Culinary Arts Schools in Hawaii

With its tropical location, Hawaii offers a food experience unlike anything found in the continental United States. Drawing upon Polynesian roots, traditional foods in the state make use of native fruits, vegetables and fish.

Culinary Arts

For example, students at culinary arts schools in Hawaii may want to become acquainted with the following distinctly Hawaiian foods.

  • Poi: Polynesian staple made with taro root
  • Poke: Raw fish salad that has been called "Hawaii's hamburger"
  • Saimin: Noodle dish first eaten by plantation workers

With the introduction of livestock to the island, foods like huli huli chicken and kalua pig became staples. Today's luaus often include these dishes as well as lomi salmon, and lau lau, a piece of meat or fish wrapped in taro leaves. Outside of traditional foods, the loco moco may be Hawaii's best known food. Don't call it a hamburger, although it does usually come with a beef patty on rice, smothered in gravy and topped with an egg.

Hawaiian food is a far cry from much of what is found on the U.S. mainland, and its uniqueness may be what draws some students to culinary schools in Hawaii. However, schools in the state aren't only for those who want to focus on Hawaii's heritage foods. Those who want to study contemporary cooking methods and techniques in a beautiful location may also find the state's schools are perfect for them.

Famous restaurants in Hawaii

Despite being a relatively small state, Hawaii has plenty of places to eat. The National Restaurant Association reports, as of 2013, it had 3,250 locations where residents and visitors can get a bite to eat or something to drink. In addition, those restaurants employ 14 percent of the state's workforce. Graduates of culinary arts schools in Hawaii will be glad to know jobs in the industry are expected to grow 7.6 percent from 2015-2025.

Although Honolulu is home to many of the most famous Hawaiian restaurants, there is good food across all the islands. Here's a look at some notable places to eat in the Aloha State.

  • Roy's Waikiki (Honolulu): Named one of the nation's 101 best restaurants in 2014 according to The Daily Meal, Roy's Waikiki is situated on Honolulu's world-famous beach. The restaurant was founded by Tokyo native Roy Yamaguchi.
  • Da Poke Shack (Kailua-Kona): A 2014 analysis of Yelp data found Da Poke Shack was the number one rated restaurant in the nation. As the name suggests, this is a casual eating spot so don't expect white linens or tableside service. However, you can order some of the best poke available from its counter.
  • Dining Room (Lanai): If you find yourself on Lanai, you might want to head to the Four Seasons Resort and enjoy dinner at the Dining Room. It's a top pick by Fodor's Travel, noting that its country estate charm is something not found elsewhere in the state.
  • 12th Ave Grill (Honolulu): Each year, Honolulu Magazine readers vote for the Hale 'Aina Awards which recognize the best restaurants in the state. In 2015, the 12th Ave Grill took the top honor. The restaurant has a family-feel that blends well with its commitment to using locally sourced ingredients.

Culinary career outlook in Hawaii

Tourism is a major driver of the Hawaiian economy, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority estimates 8.3 million visitors arrived in 2014. Those individuals came ready to explore everything Hawaii has to offer, from authentic luaus to fine dining, and culinary arts professionals may find most jobs are concentrated in areas catering to tourists.

While the Hawaiian tourism industry supports a variety of hospitality careers, the following chart looks at employment, income and job growth for some popular options pursued by graduates of culinary schools in Hawaii.

OccupationTotal Employment in Hawaii (2013)Average Salary in Hawaii (2013)% Job Growth in Hawaii (2010-2020)
Chefs and Head Cooks 1,760 $44,960 4.5%
Bakers 1,500 $32,620 8.1%
Food Service Managers 1,960 $55,520 4.1%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, and Projections Central

Honolulu is home to the vast majority of these jobs, and the chart below compares employment in the city with the rest of the state, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as a nonmetropolitan area.

LocationOccupationsTotal Employed (2013)Average Salary (2013)
Honolulu Food Service Managers 1,360 $53,310
Chefs and Head Cooks 1,160 $40,940
Bakers 1,090 $31,570
Nonmetropolitan Hawaii Food Service Managers 600 $60,560
Chefs and Head Cooks 610 $52,620
Bakers 400 $35,470

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Although Honolulu may be home to the largest number of jobs, there is a need for hospitality professionals throughout the state. Culinary arts schools in Hawaii may be able to provide more information on specific opportunities available on islands other than Oahu. To learn more about what culinary arts programs are available and how you can put them to use in Hawaii, contact one of the schools listed below.


  • National Restaurant Association, Hawaii, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/hawaii
  • Projections Central, Hawaii, projectionscentral.com
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hawaii, Occupational and Employment Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_hi.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Honolulu, HI Metropolitan Area, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_26180.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Hawaii/Maui/Kauai/ Nonmetropolitan Area http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_1500001.htm
  • 101 Best Restaurants in America, The Daily Meal, http://www.thedailymeal.com/101-best-restaurants-america
  • Going to Hawaii? 10 Must-Eat Local Specialties, Naomi Tomky, Serious Eats, December 4, 2014, http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/12/hawaiian-cuisine-local-food-what-is-spam-musubi-poke-huli-huli-saimin.html
  • Hawaiian Food Descriptions, http://www.hawaiifoodtours.com/about-us/hawaiian-food-description/
  • Roy's Waikiki, http://www.royshawaii.com/our-story.html
  • Yelp Data Reveals 100 Best Places to Eat, http://officialblog.yelp.com/2014/02/yelp-data-reveals-top-100-places-to-eat-bookmark-these-babies-now.html
  • Hawaii's 12 Best Restaurants, Fodor's, http://www.fodors.com/news/photos/hawaiis-12-best-restaurants#!10-the-dining-room
  • 2015 Hale 'Aina Award Winners: The Best Restaurants in Hawaii, http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/November-2014/2015-Hale-Aina-Award-Winners-Best-Restaurants-in-Hawaii/
  • Current Monthly Visitor Statistics, Hawaiian Tourism Authority, http://www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/research/research/visitor-highlights/

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

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Other Hawaii Culinary Schools

School Name City or Town Programs Offered
Hawaii Community College - Hilo Campus Hilo Food Services (AAS)
Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu Travel Industry Management
Heald College School of Business and Technology Honolulu Hospitality and Tourism
Kapiolani Community College Honolulu Culinary Arts
Travel Institute of the Pacific Honolulu Culinary Arts/Chef Training
University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu Hospitality Services Management
Maui Culinary Academy Kahului Culinary Arts
University of Hawaii - Maui College Kahului Culinary Arts (AAS)
Hawaii Community College - Kona Campus Kealakekua Food Services (AAS)
Brigham Young University - Hawaii Campus Laie B.S. in Hospitality & Tourism Management
Kauai Community College Lihue Culinary Arts
Leeward Community College Pearl City Culinary Arts