Have dreams of becoming a professional chef, restaurateur or sommelier? Education from accredited culinary schools in California offers the best start to your culinary career. With so many programs available throughout the sunny state, getting the skills you need is easy, convenient and affordable.
Standard Admission Requirements
Although every school has its own admission requirements, many require prospective students to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some institutions offer high school courses to help learners qualify for desired programs.
Types of Programs
Bachelors, Honors and Master’s degrees are usually available at universities and can take up to 4 years to complete. Associate degrees can be obtained from community colleges and institutes. Certificate programs can be found in all types of culinary schools and can take 6 weeks to 24 months to complete.
The choice of program depends on the type of employment you need. In general, graduates with degrees qualify for higher positions. Certificates can help secure entry-level jobs. It is therefore up to the student to continue their education to increase the chances of landing better positions in future.
California Culinary Schools by Region
The North Coast offers a serene learning environment for students from all walks of life. Surrounded by undisturbed nature and scenic coastlines, this region provides plenty of inspiration for the culinary enthusiast.
Mendocino College offers 1-year certificate programs for students looking for employment in the food service industry. The Culinary Arts Management Certificate curriculum includes 8 foundation courses that cover basic culinary skills, food safety, sanitation, cost, kitchen equipment and dining room service. Additional courses include baking, vegetarian cuisine and wine pairing.
Living Light Culinary Institute
Known as “the birthplace of gourmet vegan cuisine”, the Living Light Culinary Institute is one of the top culinary schools in California. The institute offers courses for both beginners and seasoned chefs. Students can purchase individual certificate packages to learn everything from knife skills to raw food nutrition.
Living Light is specially focused on teaching aspiring chefs how to cook with raw, fresh food. Emphasis on nutrition and reforming the American diet is what sets this school apart. After graduation, students can find employment at health centers as gourmet chefs, instructors and nutrition educators.
Students interested in mastering North Coast cuisine can take cooking classes at the Assaggiare Mendocino. This organization offers hands-on training and encourages trainees to experiment with local ingredients. Classes are led by chef and founder Julia Kendrick and available all year round.
College of the Redwoods
For aspiring restaurateurs, the College of the Redwoods offers Associate degrees and certificates in Restaurant Management. Core courses include hospitality leadership, human resource management, law, accounting and marketing. The college also provides internship opportunities as part of training.
Although cooking courses are restricted, Redwoods does offer basic culinary, baking and nutrition classes. Graduates qualify to work as professional chefs, line cooks, restaurant managers, dieticians and food service managers.
Santa Rosa Junior College
Also known as the SRCJ Culinary Arts Café, the Santa Rosa Junior College offers comprehensive certificate programs for budding and experienced chefs. Students can enroll for culinary arts programs in Baking and Pastry, Dining Room Service, Restaurant Management or Front House Operations.
Worth Our Weight (WOW)
WOW is an apprenticeship program aimed at providing young people with culinary skills. The training is free to support financially disadvantaged students. It caters mostly to learners coming from difficult backgrounds such as homelessness, foster care and juvenile prison.
The Culinary Institute of America in Greystone
A branch of the renowned Culinary Institute of America, the Greystone campus in St. Helena allows students to obtain associate degrees in culinary arts, baking and pastry, and wine and beverages. With a chain of restaurants and top instructors, this institute is regarded as one of the best culinary schools in California.
Napa Valley College
Students interested in the management side of the food industry can take hospitality courses at the Napa Valley College. With a curriculum that focuses on all areas of hospitality, the college provides training on how to manage a restaurant, food and beverage.
Silverado Cooking School
Another popular, accredited culinary school in the Napa Valley is the Silverado Cooking School. Although the training is not as extensive as college programs, the school equips students with the culinary skills and techniques required for entry-level positions.
Ramekins Culinary School
Ramekins is a catering business that offers short cooking classes. The average duration of classes is 3 hours and each is focused on a specific type of cuisine or ingredient. These classes are ideal for the aspiring specialty chef and saucier.
Institute of Technology
The IOT offers award-winning programs for students eager to build a career in the culinary industry. The school’s degrees and diploma programs received the Exemplary Program Status Award, and specialize in cooking, baking and pastry. It offers one-on-one assistance and gives trainees the opportunity to show off their skills through internships.
To become a certified chef, line cook or sommelier, students can apply for one of 10 culinary arts degrees and certificates offered at Shasta College. With personalized training led by professional instructors, this college is one of the few culinary schools in California that provides an intimate, student-focused learning environment.
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco
Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco is every bit as prestigious as the college’s other campuses. Located in Protrero Hill, the school offers associate degrees and certificates in the culinary arts and baking in a region known for its cheeses, wines and abundant fresh produce.
San Francisco Cooking School
Whether students want to study part-time or full-time, the San Francisco Cooking School caters for both. Programs can be completed in 6 or 12 months depending on your availability. The school only takes 14 students per class to create an intimate learning environment, and offer courses on everything from cooking to food styling.
The Art Institute of California in San Francisco
The San Francisco campus of the Art Institute offers students a diverse, energetic environment to nurture their culinary skills. Learners have a choice between exploring the artistic and cooking side of the industry, and learning more about the management side of things. There is also the option of studying for either a Bachelor’s degree or diploma.
City College of San Francisco
The CCSF has a separate department reserved for Culinary Arts and Hospitality. Students can apply for a 2-year Associate in Science degree or choose the 2-semester training program. The degree covers both cooking and management education. The shorter program focuses on basic culinary skills, baking and pastry, and dining room operations.
San Francisco Baking Institute
For students with a sweet tooth, the San Francisco Baking Institute is one of the few culinary schools in California to offer baking courses exclusively. The school gives full-day lessons and helps learners develop practical skills in a professional kitchen. Courses provide training in baking techniques and high volume production.
Diablo Valley College
Diablo Valley College is a center that provides Associate degrees in all culinary and hospitality disciplines. The school’s comprehensive curriculums are designed to train students in many areas of expertise, including advanced cuisine, baking, catering and entrepreneurship.
Contra Costa College
The Contra Costa College in San Pablo blends classic culinary education with modern techniques to provide highly effective training. Qualifications available include Associate degrees, Certificate of Accomplishment programs and short training sessions to familiarize students with the kitchen environment.
The Cheese School of San Francisco
Aspiring caterers and sommeliers can take advantage of courses offered at the Cheese School of San Francisco. Classes train students how to pair wines with cheeses to create platters for events. Programs run for 1-3 days and each lesson lasts 2-3 hours.
First Class Cooking
Students looking to acquire good, basic cooking skills can sign up for classes at First Class Cooking. Lessons are led by owner Emily Dellas and classes are limited to 12 people for personalized teaching. In addition to culinary skills, the chef offers wine pairing and nutrition courses as well.
Kitchen on Fire Culinary School
Situated in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kitchen on Fire is a culinary school that offers affordable cooking classes. The program is a 12-week course that teaches cooking basics, techniques, sauce-making and knife skills. After completing the series of classes, students are welcome to work as apprentices for the school’s team of expert chefs.
Mt. San Antonio College
A culinary academy in Marin Country, the Mt. San Antonio College strives for excellence by providing special Associate degrees in the Arts. Curriculum are regularly updated to ensure graduates acquire the relevant management and cooking skills to compete in an ever-changing industry.
San Jose State University
As the first nutrition department in California, the San Jose State University has a long history of educating students in the Culinary Arts. The types of programs available include Bachelor’s, Master’s and Associate degrees in Nutritional Science, Food Service and Packaging.
International Culinary Center
If students want to expand their culinary skill set, the International Culinary Center is a good choice. This respected school has one of the widest ranges of courses. It offers training in Italian cuisine, pastry, food styling, entrepreneurship and wine education to name a few.
Center for Employment Training
CET is an organization dedicated to helping people earn a living by teaching them specific skills. The center is open to students of all ages and provides practical training for those looking for work in food service.
For a friendlier, casual learning environment, students can take quick cooking courses at the Savory Kitchen. Although many of its students have no professional culinary aspirations, it is still a great place for wannabe-chefs to refine their cooking and kitchen management skills.
Bauman College: Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts
If you like cooking with organic, nutritious ingredients, Bauman College is the perfect place to receive your training. Nature-oriented and holistic, this school teaches students how to create healthy, delicious dishes in a unique 5-month program. After finishing the program, graduates are required to complete a 6-week externship for practical, hands-on training.
At Cabrillo College, students can enroll in point-based courses to receive certification. The school specializes in providing introductory lectures in cooking, baking, catering and wine tasting. Although the skills taught are basic, students can choose advanced courses to further their education.
Lifestyle Culinary Arts
At this culinary school, cooking is not just a job but a lifestyle. Students can take classes that are customized according to the skills they need, and can attend individually or in small groups. Training takes place at the school’s kitchen located in downtown Santa Cruz.
Central Coastal Region Culinary Schools in California
Sunny Central Coast is a coastal oasis for culinary students. With a wide array of restaurants, health centers and food distribution businesses, learners have no problem finding quality employment after graduation. Whether you choose to study in Monterey, San Luis, Santa Barbara or Ventura, the culinary schools in this area are some of the best in the country.
The Cuesta College enhances culinary education by partnering with top hotels, institutes and hospitality establishments in the region. Students can sign up for short programs that provide entry-level training. Whether you want to work front of house or want to join a kitchen brigade, the school offers practical training for a variety of positions.
College of the Canyons
The COC prides itself in giving students the skill set to become productive employees in and out of the kitchen. Certificate of Achievement programs introduce pupils to culinary fundamentals, international cuisine, wine pairing techniques, baking, safety and sanitation, and cost control.
Santa Barbara City College
A community college with a vibrant student life, Santa Barbara City College offers all the education and resources needed to achieve success in the hospitality industry. Students have the choice of training in the Gourmet Dining Room to sharpen culinary skills, in the Cafeteria to learn high volume production or in Catering to learn entrepreneurship.
Allan Hancock College
Students can learn culinary skills from field experts at the Allan Hancock College. The school’s Culinary Arts and Management program alternates between classroom lessons and practical sessions in the campus kitchen.
Southern Coastal Region Culinary Schools in California
The Southern Coast is undoubtedly one of the most famous regions in the world. Known for producing the finest Hollywood stars, some of which include celebrity chefs. With its line-up of trendy restaurants and schools, students looking for the best culinary education will not be disappointed.
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena
Le Cordon Bleu College in Pasadena offers classic culinary training in a modern learning environment. Culinary Arts and Baking Pastry programs are administered by some of the best instructors in the industry. Students can obtain certificate and Associate degrees either on campus or online.
The Culinary Arts program at Cerritos College encourages students to be creative and productive in the kitchen. 2-year courses consists of a series of lessons on culinary techniques, cuisines, baking and pastry, food safety and handling, and catering. Students acquire practical skills by serving diners at the school’s Falcon Room Restaurant.
Aspiring dieticians can get the training they need at Rancho Cucamonga’s Chafey College. The school’s Food and Nutrition department offer specialized certificate and diploma programs for students who want to become qualified dietetic service supervisors and managers.
Los Angeles Mission College
The Mission College in LA offers a range of Skill Certificates in Food Service Management, Culinary Arts, Baking and Restaurant Operations. Programs are designed to fulfill the needs of students with different levels of expertise and provide practical education to prepare for employment.
With a high job placement rate, Pasadena College is one of the most sought after culinary schools in California. Students need to complete a 24-month Culinary Arts program to earn a Certificate of Achievement. The schools offers fundamental kitchen skills to give students a head start in the industry.
Coast Career Institute
Those who aspire to become professional bakers can receive top-class training from the Coast Career Institute. The school offers a Cake Decorating program for students who want to learn how to make and decorate cakes and pastry for various clients.
Laney College is a skill-focused institution that offers education in both Restaurant Management and Baking and Pastry. Certificate programs include supervised practical training and workshops at restaurants, bakeries and facilities in and around campus.
Long Beach City College
Students who want to learn the art of cooking can apply for a spot in the Culinary Arts program at Long Beach City College. Training can be obtained either through an Associate degree in Science or Certificate of Achievement. Courses cover theoretical subjects as well as practical skills such as menu planning, food preparation and sanitation.
Glendale Community College
Graduates of Glendale Community College are trained to occupy many food service positions through the school’s degree and certificate programs. The Culinary, Nutrition and Hospitality Program has produced thousands of culinary professionals, from dieticians to restaurateurs.
The Oxnard College operates a gourmet restaurant on campus where students can obtain Culinary and Restaurant Management qualifications. Courses can be completed in as little as 3 semesters. Students can opt for a longer 2-year course through the Associate degree program for extensive training.
Riverside Community College
The Riverside Community College offers a Culinary Arts curriculum that offers the same world-class training as other top culinary schools in California. In addition to fine dining, students receive lessons in volume production and front house management as preparation for work in different establishments.
University of Antelope Valley
At the University of Antelope Valley, students are trained to create menus and prepare food in a real kitchen setting. Certificate program courses also emphasize food handling, safety and sanitation to groom students into head chefs, sous chefs, prep cooks and restaurant personnel.
The Art Institute of California in San Diego
The Art Institute campus in San Diego lives up to the education standards held by other branches across the state. The school’s mission is to transform culinary students into food service professionals by providing all-inclusive certificates and Associate degrees. Learners are exposed to world cuisines, modern kitchen practices and front of house operations.
San Diego Culinary Institute
Many of San Diego’s well-known chefs are graduates of the Culinary Institute. With its selection of diploma programs, the school has earned a reputation as one of the top culinary schools in California. The institute is divided into Sweet and Savory Kitchens to provide aspiring chefs with relevant, specialized training.
San Diego Mesa College
For students with high career aspirations, the San Diego Mesa College offers the best start. The city’s college offers Culinary Arts and Management degrees for students to qualify for as many positions in the food service industry as possible. Graduates qualify to work in fine dining restaurants, hotels, hospitals, cruise ships and many other establishments.
National Culinary and Bakery Arts School
Learners can become wizards in the kitchen with just a few short courses from the National Culinary and Bakery Arts Schools. Situated in La Mesa, this institution offers rigorous culinary and baking training through specially designed diploma and certificate programs.
Want to become a personal chef or learn how to whip up delicious pastries? Grossmont College offers exclusive Associate degree programs for future chefs and cooks. On top of providing cooking, baking and catering skills, the college also offers business courses in entrepreneurship and restaurant management.
If you want to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts but do not meet the requirements of 4-year institutions, the Miracosta College can help get you there. Students can complete an Associate in Arts degree that provides courses in Restaurant Management and Hospitality. Graduates can also use their Certificate of Achievement to enter the workforce after training.
Southwestern College of Chula Vista
The Southwestern College preps students for career success by offering certificate and Associate curriculums in Culinary Arts. Applicants can choose from a list of courses provided by the college’s Culinary Arts School of Social Sciences, Business and Humanities.
San Diego Continuing Education
The center for Continuing Education in San Diego gives both new and returning students the change to gain valuable culinary and management skills. Each class runs for several hours and focuses on specific topics such as Bakeshop Skills, Cooking and Nutrition Basics.
Orange Coast College
Students eager to make a name for themselves in the culinary world can take courses at the Orange Coast College. Accredited Certificate programs in Advanced Culinary and Baking and Pastry are available to students who need more than just basic kitchen skills. The school also offers lab training to supplement classroom education.
Cypress College has teamed up with the School of Continuing Education to provide cooking and management courses. Students can study for a Certificate of Achievement at campuses located throughout the state.
The Art Institute of California in Orange County
Residents of Santa Ana can visit the Art Institute in Orange County to find out more about the school’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality degrees and certificates. As with other campuses, learners are taught cooking techniques, safety procedures and management skills in student-run restaurants.
A progressive school with high academic standards, Saddleback College aims to arm its students with the best culinary education for employment. Courses explore various cuisines and techniques, and include an internship program that needs to be completed before students can be officially certified.
The Art Institute of California in Inland Empire
The Art Institute has set up shop in Inland Empire to cater to aspiring chefs and future culinary professionals. Although the campus offers the same Culinary Arts programs and world-class kitchen training as the others, it has the added benefit of being situated in a region filled with unusual, exciting ingredients for inspired cooking.
San Bernadino Valley College
For Associate degrees with a competitive edge, students can apply for programs offered at the San Bernadino Valley College. An active member of the American School Food Service Associate, the college provides accredited vocational training in Culinary Arts and Food Service.
Victor Valley College
Victor Valley College is a little known school that has produced some of the biggest names in the culinary industry. With a broad selection of restaurant management classes and culinary certificate programs, it offers students the chance to learn, practice and perfect new skills in an interactive school environment.
Central Valley Region Culinary Schools in California
Central Valley is a vibrant, culturally diverse environment perfect for students of all ages. With plenty of job opportunities and world-class institutions, graduates can look forward to career advancement and success.
Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and world-famous instructors, Le Cordon Bleu College of the Culinary Arts is one of the most esteemed culinary schools in California. Students can obtain Bachelor’s and Associate degrees in their area of specialty and put their skills to use in the school’s high-end Bleu Ribbon kitchens.
The Art Institute in Sacramento
One of 40 institutions in America, the International Art Institute in Sacramento blends kitchen skills with business training to produce competent chefs, managers, nutritionists and other food service professionals. Students get the opportunity to master certain cuisines in a la carte kitchens on campus.
Napoli’s Culinary Academy
A non-profit organization on a mission, Napoli’s Culinary Academy opens its doors to new students every year. With a long history of producing some of Sacramento’s best chefs, the academy has been providing hands-on culinary education since 1997.
American River College
The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management faculty at the American River College offers 18-month courses to accepted students. This college aims to teach students how to create a fine dining experience by combining theoretical education with a semester of kitchen training.
Students looking to brush up their culinary skills can apply for the Associate of Science in Culinary Arts program. This 2-year curriculum includes modules such as food safety and sanitation, baking basics and other kitchen fundamentals. Students receive practical training in the campus restaurant and are often required to cater events as part of the course.
Consumnes River College
Known by many as the Los Rios Community College, the Consumnes River College provides interactive programs for qualifying students. To earn an associate degree in Culinary Arts Management, learners need to complete modules in food preparation, handling and nutrition.
Certificate programs are also available for students who want to enter job market sooner or for professionals looking to specialize. Students of the college can choose to fast track the course if they have 2 or more years of work experience, and have been approved by an instructor.
San Joaquin Delta College
One of Central Valley’s main culinary schools in California is the San Joaquin Delta College. Here, students can choose the level of culinary and management skills they need by getting either an A.S degree or joining a certificate program.
The Merced College offers excellent Certificate of Achievement and Associate degree programs to students with a strong interest in food nutrition. With the number of health centers and food distribution companies increasing by the year, the school is situated in an area with plenty of employment opportunities for graduates.
A major educational center in San Joaquin, Humphrey’s College has been servicing Central Valley since 1896. Although the school is best known for its Law program, it does offer certification to students who aspire to become part of the food service industry.
University of the Pacific
Students who have completed a Bachelor’s or Associate degree in Culinary Arts can continue their education through the university’s Master of Arts in Food Studies program. This course is a good choice for aspiring food critics and writers. The main campus is located in San Joaquin but this course is only available at the school’s San Francisco campus.
Institute of Technology in Clovis
A reputable training center in the heart of Fresno country, the Institute of Technology offers culinary courses endorsed by the American Culinary Federation. In addition to classroom training, students are placed in a 180-hour externship program to hone skills in a real-world kitchen setting.
California State University in Fresno
The Fresno branch of the California State University offers culinary education that is unlike any other. Not only does the school teach students to prepare and plate quality dishes, it also offers in-depth courses in food nutrition, production, safety and research to groom graduates for work in the local industry.
Quality College of Culinary Careers
This training center provides culinary education geared towards preparing students for quality positions in the industry. By schooling learners in Culinary Arts, Food and Beverage Management, and Baking, the Quality College of Culinary Careers offers the skills and qualifications needed to make your career a success.
The Bakersfield College introduces students to the food service industry through Associate in Science degrees. Courses include food preparation as well as its safety, nutrition and production. Learners can also choose to specialize in child nutrition and food service management. Internship programs are available for students looking for real-world experience.
Mountain Region Culinary Schools in California
The Mountain region is also known by many as Sierra Nevada. Known for attracting the highest number of pioneers during the 1848 gold rush, it is now a bustling metropolis that offers culinary students the opportunity to strike career gold.
Institute of Culinary Education
Residents of Sierra Nevada can receive top-notch culinary training from the Institute of Culinary Education. The school offers a dynamic culinary management diploma program that refines cooking and kitchen management skills. Every year, industry professionals are invited to engage students in 90-minute discussions on how to become successful entrepreneurs.
Lake Tahoe Community College
Lake Tahoe Community College offers affordable but extensive culinary education through Associate degree and certificate programs. The degree curriculum is centered on teaching students different culinary techniques while the certificate provides basic kitchen skills for early employment.
Jobs Corps Center in Sierra Nevada
The Jobs Corps Center is an organization whose mission is to give students the skills required to be proficient in the workplace. Learners who do not have a high school diploma can obtain one and join a culinary arts program after completion. Training courses cover cooking techniques, kitchen safety and regional cuisine.
Sazon Cookery School
The Sazon Cookery School is a culinary course offered by an expert team of chefs at the grand Casa de Sierra hotel. Because of its proximity to Mexico, students are taught how to prepare a variety of Mexican dishes using locally available ingredients. Courses can last a few days to a week and cover a range of kitchen basics.
Desert Region Culinary Schools in California
The Desert Region is more than a vacation destination for nature lovers. It is an oasis filled with large national parks, busy golf resorts and chains of fine dining restaurants. Although culinary schools are few and far between, the ones available provide all the education students will ever need.
College of the Desert
The College of the Desert is a vocational school in the heart of Palm Desert. It offers Hospitality Management courses to qualify students for both entry-level and managerial positions. Students can begin their culinary education with a certificate and progress to universities, or use their newly-acquired skills to find employment.
Check out our culinary schools page for an extensive list of cooking schools per state.
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