West Virginia Culinary Schools & Institutes
West Virginia's cuisine is the very definition of "history on a plate." Many of the American South's most iconic dishes evolved from the resourcefulness of the state's earliest settlers and the coal miners that followed. NPR once reported that a bowl of smoky pinto beans is to West Virginia "what an earthy Cabernet is to the Napa Valley." Students who train at culinary schools in West Virginia may learn about some of the classic dishes of the frontier, like cornbread, buckwheat cakes, venison, apple butter and pickled everything.
But not all of West Virginia's best loved dishes are entirely home grown; immigrants played a key role in the state's culinary evolution. Pepperoni rolls are yeasty rolls stuffed with thin-sliced pepperoni, invented in Fairfax by an Italian baker named Giuseppe "Joseph" Argiro. Slaw dogs, or hot dogs topped with coleslaw and mustard, are another hit, this time with a German twist. These European-inspired favorites fall right in line with the state's love of simple, accessible foods, but students attending West Virginia culinary schools are by no means limited by these traditions. The state's restaurant scene is tremendously diverse.
Famous West Virginia restaurants
West Virginia is not traditionally known for its culinary prowess, but a surge in highly regarded chefs and restaurants suggests this might be changing. Fine dining, global and New Southern cuisine is also on the rise. The Chop House of Charleston is often considered one of the best steakhouses in the country. It has won a number of awards, including an award of excellence from Wine Spectator.
These trends give graduates of West Virginia culinary schools more career options, but many of state's most famous restaurants pay homage to its more traditional cuisine, including:
- North End Tavern & Brewery: "The NET" in Parkersburg in West Virginia's oldest continuously-operated restaurant. The small pub serves up German-American favorites and handcrafted beer.
- Diehl's Family Restaurant: The Herald Dispatch once called Diehl's Family Restaurant in Nitro "a museum of its era." It has specialized in small-town comfort cuisine for more than 50 years.
- Country Club Bakery: This Fairmont bakery, founded by Italian immigrant Guiseppe "Joseph" Argiro, invented the now-famous pepperoni roll.
- Hillbilly Hotdogs: What started as a small weenie stand in 1999 is now considered a bona fide institution. Hillbilly Hotdogs is also home to the Home Wrecker Challenge: customers who finish off a HH's signature 15-inch hot dog in under 12 minutes get it for free.
West Virginia culinary schools & career outlook
National Restaurant Association calls restaurants a "driving force in West Virginia's economy." In 2016, restaurants accounted for 72,800 of the state's jobs, or about 10% of the state's total employment, and the tally is expected to grow to over 79,000 by 2026. Not all jobs will grow at the same rate. In fact, WorkForce West Virginia projects that demand for a number of professionals will remain relatively flat between 2012 and 2022. In these tight markets, training from culinary schools in West Virginia can be a major asset.
The following table highlights employment projections for key culinary careers in West Virginia, plus 2013 employment and wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov):
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||330||49100|
|Food Service Managers||1370||46960|
Career trends can vary from one area to the next, and many West Virginia culinary school graduates will head to major population centers with more employment options. Here is a breakdown of 2013 culinary employment and salary information in two of the state's largest metropolitan areas.
|Location||Occupations||Total Employed (2013)||Average Salary (2013)|
|Charleston Metro||Food Service Managers||160||$48,930|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||50||$44,050|
|Huntington-Ashland Metro||Food Service Managers||260||$46,940|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||30||$58,690|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
West Virginia culinary schools prepare students to work in all types of restaurants, in all regions, but not all graduates become chefs. Your education may lead you to become a baker, restaurant manager or even a hotel manager. Finding the right program takes research, so check out the culinary schools below to get started.
- "Notable West Virginians nominate their favorite state foods," Charleston Daily Mail, April 22, 2013, Candace Nelson, http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/201304210160
- "Beans and Cornbread: Feeding Souls a Mile Deep," National Public Radio, March 7, 2007, Kendra Bailey Morris, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7743821
- "West Virginia's culinary scene," Experience South, Travel, The USA Today, June 25, 2014, Ed Grossman, http://experience.usatoday.com/south/story/west-virginia/2014/06/16/culinary-scene/10619291/
- Hillbilly Hotdogs, http://www.hillbillyhotdogs.com/
- "The 2015 Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists," James Beard Foundation, February 18, 2015, http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/2015-restaurant-and-chef-award-semifinalists
- "West Virginia Restaurant Industry at a Glance," National Restaurant Association, 2016, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/2016/WV_Restaurants2016
- "May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: West Virginia," Occupational Outlook Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wv.htm
- "May 2013 State Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," Occupational Outlook Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm
- "West Virginia Occupational Projections: 2012 to 2022," WorkForce West Virginia, State of West Virginia, http://www.workforcewv.org/lmi/occproj/longterm/StateWide.htm