How to Become a Chef Virginia

A chef or a cook is a culinary professional who creates menus and dishes in restaurants, hotels, resorts, cafeterias and in personal kitchens. With a culinary education, you will be prepared to work in any of these locations in Virginia, but there are other career opportunities too. You may choose to become a food service manager, a baker, a pastry chef or an entrepreneur starting your own catering business or even buying a food truck. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Virginia

There are no set requirements in Virginia for working as a cook or a chef, but there are two common paths people take to get into these professions. One is to get all your training and education on the job. With at least a high school diploma or GED, you should be able to land a kitchen job, but you will have to learn and train as you work and start out in a position below that of cook or chef, such as washing dishes or serving.

Another path is to start with an academic program in culinary arts, pastry arts, baking or food service or hospitality management. These programs can give you the skills and knowledge needed to bypass the lower kitchen jobs and start as a cook, a sous chef or an assistant manager.

Culinary Arts Programs in Virginia

Culinary programs are accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC). You don’t have to select an accredited program, but these do assure you’ll be getting a quality education from experienced instructors.

  • Stratford University, Alexandria. This northern Virginia culinary program is conveniently located near Washington D.C. The Alexandria campus offers three ACFEFAC-accredited programs, including an associate’s degree in baking and pastry, an associate’s degree in advanced culinary arts and a diploma in advanced culinary arts professional. The latter two programs are designated as exemplary.
  • Art Institute of Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach. Located in the state’s largest city, the Art Institute offers an associate’s degree in culinary arts, a diploma in baking and pastry or culinary arts and a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts management. Classes in culinary arts include nutrition, menu development, culinary and classical techniques, food service technology and regional cuisines. The management degree program prepares students to both cook and manage kitchens and restaurants.
  • Reynolds Community College, Richmond. This Richmond culinary program offers an accredited associate’s degree for students interested in culinary arts. Students may also choose to complete the hospitality management degree program. The culinary arts courses are both in the classroom and the kitchen, and students have the chance to work in the college’s restaurant for real-world experience.

Certification and Licensing

While you don’t have to be certified or licensed to begin in this career, many chefs and cooks choose to earn certification to prove their skills and to earn a better salary. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is a leading organization that offers 16 areas of specialization for certification. With passing scores on written and practical exams, you can become certified. The ACF’s certifications are nationally recognized and respected.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

Growth is strong for culinary careers in Virginia, giving new professionals a great outlook for the future. If you hope to become a head cook or chef one day, these jobs are growing at a rate of 13.6 percent in the state, meaning there will be nearly 500 new positions available in the next few years. Growth for restaurant cooks is nearly 15 percent and for institution or cafeteria cooks is 16 percent. Pastry chefs and bakers can look forward to 12.6 percent growth.

Chefs and head cooks in Virginia were earning an average of $54,320 per year in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top earners in those positions made $80,520 and more. Bakers can expect to earn about $25,830 per year, while food service managers are making around $64,120 per year and up to $101,000 and higher.

Working as a Chef in Virginia

As you search for your first culinary job in Virginia, look at restaurants, catering companies, test kitchens, hotels and resorts along the coast, hospitals and schools. Trained cooks and chefs are needed in all kinds of settings. Most of the job opportunities will be in big cities like Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Richmond, Newport News and around D.C., but you can also find jobs in the suburbs and in rural areas if you are qualified and have a passion for food.

Popular Colleges

College Programs

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Charlottesville, VA Area

Piedmont Virginia Community College

501 College Drive, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902-7589
(434) 977-3900
Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Piedmont Virginia Community College’s Associate-level Culinary Arts program is based at their campus in Charlottesville in Charlottesville City County, VA. The majority of of the school’s 5,438 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be about $4,558 and for students from other states likely to be about $10,456 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,800, although this varies from program to program.

Lynchburg, VA Area

Central Virginia Community College

3506 Wards Rd, Lynchburg, Virginia 24502-2498
(434) 832-7600
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts Management – Associate Program

Central Virginia Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in the city of Lynchburg. This public college has in the order of 4,433 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually in the order of $4,598 and for students from outside the state in the order of $10,496 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $957, although this will vary with the program.

Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area Area

Rappahannock Community College

12745 College Drive, Glenns, Virginia 23149-2616
(804) 758-6700
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

Rappahannock Community College’s Certificate program is taught at their campus in Glenns in Middlesex County. This public college has about 3,566 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Tuition fees for in-state students are around $4,588 and for out-of-state students approximately $10,486 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,704, although this will depend on the program.

Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area Area

Dabney S Lancaster Community College

1000 Dabney Drive, Clifton Forge, Virginia 24422-1000
(540) 863-2800
Baking & Pastry Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts and Management – Associate Program

Dabney S Lancaster Community College offers various Certificate program options for chefs, a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are offered at their campus in Clifton Forge in Alleghany County, VA. The college has in the order of 1,236 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is 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 $4,478 and for students from other states likely to be about $10,376 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,300, although this varies from program to program.

Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center

64 James Anderson Road, Fishersville, Virginia 22939-1500
(540) 332-7390
Culinary Skills/Food Service – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Culinary Skills/Food Service at Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center can be taken at their campus in Fishersville in Augusta County. Most of the school’s 176 students are on diploma programs of under two years. The college is institutionally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. The retention rate of full-time students at this college is over 80%. Fees for tuition are about $8,208 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $358, although this varies from program to program.

Richmond, VA Area

J Sargeant Reynolds Community College

1651 East Parham Road, Richmond, Virginia 23228-2327
(804) 371-3000
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

J Sargeant Reynolds Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Richmond in Henrico County, VA. Most of the school’s 10,889 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are in the order of $4,766 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $10,664 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $1,600, although this will vary with the program.

Virginia College-Richmond

7200 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, Virginia 23225-5502
(804) 977-5100
Pastry Arts – Certificate Program

Virginia College offers various Certificate program options for chefs. Classes are taken at their Richmond campus in Richmond in Richmond City County, VA. The college has round 336 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The cost of tuition is likely to be in the order of $14,632 yearly.

Roanoke, VA Area

Virginia Western Community College

3093 Colonial Ave, Roanoke, Virginia 24015
(540) 857-7311
Baking & Pastry – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Virginia Western Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Roanoke. This public college has roughly 7,932 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is around $5,093 and for out-of-state students around $10,991 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $1,500, depending on the program.

Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area Area

Southside Virginia Community College

109 Campus Drive, Alberta, Virginia 23821
(888) 220-7822
Food Safety – Certificate Program

Southside Virginia Community College’s Certificate program is taught at their campus in Alberta in Brunswick County, Virginia. This public college has about 4,439 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are around $4,463 and for out-of-state students likely to be about $10,361 yearly. Study materials can cost about $1,171, depending on the program chosen.

Southwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area Area

Patrick Henry Community College

645 Patriot Avenue, Martinsville, Virginia 24112
(276) 656-0311
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

Patrick Henry Community College’s Certificate program in Culinary Arts is offered at their campus in Martinsville in Martinsville City County, VA. This public college has in the order of 2,594 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 $4,473 and for students from other states around $10,370 for each academic year. Learning materials may cost roughly $1,239, although this will vary with the program.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Area

ECPI University

5555 Greenwich Rd, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23462
(757) 490-9090
Baking and Pastry Arts – Associate Program, Baking and Pastry Arts – Certificate Program

ECPI University offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are based at their campus in the city of Virginia Beach, VA. This is a full, 4-year private college with 11,735 students, of which 99% are undergraduates. The university is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition is in the order of $14,775 annually. Learning materials may cost around $780, although this will vary with the program.

The Art Institute of Virginia Beach

Two Columbus Center, 4500 Main St Ste 100, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23462
(757) 493-6700
Baking & Pastry – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

The Art Institute of Virginia Beach offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program, an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are based at their campus in the city of Virginia Beach. The college has in the order of 527 students in total, with most students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Tuition fees are around $17,592 annually, while books and supplies may cost around $1,500, although this varies from program to program.

Tidewater Community College

121 College Place, Norfolk, Virginia 23510
(757) 822-1122
Catering – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Tidewater Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Norfolk, VA. The college has approximately 25,927 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. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is roughly about $5,299 and for students from other states around $11,197 for each academic year. Learning materials may cost roughly $1,500, although this will vary with the program.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Area

Columbia College

8300 Merrifield Ave 3F, Fairfax, Virginia 22031
(703) 206-0508
Culinary Arts of Sushi – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Columbia College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Fairfax in Fairfax County, VA. The majority of of the school’s 424 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. Fees for tuition are broadly about $9,280 annually, while study materials may cost around $720, depending on the program.

Northern Virginia Community College

4001 Wakefield Chapel Rd, Annandale, Virginia 22003-3796
(703) 323-3000
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Culinary Arts at Northern Virginia Community College can be taken at their campus in Annandale in Fairfax County, VA. This public college has in the order of 52,078 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The cost of tuition for in-state students is about $5,313 and for students from other states in the order of $11,283 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,800, depending on the program chosen.

Stratford University

3201 Jermantown Road, Suite 500, Fairfax, Virginia 22030
(703) 539-6890
Baking and Pastry Arts – Associate Program, Advanced Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

Stratford University offers various Associate program options for chefs, an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Fairfax in Fairfax City County. This is a full, 4-year private college with 3,303 students, of which 73% are undergraduates. Fees for tuition are about $15,135 yearly.

The Art Institute of Washington

1820 N Fort Myer Dr, Arlington, Virginia 22209-1802
(703) 358-9550
Baking & Pastry – Associate Program, Baking & Pastry – Certificate Program

The Art Institute of Washington offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Arlington, Virginia. The college has in the region of 888 students in total, with most students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition are about $17,592 for each academic year. Learning materials may cost roughly $1,500, 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.

Neighbor States

Residents of Virginia may also wish to review their options in Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.