The World’s Best Culinary Schools
A career in the culinary arts is a great option for many young people and anyone considering a change. This is the kind of job that requires passion and allows for creativity as well as skill. If you love food, cooking, being creative, working with others and even design, consider a culinary career.
Why Choose a Culinary Career?
In addition to being a fun, meaningful and creative job, working in kitchens and as a chef or cook is also a smart move for practical reasons. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations in food preparation and serving, which includes chefs, cooks, bar tenders and food prep workers, are growing faster than average, at a rate of 11 percent.
This means there will be thousands of new jobs available in the coming years for qualified culinary workers and those willing to learn and train on the job. And you can expect to earn a good living in this field. The average annual salary for chefs and head cooks in the U.S. is $48,460. Top earners in the industry make more than $81,000 annually.
How to Get into the Culinary Industry – The Importance of Education
Going to school to learn the culinary arts is not strictly necessary or required if you want to work as a cook, chef or other industry professional. However, there are several good reasons to start out on your new career with an academic program:
- Culinary school will teach you foundational skills for working in a kitchen.
- At a culinary school, you can learn the basics and specialize in things like pastry, baking or mixology.
- Some of the best chefs in the world went to culinary school first.
- If you don’t have a degree or certificate you will likely start at the bottom in the kitchen, even washing dishes, and have to work your way up to cook.
- Training on the job is possible, but it is much easier to advance in a kitchen if you have a culinary degree.
If you’re ready to get started in a career that involves cooking, preparing foods, designing menus and testing recipes, choose your culinary school wisely. There are many good schools and programs, but only a handful can be the best.
10 of the Top Culinary Schools in the World
Many community colleges and vocational schools around the U.S. have culinary programs, but if you’re looking for the best possible food education, you need to look a little further afield. The U.S. is home to a few of the world’s best, but many of the finest chefs trained learned their skills in other countries.
The Basque Culinary Center
The Basque Culinary Center, San Sebastian, Spain. The BCC is renowned internationally as among the best schools for learning not just how to cook, but about nutrition and the science of food, as well as research and innovation. Located in the Basque region of Spain, the BCC was founded in 2011 by Basque chefs and is connected to Mondragon University. It is backed by an international council of eleven of the world’s best chefs. Although it has only been operating for less than ten years, the BCC has quickly become one of the most innovative and highly regarded culinary schools in the world.
At the BCC, you can earn a degree in gastronomy and culinary arts or even work toward a master’s degree in specialty subjects like food tourism, pastry, restaurant management, gastronomic sciences and sommelier studies. As a student here, you can even get involved in research projects related to ingredient sources, eating behaviors, personalized gastronomy and more. The on-location research facility is world-class and offers a unique opportunity to combine food and science.
Le Cordon Blue
Le Cordon Blue, Multiple Locations. One of the most recognizable names in culinary education throughout the world is Le Cordon Bleu. It’s also one of the world’s oldest culinary schools. Founded in 1895 in Paris, there are now 35 campuses in 20 different countries. You can study with Le Cordon Bleu in the U.S. and around the world: Madrid in Spain, London, Paris, Istanbul, Brazil, Mexico, China, Lebanon, Tokyo, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Australia, New Zealand and in many other places.
Le Cordon Bleu offers a number of programs for aspiring culinary professionals. The Grand Diploma program provides a comprehensive survey of classic French culinary skills and is considered one of the best programs for multiple career opportunities. You can also focus on cuisine, pastry, hospitality, nutrition, and wine and spirits. With such a large, international network of campuses and professionals, finding work as a Le Cordon Bleu graduate means you’ll have many opportunities around the world.
The Culinary Institute of America
The Culinary Institute of America, Multiple Locations. Known as the CIA, the Culinary Institute is one of the best and most well-respected culinary schools in the U.S. Choose from campuses in Hyde Park, New York on the Hudson River, St. Helen, California in Napa Valley, and San Antonio, Texas, near the city’s famed river walk. Most recently, the CIA opened a campus in Singapore as a partnership with the Singapore Institute of Technology and focused on food business management.
Founded in 1946, the CIA has been providing a quality education for aspiring chefs for decades. You can choose from shorter certificate and associate degree programs or a full, four-year bachelor’s degree in applied food studies, culinary science, food business management or hospitality management. The shorter programs in baking and pastry arts or culinary arts are more than adequate for starting a kitchen career. Classes are conducted in small groups and students have a chance to learn hands-on and by working in the campus restaurants.
School of Hostelry and Hofmann Restaurant
School of Hostelry and Hofmann Restaurant, Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona in Spain is home to several world-class culinary schools and programs. Founded in 1983 by Mey Hofmann, the Hofmann Group consists of the School of Hostelry, which is the culinary school, the one-Michelin star Hofmann Restaurant, Taverna Hofmann, a more casual restaurant, and the Hofmann Pastry Shop. The School of Hostelry is a benchmark program in Europe, and students here benefit from the restaurants and pastry shop, which are world-renowned.
The Hostelry Program teaches students the basic knowledge and foundational skills for kitchen work, but also emphasizes creativity, innovation and experimentation with food and recipes. Students work in learning labs but also have the opportunity to work in the Hofmann Restaurant, the Taverna or the Pastry Shop to hone their skills and get valuable experience in one of the world’s finest kitchens.
Hattori Nutrition College
Hattori Nutrition College, Tokyo, Japan. A truly unique culinary school, Hattori in Japan accepts international students and focuses on training chefs who understand nutrition and how food benefits people. This is the underlying philosophy of the school—founded by Iron Chef Yukio Hattori—which gives students the chance to learn skills for a culinary career as well as additional knowledge about health, nutrition and the healing properties of foods.
Some of the courses you can take at Hattori include nutrition, culinary skills, culinary business administration and patisserie. You’ll graduate from this school with the opportunity to work in restaurants but also as a nutritional consultant, food and nutrition coach, nutritionist or recipe developer.
The School of Artisan Food
The School of Artisan Food, Welbeck, United Kingdom. Another unique international program is available at an excellent facility in the UK known as the School of Artisan Food. The school is focused on teaching the slow art of crafting truly artisan food products, with courses on bread making, cheese making, brewing, butchery, charcuterie, preserving and more. The school is known around the world for teaching these unique, traditional skills and is associated with Nottingham Trent University.
Much of what the School of Artisan Food offers are short courses for locals and tourists. But there is also an advanced diploma program for students specifically interested in becoming artisan bakers. If bakery work is in your future, consider this special program. Here you’ll learn traditional baking techniques in practical courses, artisan patisserie and the business of crafting and selling artisan foods. Graduates of the program go on to work in bakeries, patisseries and in product development. The program also prepares you to start your own business making and selling artisan bread.
International Culinary Center
International Culinary Center, New York, New York. The International Culinary Center, or ICC, began as the French Culinary Institute in 1984 and evolved over the years into one of the world’s leading educators of chefs and bakers. The goal of the founder was to bring professional, French culinary education to the U.S. and specifically to students in New York. The philosophy of quality training in an immersive environment and classic French style continue, and students come from around the U.S. and the world to study here.
The ICC offers a few select and focused programs to train students to work in the culinary profession. The classic course is the Professional Culinary Arts program, which can also be completed with an intensive farm-to-table course of study added to it. The Professional Pastry Arts program can train you to begin working as a baker or pastry chef. You can also add courses in cake techniques and decoration or international bread baking to this program. Finally, the ICC offers an Intensive Sommelier Training program if you’re interested in becoming a wine specialist.
Institute of Culinary Education
Institute of Culinary Education, New York City and Los Angeles. ICE is a large school with two campuses to serve students on the east and west coasts. It is a world leader in training chefs, bakers, pastry chefs and restaurant managers. The school began in 1975 and now has several programs that take between six and 13 months to complete. ICE programs have won numerous awards from organizations like the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
Some of the alumni of ICE include famous New York restaurateur Marc Murphy and food journalist and Top Chef host, Gail Simmons. Like these star chefs you can learn the culinary trade at ICE with programs in Culinary Arts, Pastry and Baking Arts, Health-Supportive Culinary Arts, Restaurant and Culinary Management, and Hospitality and Hotel Management.
Ferrandi, Paris, France. Ferrandi in Paris has been teaching and training new chefs for nearly 100 years. This school is unique in offering a wide range of programs, from short, vocational training courses to master’s degrees. In addition to the main Paris campus, students can study at two other locations just outside the city and one in Bordeaux. The educational philosophy at Ferrandi is to blend traditional classroom and kitchen learning with real-world work in local restaurants, hotels and other companies. All students benefit from internships.
The programs you can choose from at Ferrandi include French pastry, French bread baking and French cuisine. Students can also combine tracks or earn a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and management or a master’s degree in hotel management. Programs are available in both French and English to meet the needs of international students.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Austin, Texas and Boulder, Colorado. This legendary American cooking school is based on classic French techniques. The namesake of the school, Escoffier, was a French chef who revolutionized cooking by beginning the tradition of formally training chefs. The school bases its programs on Escoffier’s philosophy of discipline and exacting techniques for French cooking.
Both Auguste Escoffier campuses focus on two main types of programs: culinary arts and baking and pastry. With just two programs, the school has been able to develop the coursework and instruction into some of the finest training anywhere. World-class chefs are the instructors and the classes are small, student-focused and hands-on. You can also take courses online and receive hands-on training through an industry externship.
A career in the culinary arts is both exciting and rewarding. If you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, making food and interacting with others, you may love being a chef. Other careers in the industry include management, consulting and research and development. What all these careers have in common, besides food, is that the best way to get started is with a good education. Culinary school sets you up for success in the industry, providing a foundation that will help you land your first job and propel you upwards as you advance in your culinary career.