The 10 Best Culinary Schools In America

The 10 Best Culinary Schools in America

This story was published September 23, 2016 and some of the information and tuition may be outdated. Please contact the schools for current information. 

Every aspiring chef wants the best education possible to, of course, become the best chef possible. There are numerous educational options available to young future chefs, but where do you start? Which schools are the best?

For the answer, The Daily Meal teamed up with Voss Water to present the 10 best culinary schools in America.

Facilities and instructors, degree programs, reputation and notable alumni, the length of study, and finally, the cost of tuition were all evaluated in the ranking process.

Although many schools offer pastry programs, bachelor's degrees, and hospitality management courses, for comparison purposes — specifically in regard to cost and length of study — associate and certificate degree programs were primarily appraised.

So if you imagine yourself to be the next Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, or Daniela Soto-Innes, start with this list and choose the right school for you. 

#10 San Diego Culinary Institute, San Diego

The culinary program at the San Diego Culinary Institute consists of some lecture classes, including Safety/Sanitation and Entrepreneurship courses, but more than 80 percent of instruction happens in the kitchen classroom. The course finishes with an externship program requiring a total of 220 of hours worked in a real kitchen. Each of the chef-instructors has been executive chefs of fine dining restaurants and has worked in the culinary field for a minimum of 25 years. Classes are kept small, only allowing a maximum of 16 students per class.

Degree Programs: Advanced Professional Diploma in Cuisine; Advanced Professional Diploma in Pastry

Length of Study: Eight months; includes externship.

Cost of Tuition: $23,556 for an Advanced Professional Diploma in Cuisine

#9 Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality Studies, Louisville, Ky.

If you ask any culinary student at the Sullivan University's world-renowned National Center for Hospitality Studies what they love most about their school, you'll get the same answer over and over: the chefs. Importantly, the chef instructors bring over 1,000 years of collective experience to the school. Sullivan University is also set apart by its culinary competition team, which holds a winning record at the regional, national, and international competition levels, boasting more than 400 gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Degree Programs: Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management; Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, Baking, and Pastry Arts; Associate of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management or in Beverage Management; Professional Baker Diploma

Length of Program: 18 months; 33 months (weekend/evening)

Cost of Tuition: $19,740 for an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts; not including room and board and other fees

#8 Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Boulder

Located in the Rocky Mountains, the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is branded with the name of culinary icon Auguste Escoffier and associated within the internationally renowned Auguste Escoffier Foundation. The school vows to prepare students for the culinary workforce whether that is in restaurants, country clubs, resorts, hotels, or other food service opportunities. Students are also trained to "understand where their food comes from and to develop respect for local resources and sustainable practices."

Degree Programs: Culinary Arts Diploma; Pastry Arts Diploma

Length of Study: 40 weeks, including a 10- week externship

Cost of Tuition: $27,700 for a Culinary Arts Diploma

#7 L’Academie de Cuisine, Gaithersburg, Md.

For more than 40 years, L'Academie de Cuisine has been teaching culinary skills in the Washington, D.C. area. The school features four professional kitchens and two demonstration classrooms within its 14,000-square-foot facility.

The curriculum for the Culinary Arts program consists of three primary learning phases: first, classroom study and kitchen fundamentals; second, advanced kitchen training; and third, a paid, 26-week apprenticeship in a fine-dining kitchen. Some notable alumni of the L'Academie de Cuisine include The Chew's Carla Hall and pastry chef Angela Pinkerton.

Degrees/Programs: Culinary Arts; Pastry Arts

Length of Study: 50 weeks; 62 weeks for the evening program

Cost of Tuition: $29,500 for the Culinary Arts program

#6 Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, Chicago

The Kendall College School of Culinary Arts campus features 12 professional-grade commercial kitchens, specialized chocolate/sugar and garde manger kitchens, a sustainable garden, and an outdoor bread oven. The culinary curriculum extends past traditional culinary training and also requires general education course work including composition, language, humanities, and computer literacy. Notable alumni include chefs Michael White and José Garces.

Degree Programs: Bachelor of Arts Degree in Culinary Arts; Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts and in Baking and Pastry; Culinary Certificate

Length of Study: Six quarters (year and a half) for an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts degree

Cost of Tuition: $48,246; cost does not reflect room and board, meal plan, or other school fees

#5 New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, Vt.

New England Culinary Institute is described as a "farm-to-table Mecca" located in prime agricultural territory in Vermont. A culinary arts associate degree comprises two six-month instructional sessions of intensive, hands-on learning in the state-of-the-art kitchens, and two six-month externships totaling a required 700 hours of real experience in a working kitchen. Class sizes are kept exceptionally small, never exceeding a 10 to 1 ratio, and notable alumni include Food Network personality Alton Brown and chef Gavin Kaysen.

Degrees/Programs: Bachelor of Arts or Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts; Bachelor of Arts or Associate of Occupational Studies in Food and Beverage Business Management; Associate of Occupational Studies in Professional Baking; Certificate in Professional Cooking or in Professional Baking and Pastry

Length of Study: Two years for an Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts

Cost of Tuition: $31,165 for an Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts

#4 Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts, Providence, R.I.; Charlotte, N.C.; Denver; North Miami

The associate culinary degree program at Johnson & Wales University seeks to provide students with "practical education in food production while developing professionalism and excellence in academic achievement." A standard classroom consists of an 18 to 1 student to teacher ratio. The first-year curriculum is designed to teach students the basic techniques and skills of cooking, while the second-year curriculum introduces more advanced techniques in both classical and international cuisines. Also unique is the Culinary International Exchange program where a select group of second-year students swaps places with culinary students in Ireland and Portugal for one term. Note that the Providence, Rhode Island, campus maintains the most notoriety and prestige. Notable alumni include Sean Brock and Emeril Lagasse.

Degree Programs: Bachelor of Science Degrees in Baking and Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts and Foodservice Management, Culinary Nutrition, Foodservice Entrepreneurship, Baking and Pastry Arts, and Foodservice Management; Associate Degrees in Baking and Pastry Arts and in Culinary Arts

Length of Study: Two years for an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts

Cost of Tuition: $61,142 for the Associate Degree in Culinary Arts

#3 International Culinary Center, New York City

The International Culinary Center, formerly the French Culinary Institute, was founded in 1984 by the late Dorothy Cann Hamilton and operates two programs: the first in New York City, and the second in Campbell, California. In addition to classical French culinary training, both schools offer specific programs covering the farm-to-table movement, pastry arts, sommelier training, bread baking and cake decorating.

ICC has a graduated more than 15,000 alumni from 90+ countries and legendary master chefs Jacques Pépin and Jacques Torres sit as deans of the school. The school's ongoing career services provides current students and alumni with job placement, resume building, interview coaching, externship placement, bi-annual career fairs and an exclusive job menu with thousands of listings (free to students & alumni). Notable alumni include David Chang, Bobby Flay, Christina Tosi, and Dan Barber, Joshua Skenes, Angie Mar and more.

Diploma Programs: Professional Culinary Arts; Professional Pastry Arts; The Art of International Bread Baking; Cake Techniques and Design; and Intensive Sommelier Training

Length of Study: Full-time study spans six months totaling 600 hours of experience; 400 in the school-kitchen setting and 200 hours in an externship environment for the Professional Culinary Arts program. Weekend and evening classes are also available.

Cost of Tuition: $39,900 for full-time study for Professional Culinary Arts program. Tuition varies based on program of interest and schedule options.

#2 The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y; St Helena, Calif.

The Culinary Institute of America is one a premier culinary school in America and has schooled a number of the world's best chefs, such as Grant Achatz, Enrique Olvera, and Anthony Bourdain. The school fuses the traditional college experience with vocational training, providing a number of extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports teams.

Nearly 3,000 students attend the school at a time enrolled in their many degree programs. The school is self-described as the "gold-standard" of culinary education and maintains a highly respected reputation that reverberates throughout the industry.

Degree Programs: Bachelor's Degrees in Culinary Arts Management, Baking and Pastry Arts Management and Culinary Science; Associate Degrees in Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts

Required Associate Degree classes include Culinary Math, Food Safety, Nutrition, College Writing, and Introduction to Management.

Length of Study: 21 months for an Associate Degrees in Culinary; study includes a 15-week hands-on restaurant externship

Cost of Tuition: $67,100. The website also notes that 90 percent of students receive financial aid. 

#1 Institute of Culinary Education, New York City

The Institute of Culinary Education was founded in 1975 and has consistently been rated a top culinary school. ICE curriculum is based on classic French culinary technique although the curriculum explores a number of global influences such as Thai, Indian, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. A 2015 survey of ICE graduates found that 93 percent of alumni would recommend an ICE education to someone looking to launch a career in the culinary or hospitality fields. Notable Alumni include Gail Simmons, Marc Murphy, Maxime Bilet and Ivy Stark 

Degree Programs: Culinary Arts; Pastry and Arts, Culinary Management, Hospitality Management

Length of Study: The traditional, full-time culinary arts course spans eight months and consists of 650 instructional hours. Students are in the classroom for 440 hours and on their externships for 210 hours acquiring real-world experience in the culinary field. Weekend and evening classes are also available.

Cost of Tuition: $40,100. Tuition includes all food, uniforms, books, knives, culinary tool kit, Wine Essentials Series, electives, application fee, and all applicable taxes.