Culinary Schools in Georgia: Find Culinary Arts Colleges
Call it traditional, but Southern cuisine is completely redefining American food culture. In 2012, food writer Courtney Balestier penned an essay for the Oxford American detailing the rise of traditional Southern cooking in the Northeast. Barbecue, collard greens and fried chicken -- which Balestier coined the "gateway drug" -- found their way soulfully into even the most posh restaurants. For students attending culinary arts schools in Georgia, this renewed national love affair with Southern cooking translates to new opportunity. Read on to learn more about Georgia's culinary scene, from its iconic cuisine to major job trends.
Georgia's traditional cuisine
As one of the nation's oldest states, Georgia's culinary roots run deep. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia's Food & Foodways project, Native Americans harvested the corn, pecans, wild plums and seafood that would later define Peach State cuisine, but the Spanish introduction of pigs in the 1500s was a true game-changer. Georgia's legendary barbecue festivals and "wild hog suppers" by the pit are alive and well, and slow roasted pork and ribs are still dished up with other Deep Southern favorites like okra, cornbread and biscuits. Several more popular regional foods remain true to their Scots-American and African American heritage, like sweet potatoes, fried chicken and catfish, and even fried green tomatoes. Other ever popular foods in Georgia: Low Country shrimp, scallops and grits; cured hams and other meats; collard, mustard and turnip greens; moonshine and brandy; and desserts featuring the state's famous peaches.
As Southern cuisine remains on-trend throughout most of the United States, major Georgia food centers like Atlanta and Savannah are perhaps more revered than ever before. Established chefs and restaurateurs have flocked to these metros, and it is not uncommon for rising chefs to segue from cooking and culinary schools in Georgia to area kitchens in search of their big culinary breaks. Fortunately, Georgia's hospitality sector is primed to receive them.
Culinary job trends in Georgia
Culinary arts schools in Georgia are a magnet for Southern-inspired would-be chefs, pastry chefs and restaurateurs, but these are not the only careers for which these programs prepare students. They can train to become sommeliers (think: wine experts), mixologists, restaurant and hotel managers, and more. The trick is to find a balance this passion with local market demands. The following chart offers statewide salary and career outlook projections for a number of hospitality careers.
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers||27010||30270|
|Food Service Managers||8040||46090|
Remember that these figures are just averages, and that a number of factors can influence earnings and career potential. Experience, talent and work performance matter, too. So does education, which means culinary schools in Georgia can be exceedingly valuable -- especially in competitive markets. One more consideration: Location. For young culinary arts professionals, major metros like Atlanta, Athens, Savannah and Augustus can influence not just the food they prepare, but also their likelihood of finding work. Read on to learn more about some of Georgia's most prominent culinary metros.
Atlanta & Athens: Dishing up culinary tradition
One could easily make the case that Atlanta is the food capital of Georgia, if not the entire American South. Its influence is spreading: In 2012, ZAGAT labeled nearby Athens a major "up and coming" food city, drawing restaurant investors and such well known chefs as James Beard award and Top Chef Masters contender Hugh Acheson. Other notable culinary arts professionals setting roots in the Atlanta Metro:
- Kevin Gillespie. This former Top Chef fan favorite and semifinalist for James Beard Rising Star Chef of 2009 is known for what The Braiser coins his "porkly decadence." This barbecue master showcases his talent at his Atlanta-area restaurant, Woodfire Grill.
- Kevin Rathbun. Rathbun's accolades include a James Beard Rising Star Chef nomination in 1994 and a stint on the popular Food Network show Iron Chef in 2008. A transplant from Kansas City, Rathbun has founded several popular Atlanta-area restaurants, including Rathbun's, Kevin Rathbun Steak and Krog Bar.
- Linton Hopkins. Hopkins was named Best New Chef of 2009 by Food & Wine, and according to The Braiser, has been nominated for James Beard Awards "freakin' constantly." He has been pinned against Acheson for Best Chef of the South East for at least five years running, and is well regarded for his work running Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta.
Famous Atlanta foods and restaurants
What makes Atlanta such a popular destination for top chefs and food-lovers of all varieties? Its iconic cuisine that somehow manages to find a home in both the humblest and the most refined kitchens. In 2014, ZAGAT published a list of iconic dishes every true Atlantan should eat, and it is no coincidence that the list falls right in line with some of the American South's most famous cuisine. Think: fried chicken, barbecue, smoked wings, fried peach pie and even chili dogs, a true national favorite.
Atlanta is home to some of the highest-rated and best-loved restaurants in Georgia. The following are just a few them, as reported by publications like ZAGAT, Atlanta Magazine and The USA Today.
- Bacchanalia. Atlanta Magazine called Bacchanalia Atlanta's "fine-dining Monarch" with more than two decades of gracious food and hospitality under its belt. In 2014, The Daily Meal placed it among the best in the country. Its five-to-seven course prix-fixe menu is not to be missed.
- Cakes & Ale. Cake & Ale is James Beard award-winning chef chef Billy Allin's award-winning restaurant in Decatur Square, and according to Atlanta Magazine, is a hot spot for food critics. The menu is changeable, but features Southern, Italian and Middle Eastern Cuisine.
- The Colonnade. The Colonnade has been dishing up fried chicken, pot roast, homemade pies and what She Knows calls "over-the-top pies" since the 1920s.
- The Pink Pig. The Pink Pig in Cherry Log is one of the area's most famous and best loved barbecue restaurants. Bbq pork, beef and chicken are served along other Southern classics, like mac and cheese, fried chicken livers, green beans and coleslaw.
- Five & Ten Restaurant. Five & Ten in Athens features a remarkable cast of culinary alums, including such chefs as Hugh Acheson and Lydia Oosterhuis. Both the restaurant and its wine program are regular James Beard nominees.
Atlanta-area culinary job trends
Perhaps one of the best testaments to Atlanta's surging status as a culinary hotspot is its culinary job market: The Georgia Labor Market Explorer projects well above-average employment growth for a number of different food professionals. This spells good news for students attending cooking and culinary schools in Georgia. The following chart outlines average annual earnings in the Atlanta metro, as reported by the BLS, and long-term employment projections from the GLME.
|Job Title||Mean Annual Wage, May 2013 (BLS.gov)||Projected Employment Change: 2010-2020, Atlanta Metro|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||$46,180||17.3%|
|First Line Kitchen Supervisors||$29,180||31.6%|
|Food Service Managers||$47,820||11.2%|
As mentioned above, location is just one of many variables that can drive earnings and career potential. Experience, job performance and training can help, too.
Savannah: The foodie's haven
Savannah is at the intersection of traditional and refine Southern cuisine -- a point not lost on top chefs and food lovers. When Food & Wine asked celebrity chef Bobby Flay which major culinary getaway he loves above all others, Savannah was the only true contender. Savannah's food is often referred to as Low Country cuisine, a nod to its position along Georgia's Atlantic coastline. Menus feature a mix of Southern favorites like fried chicken and barbecue, but also a healthy serving of locally sourced oysters, shrimp and other seafood.
Savannah's cast of well known chefs is perhaps a bit smaller than in the more populous Atlanta, but students attending Georgia culinary schools will find no shortage of inspiration here famous. Among them: chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and TV personality Paula Deen, whose flagship restaurant, The Lady & Sons, remains one of the region's most popular venues.
Famous Savannah restaurants
Savannah's iconic status in the world of Southern cuisine spans generations, so its local restaurant scene features several appropriately historic venues. That does not mean new and trendy restaurants are at a disadvantage. In fact, several major culinary arts trends -- most notably farm-to-table and locally-sourced ingredients -- are readily embraced in Savannah, redefining the local food culture in a way rarely seen in such traditional culinary strongholds. The following are just some of the most famous and well regarded restaurants, as reported ZAGAT.
- Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room. When ZAGAT released its 2014 list of Savannah's highest-rated restaurants, Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room -- with its "unpretentious Southern hospitality" and "down-home chow" came in at no. 2. The venue also won the James Beard Award for American Classics in 2000. Located in the Historic District, this local favorite dishes up food family-style at communal tables.
- Elizabeth on 37th. Elizabeth on 37th is a true Savannah institution set in a circa-1900 Midtown mansion. ZAGAT reports that the restaurant's fresh Lowcountry take on classic dishes truly captures the "essence" of the city. Elizabeth on 37th has been nominated for a number of James Beard awards, Outstanding Service, and won the Best Chef in the Southeast nod in 1995.
- Garibaldi Cafe. This local favorite, housed in an 1871 firehouse, topped ZAGAT's listing of Savannah's best restaurants in 2014. The publication gushed over what it called "inviting yet grand" atmosphere and "superb" menu featuring both Italian and Southern favorites.
- 700 Drayton Restaurant. This popular restaurant is set in the historic Mansion on Forsyth Park Hotel, and its circa-1888 moldings and veneers cement its legendary status. 700 is well regarded not just for its food, but also for its inviting upstairs lounge and breathtaking views.
Savannah culinary job trends
Savannah's culinary arts job market is a bit more variable than Atlanta's, but earnings are often higher. Take chefs and head cooks whose 2013 annual BLS-reported earnings about $8,000 more than the statewide average. Scan the chart below to review Savannah wage and career trends from the BLS and the GLME.
|Job Title||Mean Annual Wage, May 2013 (BLS.gov)||Projected Employment Change: 2010-2020, Coastal Region|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||$50,710||5.5%|
|First Line Kitchen Supervisors||$31,200||18%|
|Food Service Managers||$52,300||6.4%|
As always, one's career prospects generally improve with training and experience. While talented culinary arts professionals can find a home in a Savannah kitchen, it is not uncommon for higher-end venues to prefer to hire formally trained candidates -- a boon for those who graduate from culinary schools in Georgia.
Culinary schools in Georgia
Atlanta and Savannah are only two of many thriving culinary markets in The Peach State; other popular metros include Augusta, Macon and Columbus. Culinary arts schools in Georgia help future food professionals hone the basic skills kitchens, and the Southern food-savvy they want. Many culinary schools even have staging or externship programs that allow students to observe real chefs and kitchen in action. It is important to remember that no two programs are alike, so it pays to research several schools before submitting an application.
Though a culinary arts degree isn't necessary to enter the food service industry, it can give students the valuable experience needed to land a top job. A degree from a Georgia culinary arts school can help ensure that a job candidate has both the technical knowledge and expertise needed to succeed in the kitchen. Browse our list of culinary schools to get started.
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