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How to Choose the Best Culinary Schools: Become a Professional Chef

Whether a desire to cook is for personal enjoyment or to develop a new career, choosing a good culinary arts school is the first step. There are plenty of excellent choices in the U.S., and this summary of the best chef schools will help narrow the choice.

Become a Chef: How Long Does it Take?

While different culinary schools have differing requirements, in general, it takes just under two years to get an associate chef degree, and slightly more than three years to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, some schools require six months’ experience working in a professional kitchen before applying to school. To become a Certified Master Chef takes many years of experience, and succeeding through a rigorous exam offered by the Culinary Institute of America.

Culinary Schools in the U.S.: How to Choose a School

Depending on a student’s personal circumstances, the choice of a culinary school may have to be made according to geography, but the U.S. has culinary schools abound, so staying close to home should not be a problem. If location is no problem, there are schools to choose from with excellent reputations in:

  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Chicago, IL
  • Hyde Park, NY
  • San Francisco, San Diego & St. Helena, CA
  • Dallas, Houston & San Antonio, TX
  • Chicago, IL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Fort Lauderdale & Miami, FL

How Much Does it Cost?

About 20,000 per year, depending on the school, and without any financial assistance.

Culinary School Programs: What are the Differences?

Each school has its own unique program offerings, so it is helpful to have an idea of what area of expertise a student wishes to focus on.

Le Cordon Bleu offers:

  • Culinary Arts Program – Hands-on cooking with professional chefs
  • Patisserie and Baking Program – Bread, design, pastry, patisserie chef
  • Hospitality & Restaurant Management – Learn management, wine, business law & dining environments in preparation for a job in this field
  • B.A. in Culinary Management Online – Earn an advanced culinary degree from home, provided the associate degree program from an accredited school has been successfully completed

Culinary Institute of America offers:

  • Bachelor & Associate Degrees in Culinary Arts – for aspiring chefs, restaurateur or food service manager
  • Degree Programs in Baking & Pastry Arts – for bakers, pastry chefs, cake decorators, or bakery café owners.
  • Certificate Programs – Only thirty weeks is required to complete the baking & pastry arts certification, or an accelerated culinary arts study for students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree program.

Job Placement: Which Schools Provide Assistance Finding a Job as Chef or Personal Cook?

Le Cordon Bleu provides interview, resume, networking guidance and job search assistance through their local contacts upon completion of their program. Culinary Institute of America maintains a listing of national and international employers who visit the school regularly to recruit students.

For culinary study in America, the two schools summarized here have the most locations, and are most well known, which may be a factor in future employment. But smaller local schools are also an option, and a certificate can be earned at a larger school to supplement another program. Whatever school is chosen, food service is an occupation which will surely always be in demand.