Taking your culinary education to the next level is representative of a commitment to devoting your life to becoming a chef. In fact, being involved in such a cutthroat, competitive, and often gut-punching profession requires a manic dedication to being better than everyone else.
And while that education starts in the comforts of your home kitchen, it can only be properly developed in a place where you’ll receive your first official taste of what it takes to be a professional chef. There is nothing easy about culinary school, and where you study can set you forth on a path that determines the trajectory of your entire career.
The United States is home to many fine culinary institutions. Young chefs from around the world come to the US because it offers a diversity of programs, teachers, and focused degrees that simply can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
These five culinary schools in the US are not only the most renowned in their home country, they represent some of the best places to gain culinary knowledge and experience across the globe. Spoiler alert: most of them are in New York!
1 | Institute of Culinary Education, New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA
The culinary school that has by many been known simply as ‘The Institute’ was established in 1975 and consistently sits atop a variety of respected ‘best-of’ lists. The core program is based around storied French techniques, and introduces global influences from places such as Spain, India, Japan, and Italy.
The most popular, mainline program requires 8 months of intensely competitive schooling and kitchen time, along with a hefty $40,000 tuition fee. Attending The Institute is not for the faint of heart of the half-assers. It is the real deal, and only the best need apply.
2 | The Culinary Institute of America, New York, NY (Also with campuses in California and Texas)
For a bit of a more well-rounded collegiate experience, the Culinary Institute of America is the first place you should look. Not only is it one of the top cooking schools in the country, it offers other extracurricular activities such as clubs, teams, and sporting events.
The other ‘CIA’ has schooled such notable chefs as Anthony Bourdain, Grant Achatz, and Enrique Olvera. Even though the tuition is set at a staggering $67,000, their website notes that almost 90% of all students receive financial aid.
3 | The International Culinary Center, New York, NY & Campbell, CA
If you’ve ever heard of the names Bobby Flay, Jacque Pepin, or Dorothy Dunn Hammel, then chances are you’ve heard of the International Culinary Center. It’s a cooking school so good it needed two campuses. It was established in the 1980’s by the aforementioned Hammel and has been producing some of the world’s most skilled chefs since.
There are a number of attractive programs, but perhaps the most enticing is Italian Studies. It includes a deep dive into Italian cuisine, and also an externship portion of studies that takes participants to Parma, Italy.
4 | New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, VT
The past decade has seen rapid growth in the “farm-to-table” culinary movement for chefs and home cooks alike. Well, this culinary school nestled in the middle of Montpelier, Vermont is considered to be the epicenter for cooking that revolves around the harvesting, foraging, and preparation of only local ingredients.
It would be a mistake to label the school as a niche hippy knock-off of a real cooking school, however. It boasts some of the most refined cooking techniques cherry-picked from around the globe, and has proven to produce amazing, original chefs who are passionate about serving readily-available ingredients.
5 | Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, Chicago, IL
Next to New York, Chicago is the second most highly-regarded food cities in the entire country. The Kendall College School of Culinary Arts represents the best of what the city has to offer in terms of knowledge, skill, and incentivizing young chefs to challenge what they know and try something new.
The school puts an emphasis on the culinary arts, of course, but also requires students take courses in composition, language, humanities, and computer literacy. The goal here isn’t just to train gifted cooks, but to prepare them for the realities of maintaining a career, and potentially running a business down the line.