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6 Culinary Training Programs That'll Make A Chef Out Of You

February 9, 2024

Dreaming of a top-tier culinary profession, but want to skip past a chunk of the early-career grind? Culinary training programs and schools offer chefs-to-be a huge range of leg-ups when it comes to developing chef chops, but where should you go?

Whether you're eyeing a spot in the world's top restaurants or dreaming of innovating in foodservice, discovering where to go for A-Tier culinary training is the first step in building out your career. To that end, in this article, we’ll look at…

  • Four key benefits to attending formal culinary training programs and schools
  • Six of the best culinary schools (locations + what they’re known for)
  • Critical career advice from Nate Keller, Ex-Google Culinary Director

Four Reasons Culinary Training Programs Are Worth The Cost

Culinary schools are typically decked in high-end equipment, tools, and—of course—lots and lots of food. But given these costs associated with running the schools, the price of admission can feel cost-prohibitive to many. 

  • High-skill training, fast. Culinary schools are not slow-moving programs. You’re thrown into the deep end fast with hands-on learning. You’ll get access to all kinds of tools and technology, ingredients and cuisines, and skills and techniques in a very short (and intense) period of time.

  • Exposure to diverse culinary styles and settings. Learning on the job exposes you to one, maybe two, culinary styles at a time. In culinary schools, chefs-in-training are able to experience a wide variety of styles and cuisines quickly, accelerating learning and making it possible to succeed in a variety of settings post-school.

  • Apprenticeships and job connections. Most training programs operate multiple restaurants, wineries, bake shops, and other foodservice organizations—and place you in real-world internships/apprenticeships as part of the curriculum. On top of all that, programs typically have a job placement element to get graduates jobs quickly.

  • An alumni and support network. Look at Reddit posts and chef forums and you’ll quickly find stories of newcomers finding jobs and moving up the chef ladder thanks to alumni networks and connections they made at school events. This benefit may be intangible, but with so many people mentioning it, you know it’s a big deal.

Also Read: 2024 Salary Ranges for 6 Chef Job Types (Executive, Pastry, Sous, etc)

Want training but need a more budget-friendly alternative? Many community colleges offer well-rounded culinary arts programs that can help you nail the fundamentals and start a solid career. But if you want to learn from the best and have your best shot at earning a place in the world’s top restaurants and foodservice organizations, these six culinary training programs are where you want to look.

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA)

CIA is not just a training program, but an accredited college offering a diverse range of programs including Bachelor’s degrees in Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts, Food Business Management, Hospitality Management, Food Studies and Sustainability, and Culinary Science. They also provide Master’s Degree Programs, Associate Degree Programs in Baking and Pastry Arts and Culinary Arts, as well as a handful of Certificate Programs.

If you join one of the CIA programs, you’ll get access to public restaurants where—as part of your degree—you’ll receive real-world training in a live foodservice setting. The main campus in New York, for example, has four of these restaurants: American Bounty Restaurant, The Bocuse Restaurant, Ristorante Caterina de' Medici, and the Apple Pie Bakery Café. You’ll also get a chance to apply to over 2,000 internships at restaurants around the world.

Known For:

  • Highly active alumni network in the United States
  • Diverse range of culinary programs
  • Focus on food sustainability and innovation


  • New York, NY
  • Napa Valley, CA
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Singapore

Le Cordon Bleu

Le Cordon Bleu is considered the largest network of culinary and hospitality schools in the world, with 35 institutes in 20 countries. The school proudly declares itself “the guardian of French culinary technique through its culinary programmes that continue to preserve and pass on the mastery and appreciation of the culinary arts that have been the cornerstone of French gastronomy for over 500 years”. If you want a French culinary education, Le Cordon Bleu is not a school to miss.

The flagship program, the Grand Diplôme®, is an intensive and comprehensive course in classic French culinary techniques. Other key programs include Cuisine, Pastry & Confectionery, Bakery, Danish Pastries & Artisan Breads, Hospitality Management & Gastronomy, Wine & Spirits, Gastronomy & Nutrition, Culinary Arts & Business, Continuing Education, and Gourmet & Short Courses. The school also offers online learning options, both accredited and non-accredited.

Notable alumni from Le Cordon Bleu include culinary icons such as Julia Child, Giada De Laurentiis, and Mary Berry. This strong alumni network is indicative of the school's reputation and the success of its graduates.

Known For:

  • The bastion for French culinary tradition
  • International network for internships and job placements
  • Large range of campuses located around the world


  • Paris
  • London
  • Ottawa
  • Madrid
  • Bangkok
  • And 30 other cities worldwide

Also Read: Google to Galley: What I Learned Across A Culinary Leadership Career

Institute of Culinary Education (ICE)

The Institute of Culinary Education is a 45-year-old program that’s won awards from the James Beard Foundation, the IACP, USA Today, The Daily Meal and more. ICE offers a range of diploma programs in areas like Culinary Arts, Plant-Based Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, Restaurant & Culinary Management, and Hospitality & Hotel Management. They also provide an online Culinary Arts & Food Operations diploma program for those unable to attend in person.

The New York campus is a 74,000-square-foot facility in Lower Manhattan's Brookfield Place, and the Los Angeles campus is located in the center of Pasadena, featuring 38,000 square feet dedicated to learning and creativity.

Known For:

  • A-Tier training from culinary heavyweights
  • Highly successful job placement program
  • Hybrid in-person and online training


  • New York, NY
  • Los Angeles, CA

The Culinary Program at Johnson & Wales University

Johnson & Wales University may not be a school dedicated to culinary arts, but their two culinary programs—Baking & Pastry Arts and Culinary Arts—are recognized around the world as A-Tier alongside Le Cordon Belu, CIA, ICE, and others. 

Alongside the core culinary programs, J&W University is known as a hub for research in food systems generally. Bachelor’s degree options also include Applied Food Science (CLT); Culinary Science & Product Development (PVD); Culinary Nutrition; Dietetics & Applied Nutrition (offered through the College of Health & Wellness); a suite of Food & Beverage Industry Management degrees (both a 4-year program and a 2+2 for A.S. holders); and Sustainable Food Systems.

Known For:

  • Strong emphasis on culinary excellence and business acumen
  • Extensive alumni network in the US with job placement programs
  • Emphasis on culinary research and technology, rather than traditional techniques


  • Providence, RI
  • North Miami, FL
  • Denver, CO
  • Charlotte, NC

Also Read: Food Inventory Management: Tips and Tricks for Kitchens

Apicius International School of Hospitality

Based in the heart of Florence, the Apicius International School of Hospitality is the original school of hospitality in Italy, offering a wide array of programs in culinary arts, baking and pastry, wine studies, and hospitality management. As you might imagine, Apicius’s training and culinary style is built around a European perspective, but blends both traditional and modern techniques to give students the flexibility to work in any culinary setting.

The school boasts state-of-the-art facilities, including professional kitchens, a bakeshop, wine tasting rooms, and student-run restaurants.

Known For: 

  • Being the first school of hospitality in Italy
  • Infused with the culinary culture of surrounding Florence
  • Multicultural student body


  • Florence, Italy

Ferrandi of Paris

Ferrandi Paris is a highly regarded culinary school known for its comprehensive range of programs and a focus on both culinary arts and hospitality management. The school provides training in French cuisine, pastry, bread baking, chocolate and confectionery, mixology, and wine studies. They also offer a Bachelor in Culinary Arts and Entrepreneurship and a Master of Science in Hospitality Management, among other programs.

Training at Ferrandi Paris emphasizes hands-on practice in state-of-the-art kitchens and labs, preparing students for real-world work in hotels, restaurants, or boutiques.

Known For: 

  • “The Harvard of Gastronomy”, a prestigious school
  • Emphasis on French culinary tradition and styles
  • Award-winning programs in hospitality business and management


  • Paris, France
  • Saint-Gratien, France
  • Bordeaux, France
  • Rennes, France
  • Dijon, France

Also Read: Master Your Food Costs: Formulas, Calculations and Percentages

It’s Not All Hard Skills—5 Things Nate Keller, An Ex-Google Culinary Director, Wants Aspiring Chefs To Know

Nate Keller worked his way up in Google all the way to the Culinary Director position. He eventually left, working in culinary leadership for startup Sprig, catering platform Zesty, and corporate dining at Comcast. Now he works in our customer success team at Galley, helping chefs use their food data to run better culinary operations. 

In a reflection blog on his journey from Google to Galley, Nate shares some of his most critical lessons that he wish he’d known earlier in his career:

  • Cherish Curiosity and Embrace Openness — The culinary field thrives on innovation and evolution, and staying curious and open-minded is the fuel for this progress. Nate emphasizes that shunning arrogance in favor of a learning mindset not only sparks creativity but also nurtures continuous personal and professional growth.

  • The Power of Collaboration — In the kitchen, every dish is a symphony of efforts. Nate's experiences taught him the invaluable lesson that success in the culinary arts is a collaborative journey. He encourages embracing the wisdom in every team member's contribution, fostering partnerships, and solving problems collectively.

  • Advocating for Sustainability and Responsibility — Nate passionately advocates for a conscious approach to our food systems. He underscores the urgency to recognize the hidden costs and waste in the industry, urging chefs to champion sustainable practices, fair labor conditions, and waste reduction, thereby nurturing a healthier planet and community.

  • Fostering a Nurturing Kitchen Culture — In a candid acknowledgment of the industry's harsh realities, Nate stresses the critical need for sincerity, humility, and kindness in kitchen environments. He advocates for a cultural shift towards positivity, combating the all-too-common issues of addiction, suicide, and poverty in the culinary field.

  • Efficiency: The Lifeline of Sustainability — With the culinary industry under relentless financial strain, Nate champions efficiency as the cornerstone of sustainability. He advocates for embracing innovation and reimagining culinary processes, viewing efficiency not just as a necessity but as an opportunity for creative problem-solving and industry evolution.

One final element that’s critical to building a chef career: mastering technology. New tools and systems are emerging that give culinary leaders unprecedented control and insight into their operations. By learning how these tools, like Galley’s culinary operating system, work, you’ll set yourself up to be an asset not only with a knife, but with your organization’s business team.

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