The Top 15 Culinary Schools in the US

Cooking for family and friends at home or during special occasions like Thanksgiving can be very rewarding, but it is quite different from cooking in a professional kitchen. Professional cooking is an art requiring an extraordinary level of discipline, commitment, and time to develop specialized culinary skill sets.

Whether you’re aspiring to be the latest hot personality in the culinary industry, pursue a career in food business management, or simply just want to improve your culinary skills, then you will benefit from an adequate culinary education. Now is a good time to consider the opportunity – employment for chefs and line cooks is expected to rise 10% by 2026 according to a forecast by the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Finding the best culinary school is central to getting the much-needed adequate culinary education necessary for a successful career in the culinary industry. It is pertinent that you make the right choice when choosing a culinary institution as there are many options available. Also, consider using EssayService to get help with writing or editing your admission essay to improve your acceptance chances.

Based on the degree programs offered, quality of education, culinary facilities, reputations, notable alumni, and tuitions, the following are the top 15 best culinary schools in the United States.

Culinary Institute of America (CIA)

Founded on May 22 1946 by the New Haven Restaurant Association, the Culinary Institute of America tops the list as the best culinary school in the United State. Primarily headquartered in Hyde Park, New York, CIA also has satellite campuses in St Helena and Napa, California, San Antonio, Texas, even stretching as far as Singapore.

In 1971, the CIA made history by becoming the first school to offer an Associate degree program in culinary arts, this was followed by a bachelor’s degree in 1991.

This prestigious culinary school which boasts alumni like celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, Roy Choi, among others, allows for flexibility and varying levels of specification in career choice by offering several degree options including Bachelor and Associate degrees in Culinary Arts, Baking, and Pastry Arts. Students can, therefore, train to become a five-star head chef, a highly-skilled pastry chef, or focus strictly on the business aspect of food management especially if you’re hoping to establish your own restaurant.

Perhaps what makes CIA unique is the fact that it prides itself as a private and not-for-profit Culinary Institute focused on providing quality culinary education for the students, unlike other institutions that are for-profit.

Although you can start from scratch, having prior kitchen experience working in a professional kitchen means that you can easily enroll in one of the CIA accelerated programs to study say ‘Culinary Arts’. CIA also helps students in career placements and advancement. Degree programs range from 21-38 months including a paid 18 weeks externship which provides the students sufficient on-the-job experience as well as professional connections. Mentoring is made possible by their vast networks of alumni.

Culinary Lab Contemporary Cooking School

Founded by top chef Ryan Wagner and headquartered in Tustin, California, CulinaryLab offers a modern, hands-on education that fast-tracks your integration into the culinary industry with about 1000 hours of paid internship.

If you are hoping to pursue a career in the culinary industry then the ideal program for you is a 12-month long Professional Culinary Diploma. There is also a 12-month long Professional Pastry Diploma program for aspiring pastry chefs and bakers.

The school prides itself on its inclusiveness in terms of student’s prior culinary experience or level of exposure in the culinary world. You can find students ranging from aspiring amateur cooks to professional chefs looking to further their skill sets. No matter your experience level, CulinaryLab has something for you.

If you want to know what makes CulinaryLab so unique, then consider the following qualities:

  • Reduced emphasis on long classroom-type teaching involving boring culinary textbooks, ensuring that students receive hands-on experience and practice with recipes
  • The considerably short time it takes to earn a diploma (12 months), unlike other culinary schools.
  • High flexibility in class time, allowing flexibility for students with other obligations on their schedules. Students can choose between two morning or evening sessions per week
  • Small class size (maximum of 12 students per course) ensures that students receive the necessary attention and access to the instructor
  • 1000 hours of paid apprenticeship enables students to earn as much as $13000 while completing their diploma
  • Students are exposed to professional training from renowned guest chefs on occasion

You can contact us today for a 30 minutes phone interview geared towards understanding your goals and aspirations in the culinary world, and how best we can help you realize your fullest potential. With our retinue of chef instructors, state-of-the-art kitchen equipment, and a variety of options, CulinaryLab is a great choice for culinary students of all skill levels.

Institute of Culinary Education (ICE)

Founded in 1975 by veteran American culinary artist Peter Krump, ICE pride itself as the largest independent culinary school in the United State. A fact not disputed by top chefs and culinary industry leaders. It has two well-equipped campuses in Los Angeles (California) and New York City (New York).

With a curriculum that incorporates classical French cuisine as well as Japanese, Spanish, Indian, Italian and Thai cuisine, ICE enjoys a global culinary influence fueled by its retinue of expert chef-instructors who doesn’t just enhance innovation but also imbibe entrepreneurial spirit in the students.

ICE offers career training programs/diplomas in Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking, Culinary Management, and Hospitality Management most of which are completed within a duration of 8-13 months with about 650 instructional hours divided into 440 hours spent in the classroom and 210 hours of externship.

Recognized as the premier pathway to begin or continue a culinary career, ICE operates the most extensive program of hands-on recreational cooking and baking classes and wine education in the country. It was awarded the ‘culinary school of the year award’ by the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2015. And was also named “The Best Culinary School in America” in 2016 by Daily Meal.

ICE students and alumni are top winners and nominees of culinary industrial awards. The school boasts famed alumni like Gail Simmons, Marc Murphy among others. Tuition ranges between $34,135-$40,100.

International Culinary Center (ICC)

Founded in 1984 by Dorothy Cann Hamilton and formerly referred to as French Culinary Institute. ICC operates in both New York City and Campbell (California) where in addition to regular classical French culinary training, pastry art, bread baking, and cake decoration, the school also offers specialized programs in the farm-to-table movement and sommelier training which prepares students for sommelier certification.

ICC also aids career advancement as well as placement of its alumni and students through an internship, coaching, resume building, externship, and bi-annual career fair. The school boasts famed alumni like Bobby Flay, Dan Barber among others with legendary master chefs Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres as deans of study. Students can complete a full-time program with six months comprising 600 hours of experience divided into 400 classroom hours and 200 hours of externship. You can also enroll in weekend and evening classes.

Specific programs offered include:

  • Professional Culinary Arts
  • Professional Pastry Arts
  • The Art of International Bread Baking
  • Cake Techniques and Designs
  • Intensive Sommelier

Tuition varies depending on the program of interest.

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

Named after famed French culinary icon “Auguste Escoffier” also known as the father of modern cuisine, this culinary school was founded in 2011.

It is a private, for-profit culinary institute that prides itself on its sustainable practices while focusing on preparing its students for a successful career in the culinary industry. Students are groomed to understand their food origin while also appreciating the local resources.

It offers a degree program in both Culinary Arts Diploma and Pastry Arts Diploma which usually last for a duration of 40 weeks with 10 weeks externship. These degrees can also be earned online (the first culinary institute to do that). It is affiliated with the Auguste Escoffier Foundation and is primarily headquartered in Austin (Texas), with a satellite campus in Boulder (Colorado). Tuition may vary depending on the program, with $27,700 for a Culinary Arts Diploma.

Johnson and Wales

Located in Providence (Rhodes Island), with satellite campuses in Charlotte (North Carolina), Denver (Colorado), and North Miami (Florida). Johnson and Wales University College of Culinary Arts is a private, not-for-profit culinary institute that focuses on providing practical culinary education for the student with an emphasis on professionalism and culinary academic excellence.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this culinary school is its culinary international exchange program involving select groups of students swapping places with culinary students in Portugal and Ireland. It also aids career placement and advancement of its students through career fairs, seminars, among others.

The school offers at least 8 degrees options ranging from Bachelor to Associate degree. Some of these degrees include:

Bachelor of Science in:

  • Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Culinary Arts and Food Service Management
  • Culinary Arts
  • Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Food Service Management
  • Restaurant, Food and Beverage Management
  • Food and Beverage Entrepreneurship
  • Culinary Science and Culinary Nutrition

Associate of Science in Culinary Science as well as Baking & Pastry Arts which usually lasts for a duration of two years costs on average $61, 142

Celebrity chef Sean Brock is a notable alumnus.

New England Culinary Institute (NECI)


Founded June 15, 1980, by Fran Voigt and John Dranow and located in a primarily agricultural neighborhood in Montpelier (Vermont), NECI pride itself as a farm-to-table hub.

NECI offers several Bachelor and Associate degree programs in Culinary Arts, Baking & Pastry Arts, and more, online classes are also available for students who might prefer that.

The school has a well-equipped kitchen facility and a very minimal class size of 10:1 (10 students to 1 teacher) with combined hands-on learning and externship of 700 hours. Some of the specific degree programs offered include:

On average tuition is $31,165 for an Associate degree program. NECI boasts famed Food Network Personality Alton Brown as alumni.

Kendall College School of Culinary Arts

This culinary school was founded in 1934 and is headquartered in Chicago. Perhaps its uniqueness stems from the fact that it offers an accelerated degree program; Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts, an 18-month program tailored for people with Bachelor degrees that somehow discovered their culinary passion later in life.

The school also incorporates humanities, language & composition as well as computer literacy in its course work. Additionally, it offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Culinary Arts as well as a Culinary Certificate. The Associate degrees cost on average $48, 246. Top chefs Michael White and Jose Garces are known, alumni.

L’Academie de Cuisine


Founded in 1976 by the famous Francios Dionot and located in Washington DC, L’Academie de Cuisine offers a degree program in Culinary and Pastry Arts in a culinary academic program structured in three phases…

  • The first phase involves classroom study geared towards establishing fundamental culinary knowledge
  • The second phase involves advanced kitchen training and techniques
  • The last phase involves a paid 25-week apprenticeship geared towards establishing on-the-job experience and professional connection

On average it takes 50 weeks for a student to complete a program except for evening schools that may last up to 62 weeks. Tuition for the culinary art program is about $29,500 which is considered reasonable for the high-quality education it offers. Renowned pastry chef Angela Pinkerton is an alumnus.

Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality Studies

Renowned for its exceptional chefs, this culinary school has accumulated over 400 medals in gold, silver, and bronze in both regional, national and international culinary competitions, a record win that is proof of its uniqueness.

The school was founded by A.O. Silver and son A. R. Silver in 1962 and is located in Louisville (Kentucky) with a satellite campus in Lexington. Program duration ranges from 18 months for afternoon classes to 33 months for evening classes and the tuition may vary depending on the specific program. Some of the specific programs include…

Associate of Science in:

  • Culinary Arts
  • Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Hotel and Restaurant Management

Diploma and Certificate:

  • Personal/Private Chef
  • Professional Baker
  • Professional Cook

San Diego Culinary Institute, San Diego

Located in the city of La Messa, San Diego (California), this culinary school offers an Advanced Professional Diploma in Cuisine and an Advanced Professional Diploma in Pastry both of which last for a duration of 8 months including an externship and costs about $23,556.

80% of course work in San Diego Culinary Institute takes place in the kitchen classroom, with 220 hours of externship. Strict class sizes are maintained at a maximum of 16 students per class.

Paul Smith College of Arts and Science


Founded in 1946 and located in Brighton (New York), Paul Smith College of Arts and Science

offers accelerated programs in Culinary Arts. The program is structured into a series of five 10-weeks sessions which can easily be completed by the student in three semesters. The average tuition is $26, 146

Culinary Institute of Savannah

Located in Savannah (Georgia), the Culinary Institute of Savannah offers an Associate degree program and a Diploma in Culinary Arts as well as Baking and Pastry Arts. Its program is tailored towards ensuring culinary career readiness among the students.

Great Lakes Culinary Institute

This culinary school is located in Transverse city (Michigan) and offers an Associate degree program in Culinary Arts. The school boasts of five culinary labs including beginners and advanced kitchen and bakery among others which prepares the student for both entry-level chef position and kitchen management position.

Culinary Institute, LeNotre

Founded in 1998 by Alain Lenotre and his wife, Marie Lenotre, and located in Houston ( Texas). The school prides itself on its exceptional pastry classes, with emphasis on classical French cuisine. Since its inception, the school has expanded to include 10 kitchens and pastry labs. LeNotre offers Associate degrees and a Diploma in culinary arts, baking & pastry arts, hotel & restaurant management, and Sommelier. It also offers continuing education programs for professional and recreational cooking classes for non-professionals

Metropolitan Community College, Omaha (Nebraska)

Located in Omaha (Nebraska), the Metropolitan community college combines culinary education with working experience geared towards preparing the students for a career in restaurant management or as a top chef. Its low tuition price makes it uniquely appealing amongst the other options in this list.

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