Culinary Schools in Salem, OR: Culinary Arts & Cooking Colleges

Culinary Schools in Salem

If you're looking for excellent food, head to the Northwest -- all the way up to Salem, the bustling capital of Oregon. There you will find a place where good food, and the industry surrounding it, is taken very seriously. In fact, Salem is home to one of the largest food-processing centers in the United States, numerous fresh and local food markets, and fun festivals that focus on food and wine. In a place like Salem, it's not a stretch to find excellent restaurants that are setting the culinary world on fire.

Famous restaurants in Salem

As the state capital and Oregon's third largest city, Salem has plenty to offer locals and tourists alike, including dozens of fantastic places to wine and dine. Students who graduate from Salem culinary schools might find employment in one of the city's eating establishments, including these more popular options:

  • White's: This family-oriented restaurant began in 1936. Though the restaurant changed hands in 1995, the food is still the same high-quality meat-and-potatoes, family style dinners that made this place a comfortable favorite.
  • Westgate Cafe: The heart of the local community in West Salem, this place has been in business for over five decades, offering everything from a hearty and expansive breakfast to fine-dining candlelit dinners.
  • Court St. Dairy Lunch: This is the oldest sandwich shop in Salem, serving up culinary goodness since 1929. Offering classic diner food in an equally classic atmosphere, this family-friendly place is a must-stop for tourists and locals alike.

Culinary connoisseurs can learn more about these restaurants at the Bite of Salem, held every July at the riverfront. The hottest restaurants offer samples of their food there, with proceeds benefiting local charities. Other festivals and events abound, including Chef's Nite Out, a wine and food benefit, and the Oregon Wine & Food Festival.

Though students who graduate from Salem cooking schools are certainly prepared to serve up the best dishes in town, they are also capable of bringing other skills to the table. Those who choose to take courses in management, business, accounting, finance and the like might step away from the kitchen or dining room to oversee everything from their own 'mom and pop' place to major restaurant chains.

Salem culinary salaries and job growth

Though the growth of Oregon's restaurant industry isn't as robust as that in other states, it does sit at a respectable 14.7 percent employment growth from 2015 to 2025, according to the National Restaurant Association. Oregon is home to 9,393 eating and drinking locations, and 1,760 of those are in the Salem area. A full ten percent of the state's workforce is employed in culinary establishments; that does not include those who might work in Salem's booming agricultural sector or in other related occupations.

Not all jobs for graduates of Salem culinary schools are created equal; some will show much higher job growth than others. The following jobs are showing the most robust growth in Oregon from 2012 to 2022, according to Projections Central:

  • Food servers in a non-restaurant setting: 30.4%
  • Cafeteria cooks: 19.1%
  • Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food: 18.4%
  • Fast food cooks: 18%
  • First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers: 18%
  • Restaurant hosts and hostesses: 17.8%
  • Waiters and waitresses: 17.8%
  • Restaurant cooks: 17.7%
  • Dining room and cafeteria attendants: 17.7%

In addition to these jobs that are directly related to the restaurant industry, graduates of Salem cooking schools might be prepared to enter those positions that don't require hands-on culinary experience. Related jobs with high growth include:

  • Concierges: 22.1%
  • Food scientists and technologists: 21.9%
  • Dietetic technicians: 20.6%
  • Food service managers: 17.6%

Note that these positions take more than cooking chops. Students who are interested in these high-growth occupations should ensure a well-rounded educational experience with courses in science, nutrition, hospitality, management and the like.

Restaurant sales along brought $6.9 billion into the Oregon coffers in 2015. What is the pay like for graduates of Salem cooking schools? These numbers from the BLS are based on 2014 median wages reported for the Salem, Oregon area.

  • Food servers in a non-restaurant setting: $21,160
  • Cafeteria cooks: $26,550
  • Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food: $21,100
  • Fast food cooks: $20,030
  • First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers: $29,120
  • Restaurant hosts and hostesses: $21,950
  • Waiters and waitresses: $22,560
  • Restaurant cooks: $23,900
  • Dining room and cafeteria attendants: $19,810

Graduates of Salem culinary schools can look forward to higher pay in the coming years; according to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, wages across the state are increasing by 8% each year, and employment growth in the leisure and hospitality sector was 'above average' for 2014-2015. All of this bodes well for making a good living as a culinary expert in Salem.


  • "A Look at Salem's Dining History," Willamette Live, August 31, 2008,
  • Long Term Projections for Oregon, Projections Central,
  • May 2014 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Salem, OR, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  • Oregon Economic Summary, Office of Economic Analysis Economic Forecast, August 26, 2015,
  • Oregon: Restaurant Employment Growth 2015 to 2025 (Projected),
  • Oregon: Restaurant Industry at a Glance,
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