How to Become a Chef New Mexico

New Mexico has a unique, southwest cuisine, which along with the nice climate and beautiful natural areas makes this a great place to live and work in the culinary industry. If you are looking for a new career or are just starting out in the working world, being a cook, chef, pastry chef, baker, restaurant manager or even a personal chef is rewarding and fun. If you have a passion for food, consider training in the culinary arts in New Mexico. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in New Mexico

New Mexico’s state government does not have any requirements for people working as chefs and cooks. There are no licensing or certification and no training or education requirements. Employers are free to determine what credentials or experience their new hires must have, which at a minimum is typically a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Some restaurants will hire individuals with no culinary experience or training. If you take this route for your career, expect to start at the bottom, even washing dishes, and to work your way up to cook and chef with training on the job. Alternatively, you can start out by completing a culinary program at a post-secondary institution, which can help you land a job and start a little higher up the kitchen ladder.

Culinary Arts Programs in New Mexico

New Mexico is home to several culinary programs, some of which are accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC). While accreditation is important, there are other programs that can still provide a great foundation for a culinary career.

  • New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. Located in New Mexico’s second largest city, this program offers an associate’s degree in culinary arts. The two-year program is not ACFEFAC-accredited, but it does meet the requirements for national certification through the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Students will take a range of courses on subjects like pastries and cakes, math for kitchen operations, food production management, and fundamental and advanced culinary arts
  • Central New Mexico Community College, Albuquerque. This centrally-located school offers several ACFEFAC-accredited culinary programs. These include associate degrees in baking and pastry, beverage management and culinary arts. Certificate programs include baking, culinary fundamentals and food service management. Students learn in both a classroom and a hands-on kitchen setting.
  • Navajo Technical University, Crownpoint. Also accredited by the ACFEFAC, this Navajo tribal school offers an associate’s degree in baking and pastry or culinary arts or a certificate in professional cooking or professional baking and pastry. The two-year programs include 63 credits of hands-on and classroom work, while the certificate programs are just 44 credits.

Certification and Licensing

You do not need to have a license or a certificate in order to work as a chef or a cook in New Mexico. However, the ACF does offer nationally-recognized certifications in 16 areas that can help you be more employable and earn a higher salary. To become certified in one of the areas offered, you will need to have some experience or education so you can pass the written and practical exam.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chefs and head cooks in New Mexico earned an average of $20.92 per hour and $43,510 per year in 2017. Those in the top 10 percent of the career were making $71,140, so there is a lot of room for growth. Restaurant cooks not in leadership positions earned an annual average of $23,430, which illustrates how you can work your way up to a better job with a higher income in this industry.

The growth in the culinary industry in New Mexico is largely positive but a little slower than in other states. For head cooks and chefs, growth is currently 7.9 percent. Growth for bakers is 9.9 percent, and growth for restaurant cooks and food service managers is 11.2 and 8.5 percent, respectively.

Working as a Chef in New Mexico

New Mexico’s largest cities are where you will find the best opportunities for getting into the culinary workforce. Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe are the biggest population centers and have plenty of restaurants and vibrant culinary scenes. Most graduates of culinary programs will work in restaurants, resorts, hotels and cafeterias, but you may also consider working for hospitals or schools or striking out on your own with a catering, food truck or personal chef business.

Popular Colleges

College Programs

Albuquerque, NM Area

Central New Mexico Community College

525 Buena Vista SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106
(505) 224-3000
Baking – Certificate Program

Central New Mexico Community College offers various Certificate program options for chefs. All programs are imparted at their campus in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This public college has about 25,760 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. Tuition fees for in-state students are generally around $1,472 and for out-of-state students approximately $6,848 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,368, although this will depend on the program.

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

9169 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87120-3101
(505) 346-2347
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

The Culinary Arts Certificate program in Culinary Arts at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute can be taken at their campus in Albuquerque in Bernalillo County. The college has in the order of 402 students in total, with most students 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 are likely to be in the order of $1,095 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $825, although this varies from program to program.

Eastern New Mexico nonmetropolitan area Area

Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus

ENMU Station 2, 1500 S Ave K, Portales, New Mexico 88130
(575) 562-1011
Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Eastern New Mexico University’s Associate program is based at their Main campus in the town of Portales, New Mexico. This is a full, 4-year public college with 5,725 students, of which 80% are undergraduates. The university 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 in the order of $5,618 and for students from outside the state in the order of $11,393 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $950, although this will vary with the program.

Las Cruces, NM Area

New Mexico State University-Dona Ana

2800 N. Sonoma Ranch Blvd., Las Cruces, New Mexico 88011
(575) 528-7000
Culinary Arts – Associate Program

The Associate’s degree program in Culinary Arts at New Mexico State University is taught at their Dona Ana campus in Las Cruces in Dona Ana County, NM. The majority of of the school’s 8,252 students are on 2-year programs. The university is institutionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Fees for tuition for in-district students are likely to be about $1,632 and are $1,968 and $5,184 for in-state and out-of-state students respectively. Learning materials may cost about $1,298, although this will vary with the program.

North and West Central New Mexico nonmetropolitan area Area

Luna Community College

336 Luna Drive, Las Vegas, New Mexico 87701
(505) 454-2500
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Culinary Arts at Luna Community College is offered at their campus in Las Vegas in San Miguel County. This public college has in the order of 1,481 students in total, with most 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-district students is roughly in the order of $962 and are $1,298 and $2,426 for in-state and out-of-state students respectively, while study materials may cost roughly $1,250, depending on the program.

Navajo Technical University

Lower Point Road, State Road 371, Crownpoint, New Mexico 87313-0849
(505) 786-4100
Professional Baking – Associate Program, Professional Baking – Certificate Program

Navajo Technical University offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Crownpoint in Mckinley County. Of the 1,686 students, about 0% are postgraduates. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The cost of tuition is likely to be in the order of $4,070 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $1,600, although this will vary with the program.

University of New Mexico-Taos Campus

1157 County Road 110, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico 87557
(575) 737-6200
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

The University of New Mexico-Taos Campus’s Certificate program is based at their Taos campus in Ranchos de Taos in Taos County, NM. The majority of of the school’s 1,726 students are on 2-year programs. The University of New Mexico-Taos Campus has institutional accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Tuition fees for in-state students are generally around $1,872 and for out-of-state students approximately $4,752 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,080, although this will depend on the program.

Santa Fe, NM Area

Santa Fe Community College

6401 Richards Ave, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508-4887
(505) 428-1000
Patissier – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Santa Fe Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Santa Fe in Santa Fe County. The college has roughly 4,880 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-district students is likely to be in the order of $1,695 and are $2,055 and $3,675 for in-state and out-of-state students respectively, while books and supplies may cost about $1,196, although this varies from program to 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

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