Culinary Schools in Tucson, AZ: Culinary Arts & Cooking Colleges

Culinary Schools in Tucson

New residents flock to Arizona because of its affordability and its pristine natural beauty, among other things. Its national parks have long attracted adventurers from all over the world, and Tucson, the most southern large city in Arizona, is no exception. From centuries-old missions to the Lawrence Whipple Observatory to fantastic hiking and rock climbing, Tucson is the Southwest at its best.

This desert city is also a foodie's paradise, and a pretty good place to start a culinary education. Located just 70 miles north of the Mexican border, Tucson is home to the prestigious University of Arizona, and it boasts a great variety of restaurants at all price ranges.

Famous Tucson restaurants

The local foods trend is alive and well in Arizona, and the city of Tucson has its own Viva La Local Food Festival, which features 80 vendors at its Heirloom Farmers Market. The festival even includes a Veggie Valet to store one's groceries before heading to visit the booths of some of the top restaurants and breweries. Arizona has some of the oldest food traditions in North America. Squash and corn have been cultivated here for more than 4,000 years, and many of the heirloom fruits and veggies that are grown here now are the same that were eaten when Arizona was a territory and not yet a state.

In terms of state specialties, there's cacti. Yes, cacti, including the saguaro cactus fruit and the prickly pear cactus. Many have never eaten cacti before, but this plant has long been a staple of the Mexican cuisine. It can be made into syrup, candy, and many other tasty things -- and let's not forget the prickly pear margarita, which is perfect on a summer evening.

While we won't be able to tell you all about all 1,300 or so restaurants in Tucson, allow us to introduce three of the more popular eateries in the city:

  • El Charro: The oldest continuously family-owned Mexican restaurant in the country has several locations. The downtown restaurant has been open since 1922 and remains as popular as ever. This is where the chimichanga (a deep-fried burrito) was invented. Don't miss any of the dishes with carne seca (dried meat).
  • The Coronet: It feels like Paris, but it's Tucson all the way inside this charming Parisian brasserie. The music is quiet, the al fresco dining is plentiful, and there's a fantastic Thursday prix fixe that includes comes with wine.
  • The Little Café Poca Cosa: This place really doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside it's a real gem. Try the surprise plate and get used to the fact that you will get a hug from the server. The donation jars have helped support community projects in Arizona and Mexico. Open for breakfast and lunch, this place serves fantastic Mexican food.

Tucson culinary career outlook

There are thousands of restaurants in the entire state of Arizona -- 8,885 drinking and eating places, to be exact, according to data from the National Restaurant Association. Of these restaurants, some 1,300 are located in Tucson. The entire food and beverage sector in Arizona is robust, and the National Restaurant Association projects 15.9 percent job growth between 2013 and 2023. That's quite good compared to the national average of 11 percent growth for all jobs.

Most culinary professionals hold some type of culinary degree, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that those with a degree tend to make more than those without one. Additionally, there tend to be better job opportunities in largely populated cities, and Tuscon is one of them. Take a look at some job data from the entire state of Arizona:


Total Employment in Arizona (2014)

Average Salary in Arizona (2014)

% Job Growth in Arizona (2012-2022)





Chefs and Head Cooks




Food Service Managers




Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Those who stay in Arizona to build a culinary career can find decent prospects in Arizona as a whole. However, those interested in attending one of the culinary schools in Tucson might surely want to know about the earnings situation specifically in that city:



Total Employed (2014)

Average Salary (2014)








Food Service Managers



Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Students should choose carefully when it comes to selecting the Tucson culinary arts school they would like to attend. We know it's a big decision, and we'd like to make it a bit easier by listing some of the schools below. Send some sunshine back to us!


  • A Sense of Taste: Arizona's Food Culture, Dina Mishey,
  • Arizona restaurant industry at a glance:
  • Course Comparison, Visit Tucson,
  • Desert City, Foodie's Paradise, Visit Tucson,
  • El Charro Café:
  • Holy Mole: Tuscon's Mexican Food with a Kick, The Daily Beast, Jane and Michael Stern, June 29, 2014,
  • May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Arizona, 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  • May 2014 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Tucson, Arizona,
  • The Coronet,
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This list also contains online schools that accept students from Tucson