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Culinary Arts Schools in Illinois

The country's culinary landscape continually shifts and changes, but there are three foundational cities that anchor that landscape: New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago. In Illinois, Chicago is the heartbeat of the culinary world, one home to critically renowned, award-winning chefs and restaurateurs. It's an exciting place to be for students interested in attending culinary schools in Illinois. Evidenced by the city's annual recognition from the James Beard Foundation, Chicago is home to top-flight culinary talent and tastes. In 2014, there were three James Beard award winners, including:

Culinary Arts
  • Jimmy Bannos, Jr. (The Purple Pig): Co-winner of rising star chef category
  • Dave Beran (Next): Best chef, Great Lakes
  • Maria Contreras, Christopher Lawton, Micah Stanley (Grace): Outstanding restaurant design (75 seats and under)

Dominated by the Chicago metropolitan region, Illinois' culinary arts industry is a $22.4 billion per year industry, according to the National Restaurant Association. This presents a huge opportunity for prospective students who are thinking ahead about their culinary career: more than 26,000 restaurants and drinking establishments can be found in the state, establishments that employ 500,000 individuals.

Famous Illinois restaurants and chefs

Restaurants, chefs, and restaurateurs across the state have and continue to garner national, and even worldwide, acclaim from publications including Michelin Guide, Forbes, and Wine and Spectator. However, the Illinois culinary scene is dominated in particular by two Chicago restaurants: Alinea and Grace. Both were named Five-Star restaurants by Forbes in 2014. More importantly, both earned the critical distinction of Three-Star recognition from Michelin.

  • Alinea - Executive Chef Grant Achatz, along with Nick Kokonas, founded the 64-table restaurant in 2005, a restaurant that has redefined the dining experience through an 18 to 22 course meal based on a seasonally driven menu.
  • Grace - Renowned Executive Chef, Curtis Duffy, opened Grace in 2012 and it has been a sensational hit, garnering accolades including a Five-Star rating from Forbes Travel Guide, AAA's Five Diamond Rating, Three-Stars from Michelin, and was named the best restaurant in the world by Robb's Report in 2013.

As the focal point of the culinary world in Illinois, Chicago is also home to two additional Five-Star and four Four-Star Forbes restaurants. Other Five-Star winners also include L20 and Sixteen, while the Four-Star winners include Everest, Les Nomades, Shanghai Terrace, and Tru.

Complementing the Three-Star rated Michelin restaurants, Grace and Alinea, are another 22 restaurants that earned Two- and One-Star recognition from Michelin.

Although Chicago is the epicenter of the culinary movement in Illinois, other cities such as Rockford and Evanston, are quickly becoming known as foodie destinations. For example, in 2014, Zagat named the some of the best restaurants in Evanston, a college town expanding its palette of tastes with an influx of new chefs and restaurateurs, including establishments such as Lou Malnati's Pizza, Campagnola (Italian), Jilly's Café (American), Coast Sushi and Sashimi (Japanese) and more.

Illinois career outlook for culinary careers and professions

The path to a culinary career typically begins with graduating from a culinary arts school. In Illinois, even famous chefs such as Chef Grant Aschatz of Alinea have attended a culinary institution for training. Prospective students have a wide selection of educational opportunities and career avenues to consider and pursue. Traditionally speaking, culinary schools in Illinois offer students four professional concentrations: Culinary Management, Baking & Pastry Arts, Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts.

Whether the goal is to own a restaurant, become a sous chef, head baker, pastry chef, executive chef, bartender or hospitality director, a degree in the culinary arts can pave the way to an entry-level position in the field. According to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth at the career level varies both by location and profession. For example, bakers, chefs, and restaurant managers are expected to see job gains statewide between 2.9 percent and 5.7 percent between 2012 and 2022. Below is a career summary table for culinary careers in Illinois:

OccupationTotal Employment in Illinois (2013)Average Salary in Illinois (2013)% Job Growth in Illinois (2012-22)
Bakers 7,980 $25,060 5.7%
Chefs and Head Cooks 4,610 $42,210 4.9%
Food Service Managers 12,070 $47,170 2.9%

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

At the local level, the top five paying metropolitan areas in 2013 for chefs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, included the following:

  • Champaign-Urbana: $49,220
  • Lake County-Kenosha County: $46,040
  • Chicago-Joliet-Naperville: $44,930
  • Decatur: $44,920
  • Bloomington-Normal: $41,800

For restaurant managers, the top paying metro areas in Illinois included Bloomington-Normal ($55,470), Champaign-Urbana ($54,430), Chicago-Joliet-Naperville ($49,800), Lake County-Kenosha County ($48,300), and Decatur ($46,280).

For bakers, the best paying areas included Chicago-Joliet-Naperville ($24,840), Lake County-Kenosha County ($24,550), Peoria ($23,290), Kankakee-Bradley ($22,640) and Springfield ($22,410).

As the state -- specifically Chicago -- continues to place its mark on the culinary world, Illinois will long remain a popular place for graduates of culinary schools in Illinois to start their careers. Make sure to be fully aware of your options – if you're thinking of pursuing a culinary education in the state, be sure to peruse our list Illinois culinary schools below. Culinary arts schools, along with baking and pastry schools, are located throughout the state, so choose the one that looks right for you.

Additional Information on Culinary Colleges in Illinois from Chef2chef.net
Hotel Management Schools in Illinois

Sources

  • Forbes, Restaurant Rankings, http://www.forbestravelguide.com/restaurant
  • Michelin, Chicago Rated Restaurants, http://www.michelintravel.com/selections/2015-chicago-michelin-selections/
  • National Restaurant Association, Illinois, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/2014/illinois
  • Projections Central, Illinois, projectionscentral.com
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois, Occupational and Employment Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm
  • Zagat, Evanston Illinois, http://www.zagat.com/c/chicago-il/evanston-restaurants
  • Best Chefs America, Illinois, https://www.bestchefsamerica.com/chef-city
  • Forbes, Travel Guide Award Winners, http://blog.forbestravelguide.com/the-2014-forbes-travel-guide-star-award-winners

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

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5 Program(s) Found
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
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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.
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  • Has been training students for creative careers since 1921.
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  • Its accelerated online courses allow students to learn new course material every 5 ½ weeks.
  • Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
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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.
  • Develops curriculum with input from employers, subject matter experts.
  • Has small class sizes to promote one-on-one, student-teacher interaction.
  • Makes no-cost tutoring available in every subject to every enrolled student.
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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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  • A private university founded in 1939.  
  • Part of an international network of Assemblies of God colleges and universities.
  • Offers bachelor’s programs that give students the option to take one 7-week course at a time and complete their degree in as few as 36 months.
  • Provides 18 month programs for a master of arts in organizational leadership, digital media, and more.
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  • Has over 350 employees who provide personalized, one-on-one live student support.
  • Partnered with AmeriCorps to create the Segal AmeriCorps education award that pays up to $5,500 towards tuition.
  • Provides 100% tuition assistance for military service members who qualify.
  • Offers JANET, the Job Assistance Network that covers instruction on résumé writing, cover letters and weekly job leads for up to three years.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).
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  • A cosmetology and beauty educator since 1935, with 98 beauty and cosmetology schools all over the US.
  • Employs many green initiatives on their campuses.
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  • Accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS).
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  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission on Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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Saint Francis University’s 100% Online Master of Human Resource Management

Saint Francis University’s online Master of Human Resource Management program provides students with the theoretical and practical advanced knowledge necessary to become human resource leaders of the best kind.

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  • Ranked 21st among the Best National Universities in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
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  • Houses a multimillion-dollar research program that receives funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, The Commonwealth Fund, and more.
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  • Based in Winter Park, FL, Full Sail University offers an innovative approach to learning.
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Nursing@Simmons, the innovative, online nursing degree program from Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences prepares Registered Nurses for the next stage of their careers.

You need to have a Bachelor’s degree and RN license to be qualified for this school.

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  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
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  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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  • Accredited
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Other Illinois Culinary Schools

School Name City or Town Programs Offered
Belleville Area College Belleville Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais Family and Consumer Sciences
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale Carbondale Hospitality & Tourism
Kaskaskia College Centralia Advanced Cooking
Parkland College Champaign Foodservice
City Colleges of Chicago - Harold Washington College Chicago Hospitality
City Colleges of Chicago - Kennedy-King College Chicago Baking and Pastry Arts
French Pastry School Chicago Pastry Arts
Lexington College Chicago Associate of Applied Science Degree - Hospitality Management
Robert Morris College - Chicago Chicago Associate Degree Culinary Arts
Roosevelt University Chicago Hospitality & Tourism Management
Westwood College of Technology Chicago Hospitality Administration
Northern Illinois University Dekalb Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality
Illinois Central College East Peoria Culinary Arts - Associate in Applied Science
Elgin Community College Elgin Baker/Pastry Arts
College of Du Page Glen Ellyn Baking and Pastry Arts
College of Dupage Glen Ellyn Culinary Arts (AAS)
Southwestern Illinois College Granite City Certificate in Chef's Apprentice
College of Lake County Grayslake Hospitality and Culinary Management
Rend Lake College Ina Culinary Arts Management
Joliet Junior College Joliet Culinary Arts
Black Hawk College Moline Travel, Tourism & Hospitality
William Rainey Harper College Palatine Hospitality Management
Moraine Valley Community College Palos Hills Culinary Arts
Triton College River Grove Baking & Pastry Arts
Cooking wth the Best Chefs Roselle Baking & Cooking Classes
Lincoln Land Community College Springfield Baking and Pastry Certificate
Shawnee Community College Ullin Hospitality/Food Management.
University of Illinois at Urbana Urbana Hospitality Management