, Kentucky is a fun place to live and work as a chef or cook. With just two years or less in a post-secondary program, you could be ready to begin an exciting and rewarding career in a restaurant or other food service setting in the state. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Kentucky

No state requirements exist for working as a cook or a chef in Kentucky. Each employer can set standards or minimum requirements for hiring workers, and most will look for a high school diploma or GED at the least. Without a secondary education in culinary arts, you will be expected to start at the bottom in a kitchen and train to work your way up to cook or chef.

Alternatively, you can choose to complete one of several culinary programs at community and technical colleges in Kentucky to start your career. The courses you take will provide a good background for jumping into kitchen and food service work and will mean you don’t have to start out washing dishes. Even with a degree, though, it is important to be aware that many kitchens will still require you to do some training on the job.

Culinary Arts Programs in Kentucky

The best culinary programs are accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC), and there are several such programs in Kentucky:

  • Sullivan University, Lexington and Louisville. Sullivan has two campus options, both with ACFEFAC accreditation, in the state’s two largest cities for great student access. You can choose from certificate, associate degree and bachelor degree programs. Certificates are available for professional cook or baker studies. Earn a two-year degree in baking and pastry arts, culinary arts or hotel and restaurant management. The four-year degree program is in hospitality management. Much of the coursework for the culinary programs is done in state-of-the-art kitchen labs.
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah. West Kentucky is also accredited and offers a long list of culinary programs, including certificates, diplomas and associate degrees. The degree programs include catering and personal chef, culinary arts and food and beverage management. Some of the shorter programs are the same but also include advanced culinary arts, advanced catering and baking, among others. The shorter programs are good for getting a taste of the culinary industry or for adding specialties to a basic culinary arts degree.

Certification and Licensing

While there are no state requirements that chefs or cooks be licensed or certified, it is strongly recommended that some type of certification is achieved. A national, respected certification credential can help you get a job and command a higher salary. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers 16 types of certification, from basic culinary fundamentals to pastry chef and executive chef. In order to get certified, you must pass an exam with practical and written components.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

Kentucky’s food scene is strong and growth is positive for most culinary careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth for chefs and head cooks from 2016 and 2026 is expected to be 9.6 percent. For the same period, growth in jobs for bakers, cooks and food service managers is projected at 11.7, 10.7 and 7.6 percent, respectively.

Chefs and head cooks in Kentucky right now are earning an average of $23.34 per hour or $48,550 per year, but the top 10 percent in the field are making an average of $69,840 per year. Restaurant cooks not in a leadership position can expect an average salary of $22,060 per year, while food service managers make $50,170 on average per year.

Working as a Chef in Kentucky

Kentucky’s largest metropolitan areas, Louisville and Lexington, are home to the most job opportunities for qualified culinary professionals. Each city has a thriving food scene and is a great place to start a restaurant career. Other job options for anyone with a culinary degree or certificate include working for catering companies, working at resorts, managing cafeterias in schools or health care facilities, and even becoming an entrepreneur, with a food truck or a personal chef business.

Popular Colleges

College Programs

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Bowling Green, KY Area

Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College

1845 Loop Dr, Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101-3601
(270) 901-1000
Food and Beverage Management – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Bowling Green, Kentucky. This public college has about 3,962 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be in the order of $3,936 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $13,296 yearly. Study materials can cost about $1,000, depending on the program chosen.

Elizabethtown, KY Area

Elizabethtown Community and Technical College

600 College Street Rd, Elizabethtown, Kentucky 42701-3081
(270) 769-2371
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Elizabethtown Community and Technical College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Elizabethtown. This public college has about 6,301 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is roughly about $3,936 and for students from other states around $13,296 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $1,000, depending on the program.

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH Area

Ashland Community and Technical College

1400 College Drive, Ashland, Kentucky 41101-3683
(606) 326-2000
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Ashland Community and Technical College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Ashland. Most of the school’s 2,728 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be in the order of $3,936 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $13,296 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,000, although this varies from program to program.

Lexington-Fayette, KY Area

Employment Solutions-College for Technical Education

1165 Centre Parkway Suite #120, Lexington, Kentucky 40517
(859) 272-5225
Food & Hospitality Professional – Certificate Program

Employment Solutions-College for Technical Education’s Certificate-level Food & Hospitality Professional program is offered at their campus in the city of Lexington, KY. Most of the school’s 150 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. The cost of tuition is in the order of $21,780 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $1,500, although this will vary with the program.

Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN Area

Jefferson Community and Technical College

109 E Broadway, Louisville, Kentucky 40202-2005
(502) 213-4000
Advanced Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Catering Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Jefferson Community and Technical College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Louisville in Jefferson County. The college has about 12,138 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is about $4,016 and for students from other states around $13,376 for each academic year, while books and supplies may cost roughly $1,000, although this varies from program to program.

Sullivan University

3101 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, Kentucky 40205-3013
(502) 456-6504
Baking & Pastry Arts – Associate Program, Professional Baker – Certificate Program

Sullivan University offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Louisville in Jefferson County. Of the 3,797 students, about 31% are postgraduates. The university is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Tuition fees are around $19,740 per year. Books and supplies can cost in the order of $1,800, although this will depend on the program.

South Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area Area

Somerset Community College

808 Monticello Street, Somerset, Kentucky 42501-2973
(877) 629-9722
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Somerset 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 town of Somerset. The college has round 6,386 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be about $3,936 and for students from other states likely to be about $13,296 annually, while study materials may cost around $1,000, depending on the program.

West Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area Area

Maysville Community and Technical College

1755 U.S. Hwy 68, Maysville, Kentucky 41056
(606) 759-7141
Advanced Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Maysville Community and Technical College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are based at their campus in Maysville in Mason County. Most of the school’s 3,158 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is roughly about $3,936 and for students from other states around $13,296 for each academic year. Study materials can cost roughly $1,000, depending on the program chosen.

West Kentucky nonmetropolitan area Area

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

4810 Alben Barkley Drive, Paducah, Kentucky 42002-7380
(270) 554-9200 x0
Baking – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts Track – Associate Program

West Kentucky Community and Technical College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in the town of Paducah. Most of the school’s 5,980 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Tuition fees for in-state students are generally around $3,936 and for out-of-state students approximately $13,296 annually. Study materials can cost around $1,000, depending on the program chosen.

* 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 Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia and Illinois.