Culinary Schools in Memphis, TN: Culinary Arts & Cooking Colleges

Culinary Schools in Memphis

Memphis is known for many things, but its epic music legacy tops the list. This is the land of the Memphis blues, jazz, and rock and roll. One could easily argue that when it comes to music, Memphis is in a class all its own. The same could be said of its soulful cuisine.

Memphis is home to the annual World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest, the largest pork barbecue contest in the world, with a Guinness record to prove it. Many of these contenders dish up "Memphis style" pork, one of the four major regional styles of barbecue. This combination of slow-cooked pulled pork and sweet tomato sauce helped make Memphis the New York Times-anointed Barbecued Pork Capital of the World, but the city's food-related accolades extend well beyond the pit. Publications like Food and Wine and Travel + Leisure ranked Memphis among the top cities in the America for pizza and burgers, and several of its chefs and restaurants have won national acclaim. For students attending Memphis culinary schools, this thriving restaurant scene translates to a world of opportunity.

Famous Memphis Restaurants

From the bustling bars and restaurants on Beale and South Main to the trendy eateries of Midtown's Cooper-Young district, Memphis offers something for virtually every palate. Hungry guests can sample award-winning burgers, fried chicken and, of course, barbecue. Restaurants range from iconic little hole-in-the-wall dives to fine dining restaurants run by award-winning chefs. The following are just a few of the most famous restaurants in Memphis.

  • Dyer's Burgers: Founded in 1912, this Beale Street restaurant is one of the oldest and most iconic in Memphis; Food and Wine once ranked its burgers among the best in America. Legend says Dyer's secret is a special, ageless cooking grease transported with an armed police escort.
  • Earnestine & Hazel's: This downtown spot is casual, affordable and, according to local lore, haunted. In fact, it even offers ghost tours. It is also home of the famous Soul Burger comprised of a patty, onions, cheese, pickles and the ever-popular "Soul Sauce" on a bun.
  • Central BBQ: There is no shortage of popular barbecue joints in Memphis, but several publications consider Central BBQ a must-try for serious fanatics. It is consistently ranked the no. 1 barbecue restaurant in Memphis by locals, and has been featured by USA Today, Garden & Gun, Southern Living and other major magazines.
  • Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs: Rendezvous was founded in 1948 and remains a serious contender for Memphis' best barbecue restaurant. According to its website, this line-out-the-door hotspot has hosted presidents, the Rolling Stones, and many more famous guests.
  • Jim Neely's Interstate Barbecue: Jim Neely is the father of Pat Neely, of Food Network fame, but when it comes to Memphis barbecue, the senior Neely is a true legend. Interstate features a running list of its many awards and acknowledgements on its website, including best restaurant for pork barbecue sandwiches by USA Today.
  • Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken: One might not think much of this roadside shack at first glance, but Gus's record backs its claim. Founded in the early 1950s, Gus's chicken has earned recognition from such publications as GQ Magazine and UrbanSpoon.

Memphis culinary schools & career outlook

Restaurants are big business in Tennessee. According to the National Restaurant Association, they already account for 10 percent of the state's total employment and are expected to grow by another 10.9 percent between 2015 and 2025. Some of those nearly 32,000 jobs will undoubtedly be in Memphis. The following table highlights key state and regional culinary job trends.

OccupationTotal Employment in Memphis (2014)Average Salary in Memphis (2014)% Job Growth in Tennessee (2012-2022)
Chefs and Head Cooks620$34,3709%
Food Service Managers1,610$42,0406.5%
Restaurant Cooks5,410$22,380N/A

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, and Projections Central

The culinary market may be trending upward, but competition could still be fierce for positions in top Memphis kitchens. Students attending culinary schools in Memphis may have an edge, especially if they complete local internships or take advantage of networking opportunities. These programs can prepare students for a number of different roles. The following are examples of the types of different programs culinary schools in Memphis might offer.

No single culinary school or program is right for everyone, so it is important for future students to research all their options. Check out the culinary schools in Memphis below to get started.


  • World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Memphis in May,
  • "America's Best Cities for Pizza," Travel + Leisure, February 21, 2013, Katrina Brown Hunt,
  • "Best Burgers in the U.S." Food & Wine, Lawrence Marcus,
  • "Food and Wine counts Memphis duo among country's best new chefs," Commercial Appeal, April 2, 2013,
  • "Tennessee Restaurant Industry at a Glance," National Restaurant Association, 2015,
  • "May 2014 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Memphis, TN-MS-AR," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 25, 2015,
  • Labor Market Analysis: Memphis, TN-MS-AR,
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This list also contains online schools that accept students from Memphis