Culinary Arts Schools in Alabama

Alabama is a world unto itself, built upon local influences, interests and preferences that are as different as night and day. This collective of regional tastes is no more evident than in barbecue. A food of convenience, barbecue is fiercely debated and hotly defended, not only in Alabama, but in Memphis, the Carolinas and Texas as well.

Culinary Arts

But Alabama's love of barbecue runs deep, with a history far reaching as the state itself. From the seminal, award-winning Bob Gibson's in Decatur to Big Daddy Bishop's famous ribs at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, barbecue is omnipresent in Alabama, with variations that change from town to town.

The state is home to multiple food destinations, built on distinct regional tastes, ripe with opportunities for prospective students of culinary arts schools in Alabama. In 2013, Zagat named Birmingham one of the country's seven "up-and-coming food cities." Based on its diverse mix of affordable and high-end restaurants, a wide selection of culinary options, and a growing food truck industry, Zagat ranked Birmingham as a place where the culinary scene is accessible and not pretentious.

Alabama is a great place for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs. With $6.6 billion in annual sales, the restaurant industry in Alabama is flourishing, employing nearly 170,000 individuals across more than 7,500 eating and drinking establishments, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Famous Alabama restaurants

While barbecue may be the cornerstone of culinary life in Alabama, the overall palate of the industry is as diverse and critically acclaimed as any other state in the union. In recent years, the Alabama food scene has thrived, garnering national attention and exposure. For example, in 2014, 21 restaurants in Alabama received Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence" and one restaurant, Cotton Row, received "Best of Award Excellence" -- the publication's highest honor.

Southern Living magazine named nine Alabama restaurants to its 2014 list of the best restaurants in the South, with six residing in Birmingham. These establishments included:

  • Acre (Auburn)
  • Chez Fonfon (Birmingham)
  • El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar (Birmingham)
  • Fisher's Upstairs (Orange Beach)
  • Highlands Bar and Grill (Birmingham)
  • Hot and Hot Fish Club (Birmingham)
  • Ollie Irene (Mountain Brook)
  • SpringHouse (Alexander City)
  • Vittoria Macelleria (Birmingham)

Indeed, Alabama is recognized for its vaunted barbecue, which earns praise from critics (and foodies alike) throughout the country. Some of these famous comfort food institutions include the following:

  • Dreamland Bar-B-Que. John "Big Daddy" Bishop opened Dreamland Café in 1958 in Tuscaloosa and his ribs have become legendary and the restaurant has spawned new locations throughout Alabama and Georgia.
  • Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q. A fixture in Decatur, Big Bob Gibson's was started by its namesake in 1925, when Bob Gibson would cook his barbecue in a hand-dug pit and serve it to customers from a table in his backyard.
  • Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q. Started in 1985 in Birmingham, Jim 'N Nick's has become a Southern institution with 33 restaurants spread across seven states.

Yet, barbecue isn't the only culinary game in the state. Alabama is also home to James Beard-ranked restaurants including Chef Chris Hastings' Hot and Hot Fish Club and Chef Frank Stitt's Highlands Bar and Grill. Both chefs of these fine dining restaurants were also recognized by their peers on Best Chefs America's 2014 ranking of the top chef's in the country.

Alabama culinary schools & career outlook

For most, the first step toward a career is to attend a culinary school. In Alabama, prospective students have multiple educational options that could lead to a diverse array of potential career paths. These career paths are typically shaped by one of four professional and educational areas:

  1. Culinary arts
  2. Baking & pastry arts
  3. Culinary management
  4. Hospitality management

Completing training in one of these areas could set the groundwork for becoming a restaurant manager, caterer, chef, sous chef, pastry chef and more. In Alabama, nearly 14% industry growth was projected by the National Restaurant Association in 2014. Below is a table of the overall career outlook for bakers, chefs, and food service managers in Alabama.

OccupationTotal Employment in Alabama (2013)Average Salary in Alabama (2013)% Job Growth in Alabama (2012-22)
Bakers 1,750 $22,250 4.4%
Chefs and Head Cooks 580 $45,090 5.4%
Food Service Managers 1,890 $59,820 0.9%

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

Locally, the areas with the largest number of bakers, chefs and restaurant managers include Birmingham (1,200), Montgomery (420), Mobile (380), and Huntsville (320). For earning potential, the best paying metros in Alabama included Gadsden ($68,820), Decatur ($65,380), Birmingham ($49,226) and Auburn ($48,790).

As Alabama continues to expand the scope of its culinary art industry, attracting new investments and new restaurateurs, the state should be a serious contender for students considering attending a culinary school.

Does Alabama sound sweet enough for you to attend culinary school or pastry school? A degree in the culinary arts is not required to make a start in this fast-paced industry, but formal education could help you advance your career more rapidly. Get started by having a look at the list of culinary schools in Alabama below.


  • Alabama.com, "9 Alabama restaurants make Southern Living's list of the 100 best in the south," http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/08/9_alabama_restaurants_make_sou.html
  • Alabama.com, http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/03/zagat_restaurant_guide_names_b.html
  • Forbes, Restaurant Rankings, http://www.forbestravelguide.com/restaurant
  • Jim 'N Nick's, http://www.jimnnicks.com/community/company-history/
  • Dreamland, http://www.dreamlandbbq.com/AboutUs.aspx
  • Big Bob Gibson's, http://www.bigbobgibson.com
  • National Restaurant Association, Alabama, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/2014/alabama
  • http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/07/wine_spectators_newly_released.html
  • Projections Central, Alabama, projectionscentral.com
  • Best Chefs America, Alabama, https://www.bestchefsamerica.com/the-chefs&filter_search&filter_state=al
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alabama, Occupational and Employment Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm

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