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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.

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 2013, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), there were more than 65,000 restaurants in the state that produce nearly $70 billion in sales annually. The industry employs 1.54 million individuals and was projected by the NRA to grow by 9 percent in 2014. 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:

OccupationTotal Employment in California (2013)Average Salary in California (2013)% Job Growth in California (2012-2022)
Bakers 24,180

$25,870

11%
Chefs and Head Cooks 13,570

$47,540

13.7%
Food Service Managers 31,240

$52,430

11.8%

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

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

LocationOccupationsTotal Employed (2013)2013 Average Salary
Los Angeles Food Service Managers 8,600 $48,880
Chefs and Head Cooks 3,120 $45,450
Bakers 8,240 $24,370
San Francisco Food Service Managers 2,070 $63,290
Chefs and Head Cooks 1,520 $59,610
Bakers 1,560 $28,960

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013

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.

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.

Additional Information on Culinary Colleges in California from Chef2chef.net
Baking and Pastry Arts Schools in California
Hotel Management Schools in California
Pastry Chef Schools in California

Sources

  • 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/california
  • 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

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

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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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  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
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  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
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  • Dedicated to providing a hands-on, career-focused education since 1953.
  • Offers classes online, as well as at 14 campuses across California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia.
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  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
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UEI College , Stockton
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
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  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
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  • A private, accredited distance learning college based in Norcross, Georgia founded in 1987.
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  • Offers all-inclusive tuition: textbooks, learning materials, and academic support are covered in the cost.
  • Allows alumni to enroll in any future program at a reduced rate.
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Fremont College , Online (campus option available)
Fremont College traces its roots to Platt College’s founding in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1879, and the Southern California branch campus was established in 1986. The most significant evolution of the College started when its third CEO, Dr. Sabrina Kay, assumed leadership in 2007. Fremont College became an innovative center adopting the framework of Work-Based Learning Leadership at the Wharton School and Dr. Kay’s thesis on improved learning through practice and collaboration.
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  • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
  • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
  • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
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  • A private university founded in 1939.  
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Other California Culinary Schools

School Name City or Town Programs Offered
Cypress College Anaheim Hotel, Restaurant and Culinary Arts Program
Cabrillo College Aptos Associate Degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management.
Bakersfield College Bakersfield Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Baldwin Park Adult and Community Education Baldwin Park Culinary Arts
The French Culinary Institute Campbell Classic Pastry Arts
California State University - Chico Chico Resort and Lodging Management
Orange Coast College Costa Mesa Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Grossmont College El Cajon Culinary Arts
Living Light Culinary Arts Institute Fort Bragg Culinary Arts
Quality College of Culinary Careers Fresno Baking and Pastry Chef
Glendale Community College Glendale Culinary Arts
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
Long Beach City College Long Beach Culinary Arts
California Motel Training Loomis Hotel/Motel Management and Operations
Chef Erics Culinary Classroom Los Angeles 10-Week Culinary Baking/Pastry Program - Certification Program
Los Angeles Trade Technical College Los Angeles Culinary Arts Associates Arts Degree
Saddleback College Mission Viejo Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Cerritos College Norwalk Culinary Arts Professional Baking and Pastry
Laney College Oakland Culinary Arts Degrees
College of the Desert Palm Desert Culinary Arts
Pasadena City College Pasadena Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Bauman College Penngrove Natural Chef Training
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill Certificate in Baking and Pastry
The Collins College of Hospitality Management Pomona Hospitality Management
Chaffey Community College Rancho Cucamonga Culinary Arts
Shasta College Redding Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Riverside Community College Riverside Culinary Applied Technology
American River College Sacramento Culinary Arts/Hospitality Management
Skills and Business Ed Center - Sacramento City Usd Sacramento Culinary Arts & Related Services
San Bernardino Valley College San Bernardino Culinary Arts/Chef Training
San Diego Mesa College San Diego Culinary Arts/Chef Training
San Diego State University San Diego Foods & Nutrition Studies
Travel University International San Diego Foodservice Management Certificate
City College of San Francisco San Francisco Culinary & Service Skills Training
San Francisco State University San Francisco Hospitality and Tourism Management
San Jose State University San Jose Foods & Nutrition Studies
Contra Costa College San Pablo Culinary Arts
Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara Culinary Arts and Hotel Management
Mission College Santa Clara Hospitality Management
Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa Culinary; Baking; Front House
Columbia College Sonora Certificate in Hospitality Management: Chef
Lake Tahoe Community College South Lake Tahoe A.A. Degree – Culinary Arts
San Joaquin Delta College Stockton Baking & Pastry Arts
Victor Valley College Victorville Restaurant Management
West Valley Occupational Center Woodland Hills Baker/Pastry Chef