Finding the Right Culinary School: What to Do First

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to take the plunge and go to culinary school, there is still quite a bit of work to be done—especially finding the right school.

Unless you’ve received a culinary scholarship tied to one particular school, you’ll need to consider everything from tuition costs and location to the length of the program and what your post-graduation job prospects will be. That’s why your first step in finding the right culinary school should be to research your options.

Popular National Culinary Schools


There are hundreds of culinary schools to choose from in the country, and depending on where you live, there might be dozens of options right at home. If you’re like most culinary students, you’ll start your search online.Some schools have a great reputation, some might have a not-so-great reputation, and still others might not have been around long enough to have any reputation at all. Your job is to sort through them all to find the right fit.

The two most common culinary schools at the chain level are Le Cordon Bleu (now closed in the US), a traditional French institution, and the Art Institute, which features everything from culinary training to graphic design. These chains provide consistent, quality educational options close to home, and most employers recognize them, which might give you an edge when it comes to landing a job.

Other popular schools, like the The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes, don’t operate on a chain basis, but are still recognizable in the culinary community as a whole. Although the competition to get in schools like this is stiff, the work and relocation can be worth it if you work hard and make the right connections.

City and State Culinary Schools

Other popular culinary schools that will appear while you’re undergoing your search have city and state names attached to them. Many of these schools are small, private culinary institutions that operate with just one (or a handful) of schools unique to your area.

Because they are not nationally-recognized names, it’s likely that only local restaurants will recognize them on your resume. This isn’t necessarily good or bad—it just means you’ll need to ensure the program is right for you before you sign up. Look for the degrees they offer, check out the staff members, talk to past students, and even ask local employers what they think of the program.

Public Schools

One of the most popular ways to get a culinary education is to check out the programs at your local community college or public university. Almost every community college has a culinary program, baking program, and/or restaurant management program—all of which culminate in a two-year Associate degree program.

More and more universities are also jumping on board with hospitality management or even culinary programs, with both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree options. The workload and expectations are similar to what you’ll find in any other university program, though, so be prepared to work hard for your degree.

Where to Start Looking

Online databases of culinary schools are the best place to start your search for a culinary program. Because you can search by location, you can find schools in your immediate area as well as ones that might offer online learning options.

Remember, though, that researching a list of potential schools is only the first step. To make the right decision for your future career, you’ll need to investigate each one to determine which culinary school fits your vision of tomorrow.