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Top Culinary School in San Francisco for Pastry Chef Training

Few schools in the San Francisco area have top ranking pastry chef programs. Read on to find out more about what these top schools have to offer for aspiring pastry chefs, as well as tuition and degree information.

School and Ranking Information

There are 15 schools in the San Francisco area that offer pastry chef training. Based on factors like program offerings, graduation rates and tuition information, the top three schools in the San Francisco region for aspiring pastry chefs are:

  • Winner: City College of San Francisco (CCSF) offers a tuition-free baking and pastry program accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
  • Runner Up #1: Laney College (LC) culinary program incorporates international cuisines and it is recognized by the Retail Bakers Association (RBA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA).
  • Runner Up #2: Contra Costa College (CCC) has two student-run cafes along with a laboratory and restaurant kitchen.

In the state of California, any individuals who handle, prepare or serve food are legally required to possess a California Food Handler Card within 30 days of their initial hire date. To obtain the card, individuals must pass a food handlers test with a score of at least 70. Training courses are available, and they cost $15 or less to enroll.

School Comparison Chart

Category City College of San Francisco Laney College Contra Costa College
Location San Francisco, CA Oakland, CA (7.2 miles from San Francisco) San Pablo, CA (14.3 miles from San Francisco)
School Type 2-year, public 2-year, public 2-year, public
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) Free tuition for certificate program** $1,144 (in-state)*
$5,704 (out-of-state)*
$1,298 (in-state)*
$6,758 (out-of-state)*
Pastry Chef Program Award Levels Offered Certificate Certificates; associate degrees Certificates; associate degrees
Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal program time) for 2009 Entering Class 32%* 20%* 17%*
Noteworthy Tuition for the 2-semester Baking & Pastry Certificate program is free Includes pre-employment and supervised practicum courses Provides catering and banquet events implemented by culinary students and teachers

Sources: *NCES College Navigator, **City College of San Francisco website.

Winner: City College of San Francisco

  • The school's program is updated continually to meet industry trends
  • The Baking and Pastry Certificate program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation
  • The on-campus Educated Palate restaurant is student-run

The City College of San Francisco has a Baking and Pastry Certificate program that specifically prepares students for entry-level jobs in the industry, such as working in private restaurants or serving on cruise ships. This 2-semester program doesn't offer credit, but tuition is free. Almost entirely hands-on, coursework includes pies and tarts, icing and decorating cakes, bakers' math, meringues, mousses, chocolates and candies. The department-run Educated Palate restaurant, which serves the general public, is an experiential student lab. Besides coursework, all students must pass a California food safety certification exam before entering the workforce.

Runner-Up #1: Laney College

  • Bistro restaurant run by students
  • State-of-the-art kitchen equipment
  • Career preparation courses

Laney College provides certificate and associate degree programs through its Culinary Arts Department, which is recognized by the Retail Bakers Association (RBA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Coursework consists of basic and international patisserie, artisan breads, advanced cake decorating, contemporary plated desserts, sanitation and food costs. Students can also take a commercial baking course and a pre-employment course. In addition, they can earn NRA certificates, such as ServSafe, nutrition, human resources management and cost control. The school's Bistro offers international dishes and seasonal meals made from local, organic produce.

Runner-Up #2: Contra Costa College

  • Students and teachers participate in catering events and host banquets
  • Supervised, student-run Three Seasons restaurant
  • Express Cafe and The Switch, two food-service venues staffed by students

At Contra Costa, students are trained to become adept in the food service trades, which include careers as bakers and pastry chefs, chocolatiers, caterers and private chefs. The school offers both associate degree and Certificate of Achievement programs. Coursework consists of introductory classes on commercial baking and pastry preparation, cake finishing and desserts for restaurants, as well as food safety and ServSafe certification. Contra's on-campus Three Seasons restaurant is an educational culinary arts lab, providing students with on-the-job training. They work within the restaurant and Contra's modern commercial kitchen, as well as at frequent catering events and internships outside of the school.

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