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.

Culinary Arts

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 Managers35510$50790
CaliforniaChefs and Head Cooks19290$45810
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 DivisionFood Service Managers3490$54440
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks1580$47370
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers2520$25800
Fresno, CAFood Service Managers560$47770
Fresno, CAChefs and Head Cooks230$43930
Fresno, CABakers560$24620
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks5250$40740
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers9970$48890
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers10060$26110
Madera, CAFood Service Managers80$57860
Madera, CAChefs and Head Cooks40$40210
Madera, CABakers40$27470
Modesto, CABakers180$24700
Modesto, CAChefs and Head Cooks90$46900
Modesto, CAFood Service Managers380$44160
Napa, CAChefs and Head Cooks180$52320
Napa, CABakers80$30340
Napa, CAFood Service Managers260$52500
Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks1190$44180
Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers2530$48000
Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers2790$29500
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CAChefs and Head Cooks290$41500
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CABakers370$25440
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CAFood Service Managers840$55790
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CABakers2380$26360
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CAFood Service Managers3040$48240
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CAChefs and Head Cooks1280$49970
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CABakers1050$30740
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAChefs and Head Cooks1310$44590
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAFood Service Managers1480$46800
Salinas, CAChefs and Head Cooks240$61830
Salinas, CAFood Service Managers430$53200
Salinas, CABakers280$28050
San Diego-Carlsbad, CAChefs and Head Cooks1980$47280
San Diego-Carlsbad, CABakers2970$26140
San Diego-Carlsbad, CAFood Service Managers3760$53880
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers2330$55370
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks2310$49290
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionBakers1410$32360
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CAFood Service Managers1820$56030
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CAChefs and Head Cooks940$56770
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CABakers1830$29480
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CAChefs and Head Cooks240$41110
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CABakers320$27630
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CAFood Service Managers340$42530
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CABakers190$27570
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CAFood Service Managers230$42480
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CAChefs and Head Cooks160$49270
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CAChefs and Head Cooks180$54240
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CAFood Service Managers500$59600
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CABakers260$30970
Santa Rosa, CAFood Service Managers530$54770
Santa Rosa, CABakers300$29870
Santa Rosa, CAChefs and Head Cooks280$47030
Stockton-Lodi, CABakers270$28250
Stockton-Lodi, CAFood Service Managers450$42220
Stockton-Lodi, CAChefs and Head Cooks80$44710
Vallejo-Fairfield, CAChefs and Head Cooks230$37130
Vallejo-Fairfield, CABakers160$29260
Vallejo-Fairfield, CAFood Service Managers280$44780
Visalia-Porterville, CAChefs and Head Cooks90$50840
Visalia-Porterville, CAFood Service Managers200$41290
Visalia-Porterville, CABakers130$24310
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.


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

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            Culinary Arts (AS)
            • Program areas include Culinary Arts, Culinary Management, and more
            • Students are taught cooking styles from around the globe, including Classical European, Asian, and Latin cuisine
            • Curriculum designed to prepare students for a career as a chef, with course topics that include Culinary Techniques, Management by Menu, and Nutrition
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Culinary Arts
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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            Intensive Sommelier Training
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
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            Culinary Arts Specialist
            • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
            • Offers several scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.
            • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 4 Campuses located in Clovis, Modesto, and Redding in California, and Salem, Oregon.
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            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            • Transferable Credits

            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