California has plenty of options available to people interested in learning how to cook. Many of the 2-year colleges in the state offer associate's degree programs in the culinary arts, restaurant management or hospitality management. Students learn through classroom lectures and laboratory experiences. They also work in college restaurants and participate in internships.
Below are brief summaries of ten of California's largest schools that grant degrees in this field, in addition to a table that compares each school's offerings and tuition information.
American River College
Sacramento's American River College belongs to the California Community College system, a group of more than 100 schools. Students enrolled in this college's culinary arts degree and certificate programs focus on food preparation as well as food service management. Curricula include lectures, laboratory classes and experience working in the school's Oak Cafe, a 4-star student-run restaurant that has been profiled in such publications as Sunset Magazine and AAA Via Magazine. Lab and lecture class sizes range from 18 to 35 students, though advanced classes can have as few as ten. Although the school doesn't have a job placement program, about 95% of its culinary arts students find employment after graduation.
Cerritos College is situated in Norwalk and is one of the largest community colleges in Los Angeles County. Its culinary arts program combines classroom lectures with work experience that allows students to begin building their resumes while earning their degree. Students take courses in topics like purchasing, food safety and commercial food production. Students also work at the Cerritos College Cafe, rotating through different stations in the kitchen and working with customers in the dining room.
City College of San Francisco
Located in the center of San Francisco, the City College of San Francisco's Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Department offers degrees in three concentration areas, including culinary arts, hotel management and food service management. Students pursuing the associate degree in culinary arts can complete program requirements in two years. Curriculum includes a series of laboratory classes as well as an unpaid internship. Students also prepare meals in the school's cafeteria, restaurant and café, which are located on the Ocean Campus. The culinary arts degree program requires a commitment of about eight hours per day for five days a week. Students who complete the program can take advantage of workshops and other job search services available through the Career Center.
Diablo Valley College
Diablo Valley College has campuses in Pleasant Hill and San Ramon. Students can earn an associate degree in hospitality studies with a specialization in one of three areas: culinary arts, baking and pastry arts or restaurant management. The culinary arts option prepares students for a variety of culinary positions, including chef, kitchen manager, food stylist and menu planner. While enrolled in the program, students gain a thorough understanding of how to purchase, prepare and serve food through work experience in the college's pastry shop and full-service restaurant. Additional resources are available through the college's Career and Employment Services Office, which holds job fairs in addition to offering job search tools and career counseling. Certificate programs are also available in the aforementioned areas.
Long Beach City College
Long Beach-based Long Beach City College offers several options to students interested in the culinary arts, including associate degree and short-term certificate programs. Students pursuing the 2-year degree can expect to complete 60 units of coursework, including general education courses and classes on American, Asian, vegetarian and world cuisines. Students also complete two semesters of food service work experience.
Orange Coast College
The culinary arts programs at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa are accredited by the American Culinary Federation. Curricula are designed to prepare students for the rigors of working in a commercial kitchen. Instruction includes hands-on laboratories supplemented with classroom lectures on such topics as beverage management, continental cooking and baking. To be admitted to the advanced culinary arts program and earn an associate degree, students must first complete the basic culinary arts certificate program.
Riverside City College
Located in Riverside, Riverside City College, also known as Riverside Community College, offers a certificate in culinary arts in addition to a 60-credit associate degree program. Curriculum combines classroom lectures with hands-on experience in a professional kitchen. Topics of study range from introductory to advanced food preparation techniques. Students can also take electives in baking and cake decorating. Riverside Community College accepts online applications and features a career center to help guide students toward their educational and career goals.
Mission Viejo-based Saddleback College offers a culinary arts program to prospective chefs, restaurant operators and caterers, among others. Students complete internships in addition to courses in food preparation, baking and beverage operations. To graduate with an associate degree, students must complete 60 units of coursework with a minimum 2.0 GPA, roughly 20 units beyond core requirements for the culinary arts certificate.
San Diego Mesa College
San Diego Mesa College, nestled in the heart of San Diego, is one of the state's largest community colleges. Its campus features a 4-story Learning Resource Center with computer labs and a library. The school is also home to the M Fusion Cafe, where students prepare lunch and dinner for both San Diego Mesa students and the general public. An Associate of Science is available in Culinary Arts/Culinary Management in Hospitality. A Certificate of Achievement is also offered.
Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa Junior College, located in Santa Rosa, schedules its culinary arts courses in 8-week blocks to accommodate the needs of working students. Classes are held in the college's Culinary Arts Center, which is also located in Santa Rosa. Additionally, students receive training in its Culinary Cafe, a full-service restaurant that includes a bakery and dining room. Other resources include the college's Culinary Career Center, which offers job placement services to program graduates and current students.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Culinary Arts Degrees Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)*|
|American River College||2-year, public; large suburb||Associate of Arts in Culinary Arts/Restaurant Management||$1,104 (in-state); $8,712 (out-of-state)|
|Cerritos College||2-year, public; large suburb||Associate of Arts in Culinary Arts Professional Chefs Training||$1,346 (in-state); $8,710 (out-of-state)|
|City College of San Francisco||2-year, public; large city||Associate in Science in Culinary Arts||$1,696 (in-state); $10,372 (out-of-state)|
|Diablo Valley College||2-year, public; large suburb||Associate in Science in Hospitality Studies - Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts or Restaurant Management||$1,312 (in-state); $8,564 (out-of-state)|
|Long Beach City College||2-year, public; large city||Associate in Science in Culinary Arts||$1,174 (in-state); $7,750 (out-of-state)|
|Orange Coast College||2-year, public; midsize city|| Certificates in Culinary Arts and Advanced Culinary Arts,
Associate in Science in Advanced Culinary Arts
|$1,186 (in-state); $7,978 (out-of-state)|
|Riverside City College||2-year, public; large city|| Culinary Arts Certificate,
Associate in Science in Culinary Arts
|$1,420 (in-state); $9,160 (out-of-state)|
|Saddleback College||2-year, public; large suburb|| Basic and Advanced Culinary Arts Certificates,
Associate in Science in Culinary Arts
|$1,328 (in-state); $9,392 (out-of-state)|
|San Diego Mesa College||2-year, public; large city|| Certificate in Culinary Arts/Culinary Management in Hospitality,
Associate in Science in Culinary Arts/Culinary Management in Hospitality
|$1,144 (in-state); $7,024 (out-of-state)|
|Santa Rosa Junior College||2-year, public; midsize city||Associate of Arts in Culinary Arts||$1,328 (in-state); $8,174 (out-of-state)|
Source: *NCES College Navigator