Chef Training Schools in California
California boasts one of the most extensive assortments of culinary schools in the country. If you’re a student chef fresh from high school, OR a working professional looking to build your resume with additional educational cred, there is a place for you to train in California.
The culinary climate is vibrant, even beyond the world renown wine regions of Napa and Sonoma. Big cities host some of the most progressive and inventive restaurants in the world. Chefs on the cutting edge want to be in Cali, at least for a time, because it fosters a form of culinary cross-pollination that is not present anywhere else.
Imagine cutting your culinary teeth in this hotbed of food and beverage innovation. Wine, beer, fresh produce, seafood – it’s all present in abundance in The Golden State. And the captive foodie audience the state provides is unmatched by other states in scope and savvy. Other regions look to California food professionals to set the pace and establish food trends – and for good reason since many of the brightest culinary stars shine on the West Coast.
Consider these huge benefits for chef students in California:
- Top California Culinary Arts schools
- Celebrity chefs galore
- Cutting-edge menus
- Diverse culinary scene from end to end
- Wide spectrum of job opportunities
- Regional professional hospitality organizations
- Local festivals and competitions are food-centric
When you think of California cooking your thoughts might go to notions like outrageous, maverick, or too natural to taste good. Such are the extremes, but further examination illuminates a food scene that is diverse, ethnic, and down to earth. For your chef studies, California’s pool of culinary knowledge is deep, and the variety of food exposures at your fingertips represent invaluable input for forming your culinary point of view.
While studying in Cali, you might land an internship as a cook or prep chef at a leading restaurant in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, or Hollywood. This places you right at ground zero for soaking up the culinary scene. And it is a requisite part of your education to do so, in a way that embraces the uniqueness of California’s advanced food culture.
Your personal sojourn should include visits to local eateries, an examination of seasonal menus, and exposure to the work of the region’s most innovative chefs. Dissect their menus, and savor the way they incorporate local ingredients. Discover eclectic flavor combinations at out of the way bistros and cafes- get off the beaten path. Harvest the fruit of knowledge and return to your student kitchen with it for a hands-on trial and error session.
Local festivals and chef competitions are an excellent place to identify current trends and they afford student chefs an opportunity to participate in the scene. Volunteering in a festival kitchen puts you to work alongside working pros that you might tap for full time work down the road. Better yet, flex your culinary muscle as a competitor in a student cooking competition ala Iron Chef America.
California: Culinary Bread Basket and Wine Center
Don’t overlook California wine country, or you’re missing the other half of the culinary equation in this part of the country. Napa and Sonoma have earned their spot on the oenological map. Award-winning reds and whites seem to pour forth from the earth as experienced winemakers and “terroir” meet head-on. Popular annual industry events/student field trips include:
- California Wine Festival - Two venues are scheduled alternately in similar festival formats. Orange County and Santa Barbara act as hosts to what are billed as the quintessential wine-tasting experiences. Entertainers and craft purveyors tempt visitors with distractions, but indoctrinated foodies know that it is all about the wine and food, especially the magic the make together. Restaurateurs put their best bites forward, against a backdrop of world class locally produced wines. Culinary students are encouraged to absorb as much food and beverage pairing experience as possible, and these are the ideal venues for letting it sink in.
- Uncorked! San Francisco Wine Festival – Held in Ghirardelli Square, this free event presents wine seminars and chef demonstrations from San Fran’s premiere culinary masters. Student oenophiles are exposed to food trends, and educated about wines by the makers themselves.
- Western Food Service and Hospitality Expo – Imagine the vast array of influences that impact the food industry. Equipment, agricultural products, wine and beer, design items, printed materials, and a myriad of other industry-specific areas are the focus of this industry trade event. Education is a huge part of this gathering, with heavy-hitter presentations from chef/reps from the all the best schools.
California is an important food producer. Driving through the Central Valley, it is easy to visualize California’s key place on the American culinary landscape. Important crops include: avocados, grapes, almonds, and citrus fruits. Regional chefs integrate locally grown, organic, fresh and seasonal ingredients as crucial menu components. Regional ingredients are often the focus of staged culinary competitions that draw foodies, eager to see live demos that pit chefs against each other ala Iron Chef America.
California chef competitions are opportunities for students to network with like-minded industry professionals. Compete yourself, or volunteer to help a local chef in the competition kitchen. Your efforts will be rewarded at job hunting time. Some fun regional throwdowns for chef students:
- Sushi Masters Competition
- Best Teen Chef Competition – It’s never too late to start flexing your culinary muscle by competing directly with your peers. Competitions challenge young minds to think outside the box in the kitchen, and stimulates creative on-the-fly. This Art Institutes property is a great venue for making an early mark.
- California Date Chef Competition
- S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition – This fun, but serious competition is held in Hollywood and sponsored by The Art Institutes culinary program. Educational opportunities abound for serious student chefs. Competitors are not household names, but by participating in the contest you raise your own profile within the industry.
Popular California Culinary Arts Schools
Kitchen Academy – Sacramento – Diplomas in Professional Culinary Arts and Professional Baking and Pastry. This school is now operated by the famed Le Cordon Bleu group, so all the noteworthy degree programs that are available at the famous French cooking school’s United States campuses are also available here.
International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes – Los Angeles – Degree programs include: Bachelor’s in Culinary Management, Associate’s Baking and Pastry, Associate’s Culinary Arts, Art of Cooking diploma, Baking and Pastry diploma.
International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes – Sacramento – Degrees: Bachelor’s Culinary Management, Associate’s in Culinary Arts, Art of Cooking Diploma, Baking and Pastry Diploma.
International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes – San Bernardino/Inland Empire – Degrees: Bachelor’s Culinary Management, Associates Culinary Arts.
International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes – San Diego – Degrees: Bachelor’s Culinary Management, Associate’s Baking and Pastry, Associate’s Culinary Arts.
International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes – San Francisco – Degrees: Bachelor’s Culinary Management, Associate’s Culinary Arts.
International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes – Santa Ana/Orange County – Degrees: Bachelor’s Culinary Management, Associate’s Baking and Pastry, Associate’s Culinary Arts, Art of Cooking Diploma, Baking and Pastry Diploma.
International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes – Sunnyvale – Degrees: Bachelors Culinary Management, Associates Culinary Arts.
California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu – San Francisco – Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie and Baking.
California School of Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu – Pasadena – Programs include: Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Diploma, Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie and Baking Diploma, Le Cordon Bleu Hospitality and Restaurant Management Associate’s Degree.
San Diego Culinary Institute – San Diego – Programs include: Commis de Cuisine, Commis de Patisserie.
The Professional Culinary Institute – Campbell – French Culinary Institute campus that offers programs that include: Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry, Hospitality, Sommelier.
Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom - Los Angeles – Professional programs include: Culinary Chef 1, Culinary Chef II, Culinary Baking I, Culinary Baking II, Culinary Basics, and Culinary Crash Course.
Living Light Culinary Arts Institute – Fort Bragg – This academy offers unique culinary arts programs for professional and student chefs, as well as motivated novice cooking enthusiasts. Programs include: Gourmet Chef, Associate Chef, and Raw Culinary Arts Professional Chef.
California Colleges Offering Culinary Arts, Restaurant Management, and/or Hospitality DegreesAmerican River College - Sacramento
Bakersfield College – Bakersfield
Bauman College – Penngrove
Cabrillo College – Aptos
Cerritos College – Norwalk
Chaffey Community College – Rancho Cucamonga
City College of San Francisco - San Francisco
College of the Desert – Palm Desert
Contra Costa College – San Pablo
Cypress College – Cypress
Diablo Valley College – Pleasant Hill, San Ramon
Glendale Community College – Glendale
Grossmont College – El Cajon
Institute of Technology – Clovis, Modesto, Roseville
Laguna Culinary Arts Professional School - Laguna Beach
Lake Tahoe Community College - South Lake Tahoe
Long Beach City College – Long Beach
Los Angeles Trade Tech – Los Angeles
Merced College – Merced
Mission College – Santa Clara
Modesto Junior College - Modesto
Orange Coast College – Costa Mesa
Pasadena City College – Pasadena
Quality College of Culinary Careers – Fresno
Riverside Community College – Riverside
San Bernardino Valley College – San Bernardino
San Diego Mesa College – San Diego
San Joaquin Delta College – Stockton
Santa Barbara City College – Santa Barbara