America’s Top 20 Culinary Schools

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA)

Hands-on kitchen classes and practical field experience help define the measure of success.

The lure of fame and fortune has made the chef profession a first choice for a growing number of people. Culinary schools can help to separate the serious chefs from wanna-be restaurant rock stars. FSR has selected America’s Top 20 culinary schools based on a number of criteria. First and foremost, the schools on our list offer programs that combine comprehensive classroom theory with a solid dose of hands-on work in well-equipped, on-campus kitchen classrooms and labs. Some of the schools on the list also have highly regarded full-service restaurants that are staffed by culinary program students and open to the public. The Dining Room at Kendall College in Chicago, for example, is both Zagat- and Michelin-recommended. So is L’Ecole, the on-campus fine-dining restaurant at the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York. During their final two months of study, students at ICC’s New York campus work every station on the line in the restaurant.

Intensive off-campus experience through internships and externships is also part of the career preparation provided by the top-ranked schools. Externships are generally shorter in duration than internships. The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), for example, offers a 16- to 18-week worldwide externship program. At the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado, the Culinary Arts curriculum includes a three-week, off-site “Farm-to-Table Experience,” working directly with local farmers, ranchers, and artisans to learn sustainable practices.

El Centro College, in Dallas, requires its students to acquire at least 640 hours of field experience prior to graduation; Florida State College at Jacksonville requires completion of two internships of 300 hours each. Excelling students at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, are offered the opportunity to travel to Spain for two weeks of study and competition during their program, and the school can arrange for internships in Spain and France.

Aside from working with restaurants to secure externship/internship opportunities and post-graduate job placement, the top schools constantly reach out to culinary professionals beyond their own campuses to keep up with the skills, techniques, and knowledge that are necessary and relevant in kitchens across America. The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York, for example, invites established chefs to share their insights and needs as part of a program advisory council, according to Maureen Drum Fagin, the school’s director of career services and administration. Through its externship program—the school placed 499 externs in 292 establishments across the country last year—ICE is also able to maintain a “constant feedback loop” connecting the chef-mentors and the school staff.



i feel that 20 school is a bit too much to list. i would have gone with 10 at most. however this is still a great list.

Where is JJC on this list? Last I checked JJC spanked most of these school in culinary competitions, and field preparation. Oh well, I guess the money these schools spend on media exposure takes away from the students.

Perhaps Joilet is not on this list because JJC students/supporters leave negative comments and reak of sour grapes? Way to represent! Such a shame. I met Joilet students at the last ACF central regionals, and they were clearly a great group of kids. My school is on this list, and you can bet it spends little to nothing on media exposure. Try again.

Not all of these schools have deep pockets! Several of them are state run community colleges and there is no media exposure at all.

JJC is a joke. the only reason they have won anything was because they had alums on the judges panel.

This list is extremely misleading.....This is the top 20 PROGRAMS, not schools. There is a HUGE difference between Johnson & Wales, Providence campus and all the others; a huge difference between the ICS schools at the Art Institutes in Las Vegas & Fort Lauderdale (my alma mater) and the other campuses.....and most of the Cordon Bleu campuses are older culinary schools that franchise the name from the originals and have no affiliation with the originals in Europe.

Agreed. what are community colleges doing on a list next to the best culinary schools on earth. Im fairly sure if you put those community colleges up against the big names such as my school (CIA) or JWU or Le cordon Blu, they would be humiliated.

Only if you were putting them up against Johnson & Wales in RI, or the European LCBs. The Miami JWU and the franchisees of the LCB name here in the State would probably gettheir tall poofy hats handed to them.I wasn't dissing the smaller programs; on the contrary--I was pointing out that not all schools within a program are equal. JWU Providence is exceptional, JWU Miami had their student run restaurant closed by the Health Dept. Even the two or three Art Institutes that are exceptional, i wouldn't recommend, due to the parent company's recent foray into tuition gouging for federal loan monies. Even great education isn't worth 25 years of crushing student loan debt sometimes.

Actually, that's not true. A handful of the chefs at my school ( SICE of Grand Rapids Community College) are graduates from the CIA. They often say that our classes are as equal and we have better opportunities. I have even heard that they wished that they could have attended our program. Yes, we are a part of a community college, but that does not mean a thing. We also have the opportunity to continue to universities around us with most of the credits transferring and fulfilling majority of the BA degrees. Our school is constantly growing with great accredited, internationally rated & top in the world. So, CIA or JW is no different.


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