Learn the Fine Art of Cooking at a School in Iowa
In mid-July the corn is knee-high across Iowa. Think handmade cheese, natural beef products, Amish foodstuffs, and dynamic Swedish and Norwegian traditions that live on today, especially in the food.
The largest city, Des Moines, is the capitol of the state and offers the most opportunity for budding world-class chefs, but don’t discount the culinary fertility of smaller towns. Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, and Davenport all offer educational options as well as industry possibilities for professionals.
Types of cooking schools you’ll find in Iowa include specialty culinary arts schools that deliver exclusive culinary arts, pastry arts and hospitality and restaurant management programs; community colleges with culinary career programs; and technical/vocational colleges that offer concentrated fast-track diploma programs for professional cooks and kitchen assistants.
Experience the Food Scene in Iowa
Regionally you should make it your goal to sample local fare, especially that of the most talked-about chefs, popular restaurants and even event food. Local festivals offer ample opportunity to dip into restaurant specialties, taste wines and learn about food/wine pairings. Participate in chef competitions and seek out events where celebrity guest chefs are appearing.
Popular Iowa food and wine festivals to make part of your culinary arts curriculum:
- Rib America Festival
- West Point Sweet Corn Festival
Compete for a Chef’s Job in Iowa
Earn your chef’s whites then what do you do? A good job in a professional and dynamic kitchen is usually the main goal of any chef in training regardless of region. With that in mind shop carefully for Iowa cooking schools and consider those with the following to be good bets for landing a job:
- On-site student-run kitchen that is open to the public
- Internship, externship, or apprenticeship opportunities
- Experienced and professional chef/instructors
- State of the art and well-equipped training kitchens for both chefs and pastry chefs
- Career assistance and job placement
Consider the benefits of joining a professional organization, like the Iowa Restaurant Association, which is a compilation of food service industry professionals from all over the state. Organizations like this offer unique opportunities to network within the region and gain access to educational events, and national and regional conferences.
You’ll find salaries for food service industry pros in Iowa higher in Des Moines than other areas. Several factors matter in determining salary: your education, years of experience in the industry, position you hold, and area of the state. Executive chefs earn the most money, followed by sous chefs, assistant chefs, line cooks and station cooks. Salaries range from $15,000 for entry-level kitchen assistants to $50,000 for executive chefs.
Iowa’s Top Culinary Arts Schools
Iowa Culinary Institute – Ankeny is the leading culinary arts program in the state. The school, an adjunct of the Des Moines Area Community College system, offers a diverse and dynamic curriculum as well as plenty of options for student chefs, including chef competitions and opportunities to study cooking abroad. Degree tracks include:
- Associates Culinary Arts,
- Associates Hotel and Restaurant Management,
- Culinary Arts Diploma, and
- Hospitality Business Diploma.
Iowa State Colleges, Community and Technical Colleges Offering Culinary, Restaurant Management, and/or Hospitality Degrees
American Institute of Commerce - Cedar Falls-Davenport
- Eastern Iowa Community College District – Davenport
- Hamilton College - Cedar Rapids
- Hawkeye Community College – Waterloo
- Iowa Lakes Community College – Estherville
- Iowa State University - Ames
- Iowa Valley Community College District – Marshalltown
- Iowa Western Community College - Council Bluff
- Kirkwood Community College - Cedar Rapids
- North Iowa Area Community College - Mason City
- University of Northern Iowa - Cedar Falls