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Culinary Arts Schools in Texas

From celebrity chefs like Tim Love to legendary restaurants like Hugo's, Texas and the culinary arts go together like chili and cornbread -- so long as the chili is sans-bean. The Lone-Star State's rich food heritage makes it a go-to destination for foodies and future food professionals alike. It is no wonder that members of the next generation of rock star chefs, bakers and restaurateurs attend culinary schools in Texas. Read on to learn more about the state's iconic cuisine, top-notch restaurants and booming food service industry.

The melting pot: The evolution of Texas cuisine

Some say everything is bigger in Texas, and flavor is no exception. The Lone Star State's culinary arts tradition is diverse, influenced by what the University of Texas defines as no fewer than 27 separate ethnic and cultural groups. The region's rich history and geography deserve credit, too. There would be no Tex Mex if border settlers had not borrowed from from Central American neighbors and no sopapillas (or "Indian fry bread") without the Tigua Pueblo Indians. African American slaves and domestic servants throughout the region completely redefined inexpensive cuts of meats and vegetables (think: hog jowl and salt pork) -- continued long after the Emancipation. Immigrants from a myriad of nations -- Wales, Scotland, Scandinavia, Austria, Hungary and Poland, among others -- brought with them their own food traditions, which evolved into some of Texas's trademark dishes, like pecan pie, biscuits and red-eye gravy and black-eyed peas. The French brought Cajun and creole cuisine while German and Czech settlers brought the sausages and smoking techniques that later served as the foundation for Texas's famous barbecue.

Students attending culinary colleges in Texas often learn how to recognize, appreciate and prepare foods derived from these important traditions, all while mastering the basic and classical culinary arts skills that define refined cooking. Texas culinary school graduates expect to leave school knowing not just how to prepare many of Texas's most famous dishes, but how to build upon and adapt them and make them their own.

Iconic lone-star dishes

Texas may be a melting pot of culinary arts traditions, but the signature dishes and techniques that have come to define it are decidedly unique. The following is a list of what the University of Texas and The Dallas Morning News consider to be among the most iconic -- and most "essential" -- Texas foods.

  • Barbecue. Hill Country German immigrants may have introduced the region to smoked meats, but the slow-smoked beef brisket and pork ribs that evolved from them are decidedly Texan. The Dallas Daily News notes that though spice rubs and last-minute sauce mopping is popular, true barbecue purists do not add any sauce at all.
  • Chili. From chuck-wagon beef chili to the nostalgic Fritos pie, chili is perhaps one of Texas's most famous culinary contributions. Chefs and home cooks use a myriad of different preparations and topics with their chili, but true aficionados insist that "real" Texas chili never, ever contains beans.
  • Chicken-fried steak. The origins of pounding, dredging and frying tough cuts of meat in Texas is hazy: The Dallas Morning News says some believe the technique emerged on the range, others that it evolved from German immigrants' schnitzel. Either way, the most traditional way to prepare chicken-fried steak is in a pan -- not a deep frier.
  • Enchiladas. The Tex-Mex culinary tradition spans a century, notes The Dallas Morning News, and cheese enchiladas with a meatless, ground-chile-style sauce rank among its most famous dishes.
  • Pecan Pie. Most Southerners love a good pecan pie, but according to The Dallas Morning News, only Texans have made it their official state pie. Variations range from classic filling and pastry preparations to bourbon-drenched pies with shortbread crusts.

This list is by no means comprehensive: It would take a novel to give Texas its due culinary credit. Other famous dishes include: fried chicken, sopapillas, chili con carne (the state's official dish), fried okra, fried chicken, King Ranch casserole, steaks of all varieties, and many, many more. Students attending cooking and culinary schools in Texas will undoubtedly study many of these important dishes.

Famous Texas restaurants

Future chefs and foodies rejoice: Texas's most famous dishes are only outnumbered by its share of famous restaurants. Publications like The Dallas Morning News and The Dallas Observer have tried to thin the sizable herd to a more doable bucket list of must-visit restaurants. Here are just a few of them.

  • Kreuz Market and Smitty's. These two world-famous barbecue joints are located in Lockhart -- the Dallas Observer-anointed Barbecue Capital of Texas -- but their histories read much like a soap opera. In 1999 a family feud emerged when the patriarch of the nearly-century-old Kreuz Market passed away. The original Kreuz Market was renamed Smitty's, prompting disgruntled family members to establish a new Kreuz Market down the street. Residents took sides, but both establishments remained popular. The family overcame their differences in 2012 and co-created a whole new restaurant in Bee Cave.
  • Gaido's. This coastal Galveston restaurant has dished up fine Texas cuisine for more than a century, though The Dallas Observer notes that the Watkins' bisque in all its locally-sourced shrimp glory is perhaps its most famous dish. Gaido's elegantly draped dining rooms harken to its earliest days.
  • Hugo's Regional Mexican Cuisine. Hugo's was founded by critically acclaimed chef Hugo Ortega, a Mexican immigrant who began as a dishwasher and worked until he became what The Dallas Observer called the American Dream personified. Hugo's is widely regarded as one of the best Mexican restaurant in Houston, and in 2014, The Daily Meal ranked it among the 101 best restaurants in America.
  • Underbelly. Underbelly is another Houston-based restaurants that earned top nods from critics and various publications, including The Dallas Observer and The Daily Meal. Spearheaded by chef Chris Shepherd, Underbelly serves a diversity of ethnic dishes prepared with locally produced, caught, raised and grown ingredients. Unlike many stuffier establishments, Underbelly features what The Dallas Observer calls a warm, casual environment and an open kitchen.
  • Fonda San Miguel. This colorful Austin restaurant was established in 1975 by Tom Gilliland and Miguel Ravago, and according to The Dallas Observer, has played a key role in shaping Mexican cuisine in Texas (and the nation). Chef Ravago relocated to Spain in 2008, but returns to Austin at least once a month. The highly-regarded Chef Oscar Alvarez heads the kitchen in his absence.

A number of famous chefs got their starts in Texas restaurants such as these, and if statewide projections hold true, demand for culinary professionals of all stripes will continue to grow for years to come.

Looking ahead: Culinary jobs and careers in Texas

Demand for culinary arts professionals is historically variable, at least from a national perspective. Not so in Texas where the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) and Projections Central predict solid growth for a number of food-related professionals through at least 2022. Though not always required, formal training in culinary schools in Texas can prepare graduates to succeed in what can be a competitive field, especially within high-end and well-known restaurants. Just remember that these culinary schools often offer programs for many different types of professionals. Among them:

  • Culinary arts
  • Baking and pastry arts
  • Restaurant management
  • Hospitality management
  • Bartending and mixology
  • Sommelier training

While no degree or certificate can guarantee a culinary school graduate's success, the BLS reports that both earnings and job outlook tend to improve with education. The following chart provides wage and projections data for a number of different culinary professionals in Texas.

RegionCareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
TexasCooks, Restaurant91470$23040
TexasFirst-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers79370$35470
TexasFood Service Managers12010$58170
TexasBakers12090$23800
TexasButchers and Meat Cutters10470$26380
TexasChefs and Head Cooks8140$43380
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Keep in mind that geography can impact earnings and career outlook as much as education. Here is a regional breakdown of some of Texas's biggest metropolitan areas.

RegionCareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Amarillo, TXFood Service Managers90$50220
Amarillo, TXBakers220$20310
Amarillo, TXChefs and Head Cooks110$29140
Austin-Round Rock, TXFood Service Managers1380$56240
Austin-Round Rock, TXBakers420$26640
Austin-Round Rock, TXChefs and Head Cooks1070$38380
College Station-Bryan, TXFood Service Managers120$51340
College Station-Bryan, TXBakers80$22120
College Station-Bryan, TXChefs and Head Cooks90$36790
Corpus Christi, TXBakers110$20450
Corpus Christi, TXChefs and Head Cooks100$32490
Corpus Christi, TXFood Service Managers300$51360
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers2590$61140
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks1520$50900
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan DivisionBakers2550$25730
El Paso, TXChefs and Head Cooks90$41220
El Paso, TXFood Service Managers330$54820
El Paso, TXBakers550$20720
Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metropolitan DivisionBakers1360$25160
Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metropolitan DivisionChefs and Head Cooks770$41210
Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metropolitan DivisionFood Service Managers1020$66950
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TXFood Service Managers2890$55710
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TXChefs and Head Cooks2650$43820
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TXBakers2930$23370
Lubbock, TXChefs and Head Cooks50$47820
Lubbock, TXFood Service Managers160$71580
Lubbock, TXBakers120$22870
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TXBakers290$20250
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TXFood Service Managers210$53560
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TXChefs and Head Cooks90$49230
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TXChefs and Head Cooks550$45740
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TXFood Service Managers970$63400
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TXBakers920$26230
Tyler, TXBakers70$22270
Tyler, TXFood Service Managers100$47690
Tyler, TXChefs and Head Cooks40$47980
Waco, TXFood Service Managers130$45220
Waco, TXChefs and Head Cooks90$25620
Waco, TXBakers170$24070
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Learn more

This guide proves there is no shortage of culinary passion (and opportunity) in Texas. There can also be a great deal of competition for budding chefs and other professionals, especially at well known and highly rated restaurants. Culinary schools in Texas can give many candidates an edge in tight job markets. Programs can vary tremendously, however, both in scope and style. Contact prospective culinary schools directly to learn more.

Sources:

  • May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Texas, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April, 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tx.htm
  • Long-Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, 2014, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
  • "The History of Texas Cuisine," University of Texas, Darla Stewart, http://www.utexas.edu/gtc/assets/pdfs/texas_cuisine.pdf
  • "The 10 most essential Texas foods -- and two iconic Texas drinks to wash them down," The Dallas Morning News, November 20, 2013, Kim Pierce, http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/restaurants/headlines/20131120-the-10-most-essential-texas-foods--and-two-iconic-texas-drinks-to-wash-them-down.ece
  • 101 Best Restaurants in America in 2014, The Daily Meal, February 20, 2014, Aurthur Bovino, http://www.thedailymeal.com/101-best-restaurants-america
  • "30 Essential Texas Restaurants to Visit Before You Die," Dallas Observer, January 17, 2013, Katharine Shilcutt, http://www.dallasobserver.com/2013-01-17/restaurants/30-essential-texas-restaurants-to-visit-before-you-die/
  • May 2013 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm
  • Employment Projections, LMCI Tracer, Labor Market Information, Texas Workforce Commission, 2013, http://www.tracer2.com/?PAGEID=67&SUBID=114

Browse Culinary Schools in Texas

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

Other Texas Culinary Schools

School Name City or Town Programs Offered
Abilene Christian University Abilene Foods & Nutrition Studies
Tarrant County College Arlington Culinary Arts
Culinary Academy of Austin Austin Culinary Arts
Lamar University - Beaumont Beaumont Bachelor of Science Hospitality Management
University of North Texas Denton Hospitality Services Management
El Paso Community College El Paso Culinary Arts
The Culinary School of Fort Worth Fort Worth Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts
University of Houston - University Park Houston Hotel & Restaurant Management
Sam Houston State University Huntsville Family and Consumer Sciences-Food Service Management
Central Texas College Killeen Associate in Applied Science in Hospitality Management
Texas Tech University Lubbock Food Sciences and Tech.
San Jacinto College - Central Campus Pasadena Culinary Arts/Chef Training