How to Become a Chef Washington

The culinary industry is experiencing strong growth in Washington right now, so this is a great time to consider working toward a career as a cook or chef in the state. Cooks and chefs work in kitchens, preparing and making food, planning menus, budgeting and buying ingredients and supervising staff. With an education in culinary arts, you could also become a baker or pastry chef, a personal chef or a food service manager. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Washington

There are no requirements in Washington for working as a chef or a cook in a professional kitchen. You will, however, need to learn or train, or get some combination of hands-on training and education, in order to become a chef. You can find a kitchen and chef willing to take you on and train you, which will require just having a high school diploma or GED and a willingness to learn. Or, you can complete a culinary arts program at a post-secondary institution. This will give you a better chance of getting hired, although you should expect that you will still need to go through some training on the job before you can enter a leadership role in a kitchen.

Culinary Arts Programs in Washington

Programs in culinary arts are accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC). There are several of ACFEFAC-accredited programs in Washington from which you can choose:

  • Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College, Spokane. Students here can complete an accredited, two-year associate’s degree program in culinary arts to learn kitchen skills. Courses include introduction to culinary arts, food sanitation, modern cuisine theory, menu planning, banquet service and more. Students get to practice what they learn in the campus restaurant.
  • Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central Community College, Seattle. In the Seattle area, students can choose from two certificate programs, one in culinary arts and one in desserts and breads. They are accredited and hold exemplary status from the ACFEFAC. Each program takes less than two years to complete and include general and specialty courses as well as hands-on work in campus restaurants. The culinary arts program also includes sustainability studies.
  • Wine Country Culinary Institute at Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla. In the southeastern part of the state, students can learn culinary skills in the heart of wine country. The associate’s degree program in culinary arts includes between 96 and 108 credits in courses like restaurant management, world cuisine, special events and communications in the workplace.

Certification and Licensing

While licensing and certification are not required for kitchen workers and cooks, it makes sense to seek national certification for most people. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers 16 types of certification for culinary professionals, and holding one or more of these can prove that you are qualified and have the skills needed to do your job well. It can also help you get a job and earn a higher salary.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

All careers in the culinary industry in Washington are growing right now, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Positions for all restaurant cooks are expected to increase by a whopping 27.9 percent by 2026, while growth for head cooks and chefs is 24.5 percent. Other big growth is being seen for food service managers, institutional and cafeteria cooks and short order cooks.

Salaries are also impressive for culinary workers in the state. For all restaurant workers in 2017, the annual average salary was $30,470, while that for head chefs and cooks was $53,200. It pays to work toward leadership roles in kitchens. Those professionals earning the highest salaries were food service managers with annual average salaries around $68,000.

Working as a Chef in Washington

Washington has a thriving culinary industry, with upscale and trendy restaurants, hotels and resorts, and restaurants in wine country. You can expect to find lots of opportunities here, in all areas of the state. In addition to working in a restaurant, hotel or resort, look at hospitals, schools and catering companies for work. The greatest number of jobs will be available in the big population centers of the state, like Seattle and Tacoma, Vancouver, Spokane and Everett.

Popular Colleges

College Programs

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Bellingham, WA Area

Bellingham Technical College

3028 Lindbergh Ave, Bellingham, Washington 98225-1599
(360) 752-7000
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Culinary Arts at Bellingham Technical College can be taken at their campus in the city of Bellingham. This public college has roughly 2,403 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for in-state students is around $3,394 and for out-of-state students in the order of $8,739 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,080, depending on the program chosen.

Bremerton-Silverdale, WA Area

Olympic College

1600 Chester Ave, Bremerton, Washington 98337-1699
(360) 792-6050
Cook’s Helper – Associate Program, Baking Fundamentals – Certificate Program

Olympic College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are offered at their campus in the city of Bremerton. This public college has around 7,177 students in total, with most students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tuition fees for in-state students are around $3,618 and for out-of-state students approximately $4,064 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $828, although this will depend on the program.

Central Washington nonmetropolitan area Area

Central Washington University

400 East University Way, Ellensburg, Washington 98926-7501
(509) 963-1111
Food Service Management Minor – Certificate Program

The Food Service Management Minor Certificate program in Food Service Management Minor at Central Washington University is offered at their campus in the town of Ellensburg. Of the 11,993 students, about 7% are postgraduates. The university is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tuition fees for in-state students are generally around $7,719 and for out-of-state students approximately $21,522 annually. Study materials can cost around $1,002, depending on the program chosen.

Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area Area

Walla Walla Community College

500 Tausick Way, Walla Walla, Washington 99362-9267
(509) 522-2500
Culinary Arts – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Walla Walla Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are based at their campus in the city of Walla Walla. This public college has about 4,617 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be around $4,203 and for out-of-state students likely to be about $5,670 yearly. Books and supplies can cost about $1,000, although this will depend on the program.

Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA Area

Skagit Valley College

2405 E. College Way, Mount Vernon, Washington 98273
(360) 416-7600
Baking & Pastry Emphasis – Associate Program, Certified Culinarian – Certificate Program

Skagit Valley College offers various Associate program options for chefs, an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are taught at their campus in the city of Mount Vernon, Washington. This public college has in the region of 5,290 students in total, with the majority of students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-state students are about $4,200 and for students from other states likely to be about $4,700 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,200, although this varies from program to program.

Olympia, WA Area

South Puget Sound Community College

2011 Mottman Rd SW, Olympia, Washington 98512-6292
(360) 596-5241
Baking and Pastry Arts – Certificate Program

South Puget Sound Community College offers various Certificate program options for chefs. All programs are based at their campus in the city of Olympia. The majority of of the school’s 4,839 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is about $4,104 and for students from other states around $9,513 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $825, depending on the program.

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Area

Clark College

1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, Washington 98663-3598
(360) 992-2000
Professional Baking & Pastry Arts Management – Associate Program, Baking and Pastry Arts – Certificate Program

Clark College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Vancouver, WA. The college has about 10,477 students in total, with most students on 4-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tuition fees for in-state students are around $3,498 and for out-of-state students approximately $8,841 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $825, although this will depend on the program.

International Air and Hospitality Academy

2901 E Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver, Washington 98661
(360) 695-2500
Airline Specialist – Certificate Program

International Air and Hospitality Academy’s Certificate program in Airline Specialist is based at their campus in the city of Vancouver, Washington. This private, for-profit college has about 122 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. Fees for tuition are about $8,025 annually, while books and supplies may cost around $130, although this varies from program to program.

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division Area

Edmonds Community College

20000 68th Ave W, Lynnwood, Washington 98036-5912
(425) 640-1459
Baking – Certificate Program, Catering – Associate Program

Edmonds Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Lynnwood in Snohomish County. Most of the school’s 8,571 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is roughly around $3,756 and for out-of-state students around $9,466 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $825, depending on the program.

Lake Washington Institute of Technology

11605 132nd Ave NE, Kirkland, Washington 98034-8506
(425) 739-8100
Baking Arts – Associate Program, Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

Lake Washington Institute of Technology offers various Associate program options for chefs, an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in Kirkland in King County, Washington. This public college has round 3,531 students in total, with most students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-state students are about $4,059 and for students from other states likely to be about $9,403 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,065, although this varies from program to program.

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-Seattle

360 Corporate Dr North, Tukwila, Washington 98188
(206) 268-3888
Pâtisserie And Baking – Certificate Program

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts offers various Certificate program options for chefs. All programs are imparted at their Seattle campus in Tukwila in King County, Washington. Most of the school’s 429 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. The cost of tuition is usually in the order of $12,780 per year.

Renton Technical College

3000 NE Fourth St, Renton, Washington 98056-4123
(425) 235-2352
Professional Baking – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Renton Technical College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are taught at their campus in the city of Renton. The majority of of the school’s 3,961 students are on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tuition fees are around $4,836 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $825, depending on the program.

Seattle Central College

1701 Broadway Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98122
(206) 934-3800
Specialty Desserts & Breads – Associate Program, Specialty Desserts & Breads – Certificate Program

Seattle Central College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are based at their campus in the city of Seattle. This public college has roughly 6,574 students in total, with the majority of students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually in the order of $3,925 and for students from outside the state in the order of $4,332 per year, while books and supplies may cost in the order of $825, although this varies from program to program.

South Seattle College

6000 16th Ave SW, Seattle, Washington 98106-1499
(206) 934-5300
Pastry & Baking Arts – Associate Program, Pastry & Baking Arts – Certificate Program

South Seattle College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Seattle. The college has round 6,076 students in total, with the majority of students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-state students are in the order of $3,854 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $4,261 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $825, although this varies from program to program.

The Art Institute of Seattle

2323 Elliott Ave, Seattle, Washington 98121-1622
(206) 448-0900
Baking & Pastry – Associate Program, Baking & Pastry – Certificate Program

The Art Institute of Seattle offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in the city of Seattle. The college has about 1,190 students in total, with most students on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition are about $17,556 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $1,026, depending on the program.

Spokane, WA Area

Spokane Community College

1810 North Greene Street, Spokane, Washington 99217-5399
(509) 533-8020
Baking: Professional Pastries and Specialty Cakes – Certificate Program, Culinary Arts – Associate Program

Spokane Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Spokane, Washington. The college has around 10,218 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually about $3,393 and for students from other states in the order of $8,738 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,134, depending on the program chosen.

Tacoma, WA Metropolitan Division Area

Bates Technical College

1101 S Yakima Ave, Tacoma, Washington 98405
(253) 680-7000
Culinary Arts Line Cook – Certificate Program

Bates Technical College offers various Certificate program options for chefs. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Tacoma, Washington. The college has roughly 3,272 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-state students are about $4,601 and for students from other states likely to be about $10,008 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,010, although this varies from program to program.

Clover Park Technical College

4500 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, Washington 98499-4004
(253) 589-5800
Pastry Arts – Associate Program, Pastry Arts – Certificate Program

Clover Park Technical College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in the city of Lakewood. The college has about 3,650 students in total, with most students on 4-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is roughly about $5,865 and for students from other states around $11,906 for each academic year. Study materials can cost roughly $825, 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 Idaho, Oregon and California.