Nebraska Culinary Schools & Institutes

Nebraska's culinary scene may not be considered a foodie destination, but that scene is emerging, built on the farm-to-table experience that comes directly from the state's long agricultural heritage. That heritage is becoming intertwined with the modern local food movement which promotes a connection between agriculture, organic farming and sustainable living. The state boasts more than 80 farmer's markets statewide that showcase regional tastes including kolaches (pastries), baklava, cheese, jams, meats and more.

Culinary Arts

But students of culinary schools in Nebraska will see that this connection runs deeper than the farm-to-table experience. Nebraska is also home to a large Czech population that has deep culinary roots in the state. For example, the city of Wilber hosts the annual Wilber Czech Festival, a 52-year-old festival held each summer that honors the state's Czech heritage. Here food traditions ranging from liver dumpling soup to sauerkraut, jaternice (sausage) to rye bread are regularly celebrated by the 20,000 visitors that attend the festival each year.

Famous chefs in Nebraska

Nebraska's culinary future is being shaped by old world traditions that are coming together with contemporary dining trends. Some of the chefs leading the charge were honored in 2015 by the Nebraska Sustainable Agricultural Society with a Producers Choice Chef Award.

  • Glen Wheeler (Spenser's for Steaks and Chops)
  • Isa Moscowitz (Modern Love Omaha)
  • Ben Maides (Avoli Osteri)
  • John Hamburger (Back Alley Bakery)
  • Colin & Jessica Duggan (Kitchen Table)

In addition, local chefs continue to bring national recognition to the region through their nominations from the James Beard Foundation. The James Beard Foundation Awards are the industry's highest honor and being nominated once is quite the honor. Chefs such as Clayton Chapman (The Grey Plume) and Jon Seymour (V. Mertz) have both been nominated for the Best Chef Midwest Award, with Chapman being nominated multiple times. Other top chefs in Nebraska include Jessica Joyce of Block 16 (Omaha), Dario Schike of Dario's Braisserie (Omaha), and Bobby Mekiney of M's Pub (Omaha). Each were recognized by their peers in Best Chefs America's annual publication of the country's top chefs.

Growing food industries in Nebraska

Nebraska's restaurant industry is projected to drive approximately $2.6 billion in sales in 2015. With nearly 4,000 eating and drinking establishments, the state employs more than 91,000 individuals in the industry -- a number the National Restaurant Association projects will grow by 7.1% between 2015 and 2025. That growth presents opportunity for prospective students considering attending a culinary school in Nebraska.

Alongside the local and sustainable food trends, the state's wine industry has also experienced significant growth. Today, there are 35 wineries in Nebraska producing a host of award winning wines, including Cellar 426 Winery, Feather River, and Moonstruck Meadery. Wine Spectator has recognized two restaurants -- The Oven (Lincoln) and V. Mertz (Omaha) -- awarding them the Best of Award of Excellence -- based on the restaurant's wine selection, presentation, and breadth of offerings.

Nebraska culinary schools & career outlook

For prospective students desiring to join the ranks of chefs such as Jon Seymour and Clayton Chapman, the first step begins with training at a culinary school. In Nebraska, there are four major educational paths for starting a career in the culinary industry:

Earning a degree from one of Nebraska's culinary schools can open doors to a spectrum of culinary employment opportunities from hospitality director to head chef, sous chef to pastry chef.

According to state employment from the Nebraska Department of Labor, career growth in culinary-related fields between 2010 and 2020 is expected to reach 7.7 percent. At the individual career level, three of the most commonly pursued employment avenues include bakers, chefs, and food service managers. The table below outlines the career outlook and salaries for those careers in the state.

OccupationTotal Employment in Nebraska (2014)Average Salary in Nebraska (2014)% Job Growth in Nebraska (2012-2022)
Chefs and Head Cooks 550 $45,400 9.4%
Bakers 970 $23,910 11%
Food Service Managers 810 $49,670 4.9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Locally, Lincoln is another area for prospective students to consider in addition to the Omaha region. In 2014, bakers earned an annual salary of $20,650, chefs and head cooks earned $43,130, and food service managers earned $47,620, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, as the state's culinary scene continues to emerge and take shape, new opportunities should be created for the next generation to culinary talents looking to make their mark in Nebraska.


  • Forbes, Restaurant Rankings, http://www.forbestravelguide.com/restaurant
  • National Restaurant Association, Nebraska, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/2014/nebraska
  • Best Chefs America, Nebraska, https://www.bestchefsamerica.com/the-chefs&filter_search&filter_state=ne
  • Projections Central, Nebraska , projectionscentral.com
  • James Beard Foundation, The 2015 Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists, http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/2015-restaurant-and-chef-award-semifinalists
  • Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, 2015 Producers Choice Chef Awards, http://nebsusag.org/chef.html
  • Wine Spectator, Award Winners Nebraska, http://www.winespectator.com/restaurants/search/recall/yes/awardlevel/BAE
  • Prairie Fire, Culinary Tourism in Nebraska, http://www.prairiefirenewspaper.com/2013/09/culinary-tourism-in-nebraska
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nebraska, Occupational and Employment Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ne.htm
  • Nebraska Department of Labor, Long-Term Projections, https://neworks.nebraska.gov/admin/gsipub/htmlarea/uploads/Projections%20Publication.pdf

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