Culinary Schools in Tacoma, WA: Culinary Arts & Cooking Colleges

Tacoma Cooking & Culinary Schools

Tacoma may be located near Seattle, but it certainly doesn't live in its shadow. The city has its own vibrant personality, one that features art galleries, music venues and, of course, good food. In fact, the Tacoma food scene offers something for everyone. Head to the south of Puget Sound, and you'll find coffee shops, drive-in diners and fine dining establishments. Plus, there's Italian, Thai, Mexican and other ethnic cuisines as well as plenty of specialty stops such as bakeries, wineries and distilleries.

Students interested in a career in the food industry may find Tacoma culinary schools provide the education they need to fill in-demand jobs. These institutions offer a number of different programs that can prepare students to work in the kitchen or in management. Tacoma cooking and culinary schools can not only serve as the start to a new career in the field, but they also offer the chance to study in a city known for its good food.

Tacoma culinary scene

Culinary students will quickly find they have plenty of opportunities to sample the good food being created in Tacoma. The city hosts a number of events that attract foodies from all over. Between classes, students will want to make a point to stop by the following events:

  • OysterFest
  • Taste of Tacoma
  • Food Truck Fest
  • Tacoma Holiday Food & Gift Festival

Tacoma has also been the starting point and home base for a number of nationally recognized chefs. The following are a few of the big names from the Tacoma food scene, both past and present.

  • Jeff Smith: Jeff Smith is considered by some to be the original celebrity chef. He was born in Tacoma and was the face of The Frugal Gourmet, which aired on PBS from 1983-1997. He passed away in 2004 but is remembered as a pioneer who paved the way for today's TV chefs.
  • Eddie Williams: As executive chef at JW Restaurant, Eddie Williams was selected as the area's best chef in The Best of the South Sound 2014 awards. It's an honor bestowed by readers of South Sound Magazine. Williams was born in Hawaii, has lived in Germany and brings to JW what is classified as "creative comfort cuisine."
  • Gordon Naccarato: As a chef and restaurateur, Gordon Naccarato is something of a superstar in the Tacoma culinary scene. During his nearly 30 year career, he has been recognized by Food + Wine Magazine, Seafood Leader Magazine and Rockefeller Center Tribute. Culinary students can sample Naccarato's food at the Pacific Grill.

Famous restaurants in Tacoma

Students at Tacoma cooking and culinary schools will undoubtedly want to sample the best food the city has to offer. Although there is no shortage of restaurants to try, the following are a few standouts worth mentioning.

  • The Lobster Shop: In the Best of the South Sound 2014 awards, The Lobster Shop got top honors in the "restaurant + service" category. Located on Commencement Bay, this upscale establishment features an extensive seafood dinner menu plus it has a fantastic brunch buffet every Sunday.
  • Marzano Restaurant: According to travel website TripAdvisor, there are 597 restaurants in Tacoma, and Marzano Restaurant gets the highest ranking according to diner reviews. The owner hails from northern Italy and offers visitors an authentically Italian dining experience.
  • Katie Downs Tavern & Eatery: For casual, adult dining, Katie Downs has been a go-to spot for nearly 35 years. You have to be 21 to get in, but this isn't a run-of-the-mill bar. You can order gourmet burgers, pizza or fresh seafood to accompany your craft beer. Wine and spirits are also available.

Other restaurants of note include Trapper's Sushi, Silk Thai Café and the Magical Sandwich Makers Deli. Don't forget to also try Asado, which is known for its steak and Argentinean-inspired menu.

Culinary schools & career outlook in Tacoma

Students at Tacoma cooking and culinary schools may be eager to learn how they can become a part of this eclectic food scene. Fortunately, there seem to be plenty of jobs in the area.

The chart below looks at employment for some of the jobs commonly pursued by graduates of Tacoma culinary schools. These figures are for the metropolitan area that includes Tacoma, Seattle and Bellevue. Job growth is calculated for the entire state.

OccupationTotal Employment in Tacoma (2014)Average Salary in Tacoma (2014)% Job Growth in Washington (2012-2022)
Chefs and Head Cooks1,500$52,69018.4%
Food Service Managers1,910$54,72019.3%
First-Line Supervisors of Food Prep and Service9,300$36,87018%

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

Overall, the leisure and hospitality industry in the Tacoma-Seattle-Bellevue metro area employed nearly 177,000 people in March 2015. What's more, it's been growing steadily and saw 2.7 percent growth from March 2014 to March 2015.

However, to land one of these jobs, individuals may need to have the right combination of experience and education. Tacoma culinary schools may be able to provide both these things. Depending on the program, students may get hands-on experience alongside professionals currently working in the field. Other programs may focus on business and management skills and arrange for internships so students gain real-world experience.

To find out more about what Tacoma culinary schools can offer and how one might advance your career, contact the following schools for additional information.


  • Projections Central, Washington,
  • Economy at a Glance, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
  • May 2014 Occupational Employment Statistics, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
  • Katie Downs Tavern and Eatery,
  • Marzano Italian Restaurant,
  • Lobster Shop,
  • Meet the Chef, JW Restaurant,!chef/c42f
  • The Best of South Sound, South Sound Magazine, June 2, 2014,
  • Jeff Smith, 1939-2004: The 'Frugal Gourmet' was TV's original celebrity chef, Kristin Dizon, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 9, 2004,
  • Chef Gordon Bio, Pacific Grill,
  • Best Restaurants in Tacoma, WA, TripAdvisor,
Our Partner Listings

This list also contains online schools that accept students from Tacoma