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Culinary Arts Schools in California

Like its East Coast cousin New York, San Francisco anchors the West Coast's culinary arts scene, home to a similarly diverse and assorted collection of restaurants, restaurateurs and cooking trends. From the molecular gastronomy restaurant in San Francisco to the traditional beach-front hot dog stand in Los Angeles, California has something for every foodie.

In the north, the thought of the California culinary scene conjures images of sprawling vineyards, farmers markets stretched across cities like Palo Alto and Petaluma, jam-packed with tables filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Juxtaposed in Southern California are some of America's most famous -- and original -- fast food joints that offer a laid-back eating experience.

The culinary industry in California is one of the largest in the country, even outpacing New York. In 2016, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), there were more than 69,908 restaurants in the state that produce nearly $79.1 billion in sales annually. The industry employs more than 1.69 million individuals and is projected by the NRA to grow 10.1 percent by 2026. Some of these employees are likely graduates of culinary schools in California.

Famous California restaurants

San Francisco in the north and Los Angeles in the south are the two focal points of California's culinary arts ecosystem, drawing attention from critics and patrons from all over the world. For 2015, Michelin gave 40 restaurants 1-, 2- or 3-star rankings, with four restaurants -- all in wine country or San Francisco -- receiving three stars, Michelin's highest possible ranking.

The 3-star winners in Northern California include the following:

Benu (San Francisco). Located in the heart of the SOMA district in San Franciso, Benu is the result of chef and owner Cory Lee's culinary genius, a fusion of Asian inspiration and molecular gastronomy.

The French Laundry (Napa Valley). Earning its sixth straight 3-star Michelin ranking, The French Laundry is helmed by Thomas Keller, the only American-born chef who owns two 3-star Michelin restaurants.

Restaurant at Meadowood (Napa Valley). Chef Christopher Kostow has created Napa Valley's leading take on modern American cuisine, crafting an individualized, unique dining experience for each patron.

Saison (San Francisco). Joshua Skenes, executive chef and owner of Saison, has created a distinct culinary vision in Saison, where patrons are treated to 3-hour meals and an unpublished menu that has brought unparalleled critical acclaim.

Although Northern California's Michelin ranked restaurants receive critical renown, it is restaurants like Pink's in Hollywood, The Original Tommy's in Los Angeles or Philippe the Original in Chinatown that drive Southern California's culinary culture.

  • Pink's. The long famous hot dog stand draws huge lines all day long and is well-known for its unique options, including a bacon burrito hot dog.
  • The Original Tommy's. The anchor of Beverly and Rampart, The Original Tommy's is indeed the original hamburger joint, famous for its chili French fries, burgers and hot dogs.
  • Philippe the Original. Situated in Los Angeles' Chinatown, Philippe the Original has been open for more than 100 years and has diners eating with each other on shared wooden tables.

Yet, diners don't need to venture to exclusive Michelin-ranked restaurants to find a good meal, especially in San Francisco. In 2014, Zagat named the following five restaurants as some of the best values in the area:

  • Kokkari Estiatorio (Greek)
  • Gary Danko (American)
  • Quince (Italian)
  • Acquerello (Italian)
  • Boulevard (New American)

California culinary arts career outlook

Future chefs of America may not have the means or desire to move to France, Germany or Italy to work their way up through the culinary ranks to find a position in the industry. Prospective chefs in California can choose from a multitude of educational and career path opportunities at culinary schools. Typically, students at California culinary schools can choose from four subject areas of study:

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

This training can prepare graduates to become chefs, bakers, pastry chefs, restaurant managers, caterers, private chefs and more.

Employment projections for the culinary industry in California are strong (9.1 percent growth in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), while individual occupations, such as chef and food service manager are expected to see continued gains between 2012 and 2022.

Below is a table of state-wide average salaries and projected career growth for chefs, bakers and food service managers in California:

RegionCareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
CaliforniaFood Service Managers35,510$50,790
CaliforniaBakers29,850$27,370
CaliforniaChefs and Head Cooks19,290$45,810
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

In the two major metropolitan areas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, prospective students should find robust employment and career earning opportunities.

Although the hubs of San Francisco and Los Angeles are attractive locations for cooking or culinary schools training in California, prospective students of culinary colleges should do their research as the state has numerous other options and locations for education. With its diverse and award winning culinary experiences -- in both the north and the south, California is a surefire bet for those ready to move into a foodie-based career.

RegionCareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers2,520$25,800
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks1,580$47,370
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers3,490$54,440
Fresno, CAChefs and Head Cooks230$43,930
Fresno, CABakers560$24,620
Fresno, CAFood Service Managers560$47,770
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks5,250$40,740
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers10,060$26,110
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers9,970$48,890
Modesto, CAFood Service Managers380$44,160
Modesto, CABakers180$24,700
Modesto, CAChefs and Head Cooks90$46,900
Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks1,190$44,180
Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers2,530$48,000
Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers2,790$29,500
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CAFood Service Managers840$55,790
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CAChefs and Head Cooks290$41,500
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CABakers370$25,440
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CAChefs and Head Cooks1,280$49,970
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CABakers2,380$26,360
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CAFood Service Managers3,040$48,240
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CABakers1,050$30,740
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAChefs and Head Cooks1,310$44,590
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAFood Service Managers1,480$46,800
Salinas, CAChefs and Head Cooks240$61,830
Salinas, CAFood Service Managers430$53,200
Salinas, CABakers280$28,050
San Diego-Carlsbad, CAFood Service Managers3,760$53,880
San Diego-Carlsbad, CABakers2,970$26,140
San Diego-Carlsbad, CAChefs and Head Cooks1,980$47,280
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks2,310$49,290
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers1,410$32,360
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers2,330$55,370
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CAFood Service Managers1,820$56,030
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CABakers1,830$29,480
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CAChefs and Head Cooks940$56,770
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CAChefs and Head Cooks240$41,110
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CAFood Service Managers340$42,530
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CABakers320$27,630
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CAChefs and Head Cooks160$49,270
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CABakers190$27,570
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CAFood Service Managers230$42,480
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CAFood Service Managers500$59,600
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CABakers260$30,970
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CAChefs and Head Cooks180$54,240
Santa Rosa, CAFood Service Managers530$54,770
Santa Rosa, CAChefs and Head Cooks280$47,030
Santa Rosa, CABakers300$29,870
Stockton-Lodi, CAChefs and Head Cooks80$44,710
Stockton-Lodi, CABakers270$28,250
Stockton-Lodi, CAFood Service Managers450$42,220
Vallejo-Fairfield, CAFood Service Managers280$44,780
Vallejo-Fairfield, CABakers160$29,260
Vallejo-Fairfield, CAChefs and Head Cooks230$37,130
Visalia-Porterville, CABakers130$24,310
Visalia-Porterville, CAFood Service Managers200$41,290
Visalia-Porterville, CAChefs and Head Cooks90$50,840
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Check out the list of culinary schools in California below for more information on individual degree programs. Additional lists of California culinary schools by city make it easy to find a culinary college near you.

Sources

  1. Michelin, California, http://www.michelintravel.com/selections/2015-san-francisco-michelin-selections/
  2. Benu, http://www.benusf.com
  3. Saison, http://saisonsf.com/
  4. The French Laundry, http://www.thomaskeller.com/tfl
  5. Restaurant at Meadowood, http://www.therestaurantatmeadowood.com/
  6. National Restaurant Association, California, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/2016/CA_Restaurants2016
  7. Projections Central, California, projectionscentral.com
  8. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California, Occupational and Employment Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
  9. Zagat, California, http://www.zagat.com/best-restaurants/san-francisco

Browse Culinary Schools in California

This list also contains online schools that accept students from California .

Other California Culinary Schools

School Name City or Town Programs Offered
Cypress College Anaheim Hotel, Restaurant and Culinary Arts Program
Grossmont College El Cajon Culinary Arts
Quality College of Culinary Careers Fresno Baking and Pastry Chef
National Culinary School La Mesa Bakery School
Laguna Culinary Arts Professional School Laguna Beach Professional Chef Program
California State University - Long Beach Long Beach B.S. degree in Hospitality Foodservice and Hotel Management
Saddleback College Mission Viejo Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Chaffey Community College Rancho Cucamonga Culinary Arts
American River College Sacramento Culinary Arts/Hospitality Management
Mission College Santa Clara Hospitality Management
San Joaquin Delta College Stockton Baking & Pastry Arts
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