Exciting Cooking School Opportunities in Florida

Sunshine, beaches, resorts, and hot Miami Beach all add up to one smoking hot venue for new chefs to make a mark. Peninsular Florida is certainly perfect for seafood-based cuisine, but the diversity of the state provides additional flavor. Miami has a distinctly Latin/Cuban flavor, while Northern Florida showcases the southern culinary roots of the state.

Florida’s abundant natural resources provide the raw materials for local signature dishes like Key Lime Pie and Seafood Chowder.  Students who choose to pursue their culinary education in the sunshine state find no shortage of exposure to inspiring local culinary trends that compliment their formal studies.

Florida's Culinary Scene

Sampling a generous portion of the regional cuisine should be a matter of course, an integral part of any culinary education. Each locale has a slightly unique specialty, a native dish, regional ingredient or fantastic farmers market. 

The metropolitan areas boast a vibrant culinary scene, where a crop of distinguished chefs and creative culinary artists ply their trade at eclectic restaurants and eateries.

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Hospitality in the Sunshine State

The hospitality industry is a robust affair with over fifty billion dollars in revenue each year.  The industry’s revenue represents about one-fifth of the state's total economy.  Nearly one million employees work in the hospitality industry in Florida, making it one of the largest employers in the state.  Over three billion dollars in sales tax revenue are brought in by hospitality sales each year.  The bottom line is that the culinary arts are an extremely important economic category in Florida, and employment opportunities within the sector are numerous.

Professional Organizations

Check out the available professional chapters for culinary pros. Most offer discounted student memberships, scholarships, discounted admission to national and regional conferences and educational support and seminars.

  • ACF Gulf to Lakes Chefs Association – This chapter of the American Culinary Federation is dedicated to the advancement of the culinary profession.  Education and certification are the focus of the organization’s quest for greater culinary awareness.  Members include chefs, cooks, students, educators and food purveyors.
  • Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association – The stated mission of this association is to promote, protect and educate within the hospitality industry.  Members enjoy discounts, trade shows, networking opportunities, and a strong legislative lobby.
  • Florida Suncoast Cook’s Association – Local association provides networking opportunities by way of a regularly updated job board.

Florida Food Festivals

Festivals are in the business of showcasing the area’s bounty. Natural resources are featured alongside culinary creativity to represent the flavor of the Florida food scene. Common festival pairings are wine and food. Gourmet food sampling is paired with fine wine tasting at many festivals to create the ultimate gastronomic experience. Students should use the local festivals to find fresh regional foods, esteemed local chefs and networking opportunities.

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Cooking competitions are a common feature of food fests, and they provide an excellent representation of the hottest local food trends.  Chefs are eager to share their culinary points of view at public festivals, so students should not be shy about asking some questions.  Mixing some fun festivals into a comprehensive chef’s education is a great way for a student to have fun while pursuing his or her culinary dreams.

  • Florida Winefest – Sarasota festival featuring over thirty wineries best offerings paired with interesting treats for the palate.  Events include sip and shop, beach feast, and titanic dinner.  A large charity auction occurs against the backdrop of the grand brunch.
  • WineQuest – Premiere central Florida event that raises money for disabilities through Quest, Inc.  The event is in its 15th year of pairing fine wines with local culinary offerings.  The garden brunch is an Orlando highlight that foodies anticipate each year.
  • Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show – Trade shows present an opportunity for students to visualize the latest culinary trends from a supply side point of view.  Over 400 exhibitors are on hand to educate culinary professionals about their products. Culinary experts are a prominent part of the weekend of events, so students should look to food shows as networking and learning venues.
  • Florida Keys Seafood Festival – The menu for this festival reads like a culinary who’s who of seafood preparations.  Fried fish, grilled lobster, stone crab, Key West Pink Shrimp, and conch fritters are delectable precursors to the star of the dessert show, Key Lime Pie.
  • South Beach Wine and Food Festival – This Food Network sponsored event is in its 11th year of highlighting local wine and food trends.  Brunches and dinners are hosted by a pantheon of culinary giants that includes some of the network's most popular personalities.  Over 50 thousand people are expected to attend the beachside event in 2012.

Compete for a Good Chef’s Job in Florida

The competition for culinary employment is stiff in Florida, but the major metro areas like Miami, Orlando, and Tampa-St. Pete offer abundant opportunities for chefs to practice their craft.  By enrolling in a reputable culinary arts school, a chef-to-be takes the first step toward a distinguished culinary career.

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Job placement is your desired educational outcome, so make sure your chosen academy has mechanisms in place to get you where you want to go.  Internships and externships provide valuable perspective on the real workings of the industry.  Job boards that link students with available opportunities are maintained by some good schools.  Student-run restaurants are prominent features of schools that are truly dedicated to graduating seasoned professionals.

The culinary instructors employed by a school provide a good barometer for the level of excellence a school aspires to.  Renowned chefs are likely to attach themselves to institutions that reflect their own culinary values.  Training under noteworthy faculty is not only a feather in the cap of a culinary graduate, but it may also open employment doors among the instructors’ contemporaries.

Florida Cooking Schools and Culinary Arts Programs

International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes of Fort Lauderdale is one of 32 campuses offering this excellent culinary curriculum—emphasis on international cookery, starting with classic French—the keystone to all other Western cuisine. Degree programs in Ft. Lauderdale include: Bachelors Culinary Management, Associates Culinary Art, Associates Baking and Pastry, and Diploma Art of Cooking.

International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes of Jacksonville continues the excellent chef training available on 32 campuses across the U.S. You learn classic French cooking and culinary methods, which lays the groundwork for other major international cuisine. Degree programs include: Bachelors Culinary Management, Associates Culinary Arts, and Diploma Culinary Arts Skills.

International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes of Tampa is one of 32 campus locations that features the dynamic culinary arts school. Emphasis is on international cuisine under the guidance of experienced chef/instructors. Programs in Tampa include: Bachelors Culinary Management, Bachelors Food and Beverage Management, Associates Culinary Arts, Associates Wine, Spirits and Beverage Management, Diploma Baking and Pastry.

Orlando Culinary Academy is home to the world-class Le Cordon Bleu curriculum. You are steeped in intensive classic French cuisine and culinary theology. Faculty are masters themselves so chefs graduate with a highly respected education. Orlando is crammed to the gills with dynamic restaurants and world-class resorts, all of which crave well-trained and ambitious new chefs. Degree programs include: Associates Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts, Associates Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie and Baking, and Diploma Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts.

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts – Miami is a hot campus location for tomorrow’s new chefs. This city is colorful and flavored with some of the best new cuisine in the state. Imagine: you could be interning at one of Miami’s hot restaurants in just a few months. Degree programs on the Miami campus include: Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie and Baking.

Florida Culinary Institute – West Palm Beach provides budding chefs and restaurant managers with a top-notch education that puts you on the fast-track to a fully realize career. Degree programs are available in Culinary Arts, International Baking and Pastry, Culinary Management, and Food and Beverage Management.

Johnson and Wales University – North Miami is a career-centric liberal arts college that has a long reputation for turning out award-winning chefs and culinary professionals. The school’s alumni reads like an industry Who’s Who. Degrees in North Miami include: Associates Culinary Arts, Associates Baking and Pastry Arts, Bachelors Culinary Arts and Food Service Management, and Bachelors Baking and Pastry and Food Service Management.

Florida State Colleges, Community and Technical Colleges Offering Culinary, Restaurant Management, and/or Hospitality Degrees

  • Atlantic Vocational Technical Center - Coconut Creek
  • Bethune Cookman College - Daytona Beach
  • Brevard Community College - Cocoa Campus
  • Brewster Technical Center – Tampa
  • Broward Community College - Ft Lauderdale
  • Central Florida Community College – Ocala
  • Charlotte Vocational Technical Center - Port Charlotte
  • Chipola Junior College – Marianna
  • City College - South Miami
  • Daytona Beach Community College - Daytona Beach
  • Edison Community College - Ft Myers
  • Erwin Technical Center – Tampa
  • First Coast Technical Institute - St Augustine
  • Florida Community College – Jacksonville
  • Florida International University – Miami
  • Florida Memorial College – Miami
  • Florida National College – Hialeah
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  • Florida Southern College – Lakeland
  • Florida State University – Tallahassee
  • George Stone Area Vocational Technical Center – Pensacola
  • Gulf Coast Community College - Panama City
  • Hillsborough Community College – Tampa
  • Indian River Community College - Ft Pierce
  • Keiser College - Ft Lauderdale
  • Lake-Sumter Community College – Leesburg
  • Lake Technical Center – Eustis
  • Lee County High Tech Center - Cape Coral
  • Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center – Miami
  • Locklin Technical Center – Milton
  • Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology – Naples
  • Lynn University - Boca Raton
  • Manatee Technical Institute – Bradenton
  • McFatter Technical Center – Davie
  • Miami-Dade Community College – Miami
  • Miami Lakes Educational Center - Miami Lakes
  • Mid-Florida Tech – Orlando
  • North Technical Education Center - Riviera Beach
  • Northwood University - West Palm Beach
  • Nova Southeastern University - Ft Lauderdale
  • Okaloosa Applied Technology Center - Ft Walton Beach
  • Okaloosa-Walton Community College – Niceville
  • Orlando College – Melbourne
  • Palm Beach Community College - Lake Worth
  • Pensacola Junior College - Pensacola
  • Pinellas Technical Education Center – Clearwater, St. Petersburg
  • Ridge Technical Center - Winter Haven
  • Robert Morgan Vocational Technical Institute – Miami
  • Saint Petersburg Junior College - Pinellas Park
  • Saint Thomas University – Miami
  • Sarasota County Technical Institute – Sarasota
  • Schiller International University – Dunedin
  • Sheridan Vocational Center – Hollywood
  • Southeastern Academy – Kissimmee
  • South Florida Community College - Avon Park
  • South Technical Education Center - Boynton Beach
  • Southwest Florida College of Business - Ft Myers
  • Suwannee-Hamilton Technical Center - Live Oak
  • Technical Education Center – Kissimmee
  • Washington-Holmes Technical Center – Chipley
  • Webber College - Babson Park
  • Webster College – Holiday, Ocala
  • Webster Tech – Tampa
  • Valencia Community College - Orlando
  • University of Central Florida - Orlando

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