How to get into culinary school

Last Updated on February 17, 2021 by iSchoolConnect

Have you always wanted to become a renowned chef and own a restaurant in France? Learn how to get into culinary school and make your dream come true!

Culinary schools all over the world strive to turn their students into master chefs. Here, you will learn how to cook, prepare, and present food, while also understanding how to manage an entire restaurant. And while going to culinary school does not come without its challenges, it’s one of the best pathways you can take to become a chef. So, if you’re wondering how to get into culinary school, what subjects you’ll learn, and what the possible job opportunities are, dive in! I promise you are in for a treat (pun intended)!

Studying culinary arts

Pursuing a bachelors or an associate degree in culinary arts is the best way to enter the world of fine cuisine. You get to maximize your skills and knowledge on cooking, learn about the management and business aspects of running a restaurant, and gain exposure to a variety of cuisines from around the world!

While your syllabus and the subjects you’ll learn will depend on the specialization you choose, here are some of the common topics you might learn during your culinary education-

  1. Table service
  2. Menu planning
  3. International cuisine
  4. Baking
  5. Food science
  6. Food safety management
  7. Finance
  8. Introduction to marketing
  9. Brand management
  10. Entrepreneurship

As you can see, your classes will be equally divided into learning how to cook and how to manage a restaurant.

Pursuing a degree in culinary arts will give you a holistic view of everything to do with cooking and selling your food. The skills and the knowledge you gain at a culinary school will be extremely valuable.

What skills do I need to get into culinary school?

Becoming a chef is not easy. You don’t just have to love food and cooking. You also have to focus on picking up the skills, knowledge, and stamina necessary to survive the constant hustle and bustle inside a kitchen.

Chef stir fry cooking
As a chef, you’ll have to be mixing, slicing, assembling, chopping, squeezing, washing, and doing all sorts of amazing things

While learning how to use specialized tools and equipment depends on the school, the other qualities only come with practice.


Being a chef isn’t just about cooking fast but also about devising new recipes and finding new methods of presentation. Without creativity, it’s near impossible to make it as a chef.

Strong work ethic

Doing double shifts at the restaurant, preparing food on time, and sacrificing the hours you would have otherwise spent with friends and family is a rite of passage to becoming a chef.

Physical endurance

When in the kitchen, you will be expected to work for long periods of time without taking any breaks. And you’ll have to do all of that in the heat of the kitchen. Naturally, you’ll have to build physical endurance to be able to do it.

Manual dexterity

As a chef, you’ll have to be mixing, slicing, assembling, chopping, squeezing, washing, and doing all sorts of manual things while also keeping your table and your sleeves clean.

Attention to detail

One mistake, and your dish won’t taste as good, the customers will be dissatisfied, and your reputation will go down. If you don’t learn how to be perfect at cooking, things can easily fall apart.

What are the application requirements?

While you definitely need to satisfy a few prerequisites (like secondary education) to be able to attend culinary school, it’s not the only document that should be a part of your application.

Let’s take a look at all the things culinary schools look for in their candidates-

  1. High school diploma
  2. Experience working in a professional kitchen (1.5 to 2 years, at least)
  3. TOEFL/IELTS scores
  4. Statement of Purpose
  5. Resume
  6. Recommendations from your mentors or teachers
  7. Some schools also conduct a series of assessment tests that you might have to take

Some colleges also allow students to directly join the 2nd or the 3rd year of college. For this, you will need a higher degree than a high school diploma along with your English proficiency test scores.

Is it tough to get accepted?

The acceptance rate for culinary arts is different for different universities. While top colleges like Le Cordon Bleu and Institute of Culinary education are more of a challenge, others might be easier to get into.

There’s one difference, however, between typical colleges and culinary schools. Culinary schools will not only look at your scores and your resume but also consider your cooking experience. 

If you can show how passionate you are about cooking and showcase your experience with food better, you have higher chances of getting in!

How to get into culinary school
Learn how to become a chef!

Top universities for learning culinary arts?

Countries like France, Switzerland, and the USA are amazing for studying culinary arts. But more and more students are also looking at places like London, Italy, and Spain to study this subject.

Let’s take a look at the top universities in the world for studying culinary arts-

  1. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, USA 
  2. Culinary Arts Academy, Switzerland
  3. Culinary Institute of America, USA
  4. Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France
  5. Institute of Culinary Education, New York, USA
  6. Apicius, Italy
  7. Westminster Kingsway College, London, UK
  8. Kendall College, School of Culinary Arts, IL, USA
  9. BHMS, Lucerne, Switzerland
  10. New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, USA
  11. Gastronomicom International Culinary Academy, France
  12. Culinary Institute of Barcelona, Spain

A lot of factors go into choosing a university. And while it’s important to focus on the fact that your university teaches the subject, you also have to choose one that has all the subjects you like, offers good job opportunities, and has a great faculty.

If you’re not sure how to go about choosing the best university according to your preferences, check out this blog. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll know exactly which schools you want to be applying to!

How much does culinary school cost?

The cost of going to culinary school is on par with other higher ed courses. That said, your tuition fee will depend on the country you choose and the university you apply to.

For example, schools like the Culinary Institute of America and the New England Culinary Institute offer courses in both 2-year associate and 4-year bachelor degrees. These cost $53,000 and $100,000 respectively. On the other hand, the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco offers a course for $19,200.

Moreover, there are several ways to offset this expense on your part, like part-time jobs and scholarships. You can check out a number of merit and need-based scholarships offered by several institutions and organizations, like-

  1. CIA alumni referral scholarship
  2. El Sueño scholarship
  3. John Besh Foundation scholarship, and more

You’ll be amazed to know that over 90% of CIA students receive scholarships and grants to finish their culinary studies. Similarly, every institution offers its own ways of helping students with their education.

What’re the possible job opportunities?

As a culinary student, you will be learning a lot of things at once while also specializing in certain subjects. Depending on what you specialize in, you could be working in any facet of the restaurant.

Decorating delicious homemade eclairs with chocolate and peanuts
A chocolatier

Your job might involve doing research and development for a corporation like McDonald’s, overseeing a kitchen on a cruise ship, creating different types of sauces and appetizers, or getting into catering services.

Specialization Job prospects
Dessert Pastry chef, Chocolatier
Management Restaurant Manager, Executive/Head chef
Cooking Sous chef, Saucier
Specialty Catering, Personal chef

The more you understand your subject, the better you will be at whatever profession you decide to build a career in. Of course, you’ll have to work hard to get there, but it will be worth it.

How much will I earn?

After finishing culinary studies, you will have to begin at the entry level. So, unless you have had some experience while you were studying, get ready to roll up your sleeves and start from the bottom of the job ladder.

While you’re taking up tasks that are reserved only for beginners, you’ll be earning between $10 and $14 an hour.

To give you a more realistic view, here are the median annual earnings of chefs in a few states in the US-

  • Washington – $45,710
  • Kansas – $34,690
  • Georgia – $29,680
  • Massachusetts – $51,290
  • New York – $47,790

To me, the range seems to be between $35,000 and $55,000 per annum, depending on the location and your experience. The case is the same in European countries (trust me, I just checked the job listings).

Moreover, after working for a while in the field and becoming an executive chef, you will stand to make around  $65,983 to $81,039 per year.

Parting words

There are several ways of learning how to cook and work at a restaurant. You could directly look for a job, get a high school diploma, get certification, or go to culinary school.

The reason students opt for cooking school is that they get to learn from well-known chefs, meet like-minded classmates, and build networks in the industry.

It’s not just the experience but also the connections you’ll build while you’re at school.

So? Have you chosen which culinary school you want to apply to? Let me know in the comments section below!

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