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Fort Myers Cooking & Culinary Schools

It is always tourist season in Fort Myers. While the beach is a major selling point for tourists of all ages and intents, Visit Florida reports that Fort Myers is a major haven for another, very specialized kind of tourist: The foodie.

Culinary Arts

Culinary aficionados have long revered the area's unique cuisine, and now emerging trends like the craft brew and farm-to-table movements support an entirely new brand of food tourism. While these trends bode well for anyone who loves food, they are true game-changers for those with more professional aspirations. Culinary schools in Fort Myers can offer students a nice segue into top kitchens and resorts, and an opportunity to get acquainted with the local food scene.

Famous restaurants in Fort Myers

Like many coastal getaways, Fort Myers and its neighboring communities, including Cape Coral and Sanibel, are ripe with beachside restaurants. According to the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, these venues run the gamut from casual to gourmet, but native seafood and other locally sourced ingredients are popular across the board. Of course, one need not head out the coast to catch a great meal. The downtown Fort Myers restaurant district is a culinary hotspot in its own right.

Cooking schools in Fort Myers often require externships and stages that bring students out of the classroom and into professional kitchens. Most local restaurants fit the bill, but particularly ambitious students often set their sights on the best-known or highest-rated kitchens. So what are the area's top restaurants? Here are just a few of them, at least according to Fort Myers-area food critic Jean Le Boeuf.

  • El Gaucho Inca: This local favorite pairs a Peruvian-farmhouse-chic vibe with fine Argentine fare.
  • Farmer's Market Restaurant: As the region's oldest restaurant, FMR's menu features traditional Southern and Gulf favorites like chicken livers, okra and corn nuggets over high-end fare.
  • Fish Tale Grill: This family-owned Cape Coral spot evolved from the successful Merrick Seafood Market, and its menu accordingly features fresh-caught native seafood filleted on-site.
  • Kenwood Lane Grille: This Fort Myers favorite is founded and driven by local chef David Ratzenberger who makes virtually everything from scratch.
  • The Mad Hatter: This self-described "Wonderland of New American Cuisine" in neighboring Sanibel has won high marks from publications like Frommer's and The News-Press. Its menu is upscale modern, featuring dishes like seared foie gras with caramelized Asian pear.
  • Origami. This Fort Myers sushi restaurant is known for its innovative menu and quality ingredients.
  • Sweet Melissa's Cafe: This Sanibel restaurant breaks from the tropical conventions so common among other area restaurants. The menu leans toward traditional southern and features such dishes as suckling pig confit and rabbit pâté.

These are just a few of the most popular restaurants in Fort Myers. Other top establishments -- like The Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market and the Prawnbroker Restaurant and Fish Market -- consistently earn high marks from Zagat and other popular ratings publications. Students attending cooking schools in Fort Myers have a multitude of options when it comes to beefing up their resumes or completing externships.

Fort Myers culinary career outlook

Not all culinary and hospitality professionals are formally trained, but those who are may have an advantage when vying for work in competitive markets and prestigious venues. Culinary schools in Fort Myers help students hone skills that will serve them throughout their careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that earnings and employment rates tend to improve with education.

The culinary and hospitality field is diverse; culinary schools in Fort Myers train future chefs and pastry chefs, as well as budding sommeliers, restaurant managers, hotel managers and other hospitality pros. Some of these workers are in greater demand than others. The following chart features several culinary careers.

Job TitleMedian Salary in the Fort Myers Metro (2013)% Job Growth in Lee County (2014-2022)
Chefs and Head Cooks $48,960 13.2%
First Line Supervisors $34,710 14.1%
Restaurant Cooks $23,640 14.3%
Baker $26,200 5.5%
Food Service Managers $61,900 12.6%
Butchers and Meat Cutters N/A 14.3%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013, and Projections Central

These jobs represent just a sliver of the culinary and hospitality opportunities in the Fort Myers area. Sommeliers, mixologists, food stylists and photographers, food writers and resort event coordinators are in demand, too. Employers generally prefer to hire candidates with the right mix of training and experience, both of which can be honed in area culinary schools.

Sources:

  • "Restaurants and Dining at Ft Myers Beach," The Catch. Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, http://www.fortmyersbeach.org/fort-myers-beach-restaurants-and-dining/
  • "Jean Le Boeuf picks the 35 best restaurants in Lee," News-Press, USA Today, November 12, 2014, Jean Le Boeuf, http://www.news-press.com/story/life/food/2014/11/12/jean-le-boeuf-picks-best-restaurants-lee/18889721/
  • "Local REstaurants receive high Zagats rankings," Florida Weekly, January 11, 2011, http://fortmyers.floridaweekly.com/news/2012-01-11/Business_News/Local_restaurants_receive_high_Zagats_rankings.html
  • Restaurants, Downtown Fort Myers, http://www.downtownfortmyers.com/Restaurants/
  • Eat & Drink, The Beaches of Forty Myers and Sanibel, Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, http://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/eat-drink/
  • "May 2013 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Cape-Coral-Fort Myersr, FL," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_15980.htm
  • Employment Projections Data: 2014-2022, Labor Market Information, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity,http://www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/data-center/statistical-programs/employment-projections
  • "Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment: 2013," Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 24, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
  • "Culinary Tours in Fort Myers & Sanibel," Visit Florida, Rachelle Lucas, http://origin.www.visitflorida.com/en-us/articles/2014/insider-food-dining/culinary-tours-in-beaches-of-ft -- myers -- -sanibel-.html

This list also contains online schools that accept students from Ft Myers

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2 Program(s) Found
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
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Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
  • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
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  • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
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  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Online Courses
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
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  • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
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  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
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  • Online Courses
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  • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
  • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
  • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
  • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
  • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
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1 Program(s) Found
  • Has been training students for creative careers since 1921.
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  • Its accelerated online courses allow students to learn new course material every 5 ½ weeks.
  • Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits

Other Ft Myers, Florida Culinary Schools

School Name Programs Offered
Edison Community College Hospitality and Spa Operation
Lee County High Technical Center - Central Culinary Arts