School and Ranking Information
California cuisine has been a major influence of national food and restaurant trends for years. Many of California's public community (two-year) colleges offer programs in professional chef training for students who want to learn how to prepare, serve, and market this and other styles of cooking. There are nearly a dozen schools in the Sunnyvale area that offer these programs. Three such schools are located within a short driving distance of Sunnyvale:
- Winner: Cabrillo College is located 41 miles away and offers culinary programs.
- Runner Up #1: Mission College is located 5 miles away offers certificate and associate's programs.
- Runner Up #2: Laney College is 43 miles away and also offers certificate and associate's degree programs.
Each of these schools will give you the foundational knowledge and skills you'll need for entry-level work in the restaurant business, catering, and other culinary careers such as food stylist. All three schools are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; no independent entity, such as US News & World Report, for example, currently ranks the overall quality of the nation's community colleges.
School Comparison Chart
|Category||Cabrillo College||Mission College||Laney College|
|Location||Aptos, CA||Santa Clara, CA||Oakland, CA|
|School Type||2-year, public||2-year, public||2-year, public|
|Tuition 2012-2013||$1,350 (in-state),** $5,662 (out-of-state)**||$1174 (in-state),** $6070 (out-of-state)**||$1,144 (in-state undergraduate), $5,704 (out-of-state undergraduate)**|
|Degree Levels Offered||Certificates and associate's **||Certificates and associate's **||Certificates and associate's **|
|Degrees Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012||53**||15**||46**|
|Most Popular Programs in 2011-2012||Associate's degree in cooking and related culinary arts, general (22 awarded)**||Associate's in restaurant, culinary, and catering management/manager (7 awarded)**||Certificate in cooking and related culinary arts, general (34 awarded) **|
|Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal program time) for 2008 Undergraduate Entering Class||25%**||22%**||22%**|
|Noteworthy||The college maintains a catering facility in which students can prepare banquets for up to 200 guests.||The college's Welcome Center exists to help new and continuing complete necessary paperwork, learn about requirements, and prepare in general for life on campus.||The Retail Baker's Association and the National Restaurant Association have approved Laney's courses.|
Sources: *U.S. News & World Report 2013 rankings, **NCES College Navigator
Winner: Cabrillo College
- Unique among the three colleges, Cabrillo offers a one-year certificate in catering.
- The culinary arts programs use organic herbs, vegetables, and fruits grown by students in the college's horticulture program.
- Students must buy their own equipment and uniforms.
The culinary arts program at Cabrillo College has several attributes that should appeal to students eager to pursue careers in the world of food. First, the college offers 16-unit (credit) certificate programs that give students entry-level skills for cooking, baking, or catering. Any one of these certificates can be the first leg of earning a 34-unit certificate of achievement in culinary arts and hospitality management or as part of the 60-unit associate of science degree in culinary arts and hospitality management. Culinary arts students acquire real-world experience by working in the college's Pino Alto restaurant, which is open to the public, and in the catering kitchen of Sesnon House, a college-owned event space that hosts weddings, banquets, and other festive occasions where special food and drink is served. Sesnon House, a beautifully maintained vintage mansion also serves as the program's home for classes and faculty offices.
Runner-Up #1: Mission College
- Graduates have found employment at Marriott and Hyatt hotels and in food service corporations such as ARAMARK and Sodexho.
- Students prepare meals for Second Harvest from produce grown in the campus's Edible Garden.
- The hospitality management building has had a recent $8.8 million renovation.
Of the three schools, Mission College is certainly the closest to Sunnyvale--a scant five miles away. If proximity is your most important consideration, then one of Mission's programs in hospitality management--an associate of science degree in hospitality management (60-units required) and certificates in fundamental foods (17 units required) or food service supervisor (45 units required)--might be a good choice for you. Although Mission's program, and consequently the range and number of its course offerings, is smaller than Cabrillo's or Laney's, its facilities include two professional kitchen in a newly renovated building with state-of-the-art equipment. Students prepare restaurant-style meals for the on-campus Mission Bistro, and also gain experience with cooking for cafeteria-style presentation.
Runner-Up #2: Laney College
- Only Laney College offers a major in baking, for students who wish to become pastry chefs.
- Oakland Magazine recommends the student-run Laney Bistro as a top local eatery.
- Laney also offers short-term programs such as workshops for professionals who want to add to their skills.
At Laney College, you can earn an AS degree (at least 60 units of course work) by majoring in cooking and restaurant management or baking; certificates in restaurant management or baking and pastry, each requiring 16 units, are offered as well. And while the campus is at the greatest distance from Sunnyvale, located as it is in Oakland, Laney has the offsetting benefit of being the closest of the three community colleges to the vibrant San Francisco restaurant scene. You'll need to brush up on your understanding of mathematics, especially fractions, decimals, and percentages to master some of the work in the courses you will take, and the program suggests (but does not require) that you to take a basic math class if you need to update your knowledge. As part of your training for either a certificate or an AS, you'll work in the Laney Bistro or the college's institutional kitchen. This experience, and your in-class work at Laney will acquaint you with seasonal and sustainable ingredients and expose you to the flavors and techniques of other national and ethnic cuisines.