Top School in San Francisco for Culinary Arts Degrees

School and Ranking Information

While San Francisco is known for its vibrant and diverse cuisine, there are only six schools within 25 miles of the downtown area for a student seeking chef training, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Based on program size and American Culinary Federation (ACF) accreditation, the top three not-for-profit programs are:

  • Winner: The City College of San Francisco (CCSF) awarded the most credentials in culinary arts fields in 2011-2012 and offers an ACF-accredited associate degree program. Free, non-credit certificate programs are also available.
  • Runner-Up #1: Diablo Valley College (DVC) also has ACF-accredited certificate and degree programs and has several on-campus restaurants and facilities for culinary students to receive hands-on training.
  • Runner-Up #2: Contra Costa College (CCC) offers certificates and associate degrees, which feature hands-on work experience. It also offers a study abroad program and offers training in its commercial teaching kitchen.

School Comparison Chart

Category City College of San Francisco Diablo Valley College Contra Costa College
Location San Francisco, CA Pleasant Hill, CA (22.2 miles from San Francisco) San Pablo, CA (14.1 miles from San Francisco)
School Type 2-year, public 2-year, public 2-year, public
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $1,238 (in-state); $6,270 (out-of-state)* $1,298 (in-state); $6,758 (out-of-state)* $1,298 (in-state); $6,758 (out-of-state)*
Culinary Arts Award Levels Offered Certificates; associate degrees Certificates; associate degrees Certificates; associate degrees
Culinary Arts Degrees and Certificates Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012 73 (includes additional concentrations)* 43* 22*
Most Popular Culinary Arts Program (2011-2012) Certificate in Cooking and Related Culinary Arts, General (45 awarded)* Certificate in Cooking and Related Culinary Arts, General (30 awarded)* Certificate in Cooking and Related Culinary Arts, General (20 awarded)*
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time) for 2009 Entering Class 32%* 37%* 17%*
Noteworthy Yearly, close to 8% of San Francisco's population take courses at CCSF** School has a new transit center and is planning a new sustainable culinary facility Award-winning financial aid office***

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator, **City College of San Francisco, ***Contra Costa College.

Winner: City College of San Francisco

  • Noncredit culinary certificate programs have no tuition cost
  • School-run restaurant is located in an area frequented by more than 18 million pedestrians annually
  • All degree programs require internships
  • Chinatown/North Beach Campus has new culinary facility

CCSF has nine campuses across the city of San Francisco, three of which offer culinary programs: the Downtown Campus, the Ocean Campus, and the new Chinatown/North Beach Campus. CCSF offers ACF-accredited Associate in Science (AS) programs in culinary arts management and food service management. Both require intensive hands-on practice in CCSF's cafeteria, bake shop, fine-dining restaurant, snack bar, and four teaching kitchens. Students may also pursue a tuition-free certificate in food technology and dining services. Certificate students learn at CCSF's Educated Palate restaurant, spending a semester managing and one semester cooking. A certificate in baking and pastry is also available.

Runner-Up #1: Diablo Valley College

  • Culinary program operates on-campus catering, a pastry shop, an express counter, and a fine-dining restaurant
  • Internships are included in the AS program
  • The school was ranked first for transfers to 4-year universities statewide, according to the California Post-Secondary Educational Commission

The Culinary Arts program at DVC is intended to prepare graduates for positions such as chef, cookbook author, caterer, and community nutrition specialist. Students can choose an AS in Hospitality Studies with a specialization in culinary arts, baking and pastry, or restaurant management. Certificates of achievement, accredited by the ACF, are available in the same three specialties. Students gain hands-on experience in an industry-standard kitchen, a public restaurant that seats 130, a pastry shop, and a demonstration lab, as well as complete classes in baking, menu development, and restaurant operations. The certificate programs train students for entry-level employment in a culinary field, while the AS programs provide qualification for mid-level positions. The certificate programs may require students to purchase uniforms and equipment.

Runner-Up #2: Contra Costa College

  • Program-run restaurant frequently hosts competitions and other culinary events
  • Culinary arts management department puts on an annual fundraiser featuring local restaurants to fund scholarships for culinary study abroad trips
  • Past study abroad trips have included prominent Italian school Marco Polo Culinary Institute and a tour of China led by chef Martin Yan

CCC's culinary program includes a mix of hands-on application and theory, centered on the school's commercial teaching kitchen. Students can earn a certificate in classical/modern food preparation and restaurant training, which includes classes in both food and dessert preparation. An associate degree is available with the completion of additional requirements. Also offered are an AS or certificate in pastry and baking and certificates in restaurant management and basic food service. All programs require becoming 'Servsafe' certified. In addition to the Three Seasons fine-dining restaurant, the culinary program operates a cafe and an express food counter, as well as commercial catering services.

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