Learn to Cook in Carolina: NC Culinary Schools

North Carolina culinary schools will surprise you with their diversity and respectability. The list below reflects the demand for well-trained food service professionals. Consider some of the popular locations: Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Winston-Salem, and the Outer Banks. Each of these locations draws large numbers of new residents as well as vacationers annually. Perhaps this is why various areas of the state are consistently voted among America’s “Most Livable” communities.

Explore the list below, you’ll find good culinary programs from one end of the state to the other. Types of schools vary as well.

  • If you’re looking for an affordable, accelerated career-driven program focus on the community and technical colleges in North Carolina.
  • If you’re set on a 4-year program look at the state universities and 4-year colleges on the list. Remember, most 4-year culinary degrees will have a management focus to them.

Dive Into the Carolina Food Scene

Wherever you enroll be prepared to explore with abandon the surrounding culinary scene. Immerse yourself in well-reviewed local restaurants, discover new and exciting dishes, up and coming chefs, learn about the area’s seasonal ingredients and nuances of flavor you can’t find anywhere else. Recognize that economic growth in an area also is a good indication of a thriving food service industry. Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Asheville all are excellent proving grounds for new chefs AND offer a bounty of excellent restaurants, from top-notch fine-dining to “best of” Mom and Pop barbeque pits. Barbeque, by the way, is a NC specialty and secret sauce recipes are kept under lock and key.

Sink your teeth into these popular NC food and wine events—perfect settings for sampling a ton of local fare, meeting the chefs, pairing wine and even watching or participating in recipe and chef competitions:

  • Charlotte Shout Culinary Arts Experience
  • The Barbeque Festival, Lexington
  • National Gingerbread House Competition, Asheville
  • Celebrate NC Wines
  • Carolina Chocolate Festival, Morehead City
  • Outer Banks Taste of the Beach

Finding a Chef’s Job in North Carolina

A thriving economy really is key to your chances at a good chef’s job out of college. Use your school internships as a stepping stone directly to a job or a means of making solid industry connections in Raleigh or Charlotte or Asheville. Stay in touch with professional chefs you meet and work under. At this point, though, ensure the school to which you ultimately apply is armed with the equipment and services to propel you smoothly into a first job with lots of avenues for growth:

  • Chef internships/apprenticeships with local or national restaurants/hotels
  • Professional chef/instructors
  • Well-equipped professional teaching kitchens
  • Career guidance and job placement
  • Student-run restaurant catering to a discerning public

Add more career cred to your resume with a membership in a local chapter of a professional association, such as the American Culinary Federation. You’ll find chapters in Wilmington, Raleigh, Beaufort, and Charlotte, as well as a few others. Why a professional association? Gain access to valuable and usually private job lists, meet likeminded professionals, get in on educational events and industry conferences.

What Can You Earn Cooking in Carolina?

Salaries vary widely among chefs for a few key factors:

  • Your professional experience
  • Your education – many job postings look for applicants with a culinary arts education/degree
  • Type of kitchen or establishment (restaurant, hotel, spa, resort, institution, research, etc.)
  • Reputation

Average salary for a sous chef in Raleigh is $40,000+. Executive chefs make much more and line cooks/station chefs make much less.

List of North Carolina Culinary and Cooking Schools

International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes of Charlotte is one of over 30 AI culinary programs in the country, designed in association with The Food Network. This popular and competitive cooking program is designed to put professionally driven student chefs into good careers. Programs of study include: Bachelors Culinary Arts Management, and Associates Culinary Arts.

International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes of Raleigh-Durham offers up one of the most popular culinary school programs around in affiliation with The Food Network. Learn the fundamentals of Western cuisine, international cuisines and traditional cooking methods and techniques. Degrees include: Bachelors Culinary Arts Management, and Associates Culinary Arts.

Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte is one of the only liberal arts colleges that confers a culinary arts degree. This school has been delivering world-respected programs longer than most. The Charlotte campus is one of 4 others located in various regions of the country. Noted chef alumni and spokesperson—Emeril Lagasse.

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

  • Alamance Community College – Graham
  • Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College - Asheville
  • Appalachian State University – Boone
  • Cape Fear Community College – Wilmington
  • Central Piedmont Community College – Charlotte
  • East Carolina University - Greenville
  • Lenoir Community College – Kinston
  • Meredith College – Raleigh
  • North Carolina Central University – Durham
  • Sandhills Community College – Pinehurst
  • Strayer University – various (ONLINE)
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro – Greensboro
  • Wake Technical Community College – Raleigh
  • Western Carolina University – Cullowhee
  • Wilkes Community College – Wilkesboro

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