Chef Colleges, Universities and Schools in the U.S.

Although many professional kitchens follow an apprenticeship system, most chefs begin their training by completing a culinary arts program. Culinary arts programs can take one to four years to complete.

How to Select a Chef School

A chef is a professional cook who typically works for a restaurant, hotel or catering business. There are many different culinary arts programs available in the United States to train aspiring chefs. When researching schools, students should consider the credentials of each program and are encouraged to seek culinary arts programs accredited by the American Culinary Federation. Chef programs can vary in length and depth, and some schools may offer several options. When selecting a chef school, students should decide whether they wish to enroll in a certificate program, an associate's degree program or a bachelor's degree program. Further considerations when selecting a school may include:

  • Students may also want to look for programs designed to provide the necessary training to be certified by the American Culinary Federation after graduation.
  • Because apprenticeships play a large role in the education and advancement of chefs, the internship and career placement opportunities offered by culinary universities can be a major consideration when selecting a program.
  • Most culinary arts schools have test kitchen facilities on site where students learn the basics of cooking, and often, these test kitchens serve a dual function as operating restaurants, allowing prospective chefs hands-on experience in a real professional kitchen environment.
  • Consideration should also be given to the restaurants, hotels and catering companies in which program alumni have placed, because those educational connections can provide internship and employment opportunities for recent graduates.

Chef Program Overviews

Certificate Program

Certificate programs provide students with the skills needed to perform entry-level food service jobs. Classes focus on basic baking and cooking methods, knife skills and menu planning. Certificate programs typically require 30 credit hours for completion.

Associate's Degree Program

Associate's degree programs are 2-year training programs in the culinary arts. Students learn about various aspects of food service operations, including nutrition, meal planning, purchasing and food preparation. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions as chefs, sous-chefs, bakers and station chefs.

Bachelor's Degree Program

Bachelor's degree programs give prospective chefs the chance to develop proficiency in both contemporary and classic culinary techniques and methods, including table d'hôte, à la carte and banquet settings. Advanced food classes in a variety of international cuisine are also offered. Aspiring chefs also learn how to be effective managers by attending courses on marketing, finance, computers and business management.

10 Chef Schools

College/University Institution Type
Institute of Culinary Education <2-year, Private for-profit
Culinary Institute of America 4-year, Private not-for-profit
Culinary Institute of America at Greystone2-year, Private not-for-profit
International Culinary Center <2-year, Private for-profit
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts - Chicago2-year, Private for-profit
Kendall College 4-year, Private for-profit
New England Culinary Institute4-year, Private for-profit
L'Academie de Cuisine<2-year, Private for-profit
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts <2-year Private for-profit
Johnson & Wales University Providence 4-year, Private not-for-profit

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