Culinary Arts Schools in Iowa

Iowa may conjure up images of vast, flat farmland, but its culinary scene is anything but boring. Anchored by its two largest cites, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, the state offers a combination of quirky fare and elegant dining options. In the summer, the Iowa State Fair typically hosts 200 food stands that offer about 70 food items from standards such as funnel cake to more unusual things like chicken fried bacon. However, fair food isn't the only thing notable about the Iowa culinary scene. Pork tenderloins, Muscatine melons and Maytag blue cheese all get special mention as defining ingredients in the state while Maid-Rite sandwiches are downright iconic.

Culinary Arts

Students may select culinary schools in Iowa for many reasons, from low-key living to the opportunity to distinguish themselves in a potentially less crowded job market. According to the National Restaurant Association, the workforce is Iowa restaurants is expected to increase 8.5 percent from 2015-2025. Currently, more than 145,000 Iowans work in the state's more than 6,000 eating and drinking establishments.

Famous Iowa restaurants and chefs

In between classes, students at culinary arts schools in Iowa may want to take the time to sample some of the excellent food that's being served up at restaurants across the state. Here are a few of the establishments that get top marks from diners or have award-winning chefs in the kitchen.

  • Centro (Des Moines): According to Cityview readers, Centro is hands-down the best restaurant in Des Moines. It has offered an urban dining experience in the downtown area since 2001. Diners can stop in for lunch or make it an evening destination for dinner and drinks.
  • The Lost Cuban (Cedar Rapids): The Lost Cuban gets honors as being the top Cedar Rapids restaurant according to TripAdvisor users. Its Cuban cuisine also gets high marks on Yelp and Urbanspoon, making this a must-stop for many visitors to the area.
  • Cobble Hill (Cedar Rapids): Also in Cedar Rapids, Cobble Hill offers up dinner, drinks and desserts. Andy Schumacher, the restaurant's chef and co-owner, was featured on the show The Next Food Network Star and was named a semi-finalist for the 2015 Best Chef: Midwest award from the James Beard Foundation.
  • Atlas (Iowa City): For those who head to Iowa City, Atlas is said to be the best restaurant in town. It's a three-time winner of the Best of the Area award for best restaurant from readers of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Its menu is a mix of sandwiches, salads, burritos and entrees featuring Iowa ingredients.

In addition, new restaurants are constantly appearing on the Iowa culinary scene. For example, Eatery A is a hot new establishment in Des Moines that is turning heads. Its chef, Nic Gonwa, was named a semifinalist for the 2015 Rising Star Chef of the Year honor from the James Beard Foundation.

Culinary schools & career outlook in Iowa

Beyond fine food, Iowa also has a growing job market for food-related occupations. Depending on their course of study, graduates of culinary arts schools in Iowa could go on to work as managers, business owners or chefs. Others may use their culinary education as a starting point for a higher degree in the hospitality industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some culinary jobs will see as much as double digit percentage growth in the years to come. The following chart looks at the current employment and future predictions for some common occupations in the field.

OccupationTotal Employment in Iowa (2014)Average Salary in Iowa (2014)% Job Growth in Iowa (2012-2022)
Chefs and Head Cooks 930 $35,470 8.9%
Bakers 1,690 $24,730 13.0%
Food Service Managers 4,030 $40,580 6.2%

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

Other jobs for graduates of culinary schools in Iowa may include that of institutional cooks, caterers or retail shop managers. First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers are another in-demand career, one expected to see growth of 14.9 percent from 2012-2022.

While government data can be helpful for career planning, actual incomes can vary depending upon a person's education, experience and other factors. In addition, the number of jobs available may differ by city. The chart below looks at employment in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids metro areas.

LocationOccupationsTotal Employed (2014)Average Salary (2014)
Des Moines Food Service Managers 870 $43,760
Chefs and Head Cooks 150 $37,880
Bakers 380 $25,770
Cedar Rapids Food Service Managers 520 $36,300
Chefs and Head Cooks 100 $30,870
Bakers 140 $25,610

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

To increase the odds of landing a job, students may want to look into the programs offered by several culinary schools in Iowa. While a degree isn't always necessary for a successful career in hospitality, employers may prefer to hire those who already possess the skills needed for the job. Culinary arts schools in Iowa may have programs that focus specifically on kitchen skills or some may provide a broader curriculum that is appropriate for those interested in management positions or further education. Get started by requesting more information from one or more of the schools listed below.


  • National Restaurant Association, Iowa, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/2014/Iowa
  • Projections Central, Iowa, projectionscentral.com
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa, Occupational and Employment Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ia.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA Metropolitan Area, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_19780.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Cedar Rapids, IA Metro Area http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_16300.htm
  • Iowa State Fair Food, http://www.iowastatefair.org/fair-attractions/food/
  • Iowa Place-Based Foods, Iowa Arts Council, http://www.iowaartscouncil.org/programs/folk-and-traditional-arts/place_based_foods/
  • Best of Des Moines, Cityview, February 25, 2015, http://www.dmcityview.com/cover-story/2015/02/25/25967/
  • Best Overall Restaurant, Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 7, 2014, http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/best-of/2014/11/07/best-overall-restaurant/18533383/
  • The Lost Cuban, TripAdvisor, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g37743-d3833016-Reviews-The_Lost_Cuban-Cedar_Rapids_Iowa.html
  • James Beard Award Semifinalists, http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/2015-restaurant-and-chef-award-semifinalists

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

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Other Iowa Culinary Schools

School Name City or Town Programs Offered
Iowa State University Ames Culinary Science (AGLS)
Iowa Culinary Institute Ankeny Culinary Arts
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Bakery
Iowa Western Community College Council Bluff Culinary Arts
Eastern Iowa Community College District Davenport Culinary Arts
Iowa Lakes Community College Estherville Hospitality Culinary & Management
North Iowa Area Community College Mason City Hospitality/Foodservice Management
Indian Hills Community College Ottumwa Culinary Arts (AAS)
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo Culinary Arts