While some successful chefs achieve success without any formal education, that path to cooking mastery certainly isn’t the norm. It’s in every aspiring chef’s best interest to learn proper skills and technique from a well-respected culinary school. The following are just some of the world’s best culinary institutes. The school that’s the best individual fit for you largely depends on the type of food you wish to specialize in.
Le Cordon Bleu
Established in 1895 France, Le Cordon Bleu is the world’s largest hospitality education institution. With over 50 schools scattered over five continents, the institution educates approximately 20,000 students per year—with culinary arts being just one of its several focuses. While Le Cordon Bleu currently has over a dozen affiliated schools in the United States, those branches are set to close this year. This means that studying at the revered institution will need to be an International endeavor for American culinary students.
The institute predictably stresses French cuisine in its coursework and claims several world famous chefs as its alumni. Current celebrity Chef Giada Laurentiis was educated at Le Cordon Bleu, as was cooking legend Julia Child. While the original Le Cordon Bleu campus in Paris is a great option, there are also affiliated schools in London, Madrid, Istanbul, Tokyo, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and other countries.
Culinary Institute of America
With campuses in New York, California, and Texas, the Culinary Institute of America spans from coast to coast. The renowned school even has an international campus in Singapore. While all three of the U.S. campuses offer associate degrees, only the institute’s main campus—New York—lets culinary students earn bachelor degrees.
In addition to degrees, the schools offer a wide variety of other programs. All three U.S. campuses host programs for food and wine enthusiasts. These programs vary greatly—with some only lasting a couple hours and others billing themselves as multi-day boot camps. The California campus is located in Napa Valley and is host to a one-of-a-kind Food Business School that helps prepare aspiring restaurant owners for the obstacles that come with running a foodservice.
The New York campus, which is located in the Hudson Valley, gives students hands-on experience by operating four public restaurants. These restaurants focus respectively on French cuisine, Italian cuisine, American cuisine, and café type foods—sandwiches, soups, and baked treats. While the California and Texas campuses also give students the chance to work at on-site restaurants, they don’t have the same range of cooking styles found at the New York campus.
Faculty at the Culinary Institute of America includes several American Culinary Federation-certified Master Chefs and Retail Bakers of America-certified Master Bakers. Other professors include authors of textbooks and magazines. The Institution’s long list of notable alumni includes celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
The School of Artisan Food
The first artisanal food school in the United Kingdom, The School of Artisan Food is a not-for-profit operation that offers classes in baking, butchery, and cheese making. Following founder Alison Swan Parente’s struggle to find a quality baker for a bakehouse, she decided to open the school to “help those of us who sit in offices fantasizing about making jam for a living realize our dreams.” The School of Artisanal Food has been in operation since 2009 and has 2000 enrolled students.
Offering weekend classes, one-year courses, and advanced diplomas in baking, the school also has courses that focus on the business side of the food industry. So while lectures from chefs are not uncommon, neither are talks from lawyers, accountants, and other business experts. The school teaches students how to master the process of baking, butchery, and cheese making. Other topics covered include preparing and cooking a wide range of foods and drinks—sausages, jams, beers, ales, ciders, ice creams, sourdoughs, cured meats, and pickles.
Located on a 15,000-acre estate in the legendary Sherwood Forest, The School of Artisanal Food has won several awards for its consistent excellence. In 2013, the UK Cookery School of the Year Awards honored the institution as ‘Best Country or Residential Cookery School.’ In 2014, the British Cookery School Awards awarded its top prize to The School of Artisanal Food.
Culinary Arts Academy
The Culinary Arts Academy in Switzerland has a reputation for being one of the most well-respected culinary institutions in the world. Founded in 1991, the Academy has campuses in both Lucerne and Le Bouveret. Offering hospitality and tourism studies in addition to the culinary fields, the highly selective school has only 300 enrolled students.
Offering an innovative educational experience, the Culinary Arts Academy is equipped with state-of-the-art kitchens and is partners with a multitude of industry professionals. The program focuses on both kitchen skills as well as the knowledge necessary for successful entrepreneurship. Small classes ensure plenty of personal attention from experienced instructors, and internships are available through industry juggernauts like the Ritz Paris and Ritz Escoffier.
The Academy offers Bachelor’s Degrees in Culinary Arts, which focus on Swiss pastry and chocolate arts. The Culinary Arts Academy also offers a Masters of International Business in Culinary Management.
Institute of Culinary Education
Located in downtown Manhattan, the Institute of Culinary Education offers 1,500 classes per year and attracts over 26,000 students. The institute was founded as Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School in 1975 and offers several programs—a Culinary Arts Program, Pastry & Baking Arts Program, Culinary Management Program, and Hospitality Management Program. Also hosting continuing educating courses and recreational cooking courses, the Institute of Culinary Education has a class for every interest and skill level. Winning numerous awards, the institute was called the best culinary school in 2016 by cooking authority The Daily Meal. Notable alumni include Vivian Howard, Ed Behr, and Rachel Yang.
While attending a renowned culinary school is a great way to learn how to cook, it’s not the only path to culinary mastery. In an Internet age when information is more accessible than ever before, it never been easier for aspiring chefs to teach themselves the craft of cooking. Blogs, books, cooking shows, and Youtube videos have an abundance of useful information that can help you get started. In fact, celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray and Nigella Lawson have no formal culinary education. So whether you decide to attend a culinary institute or utilize resources at home, the important part is making a sustained effort.