Illinois Culinary Schools
The almost 13 million people living in Illinois get to enjoy food at a variety of ethnic and fine dining restaurants throughout Illinois. Many Illinois residents live in or near one of the state's largest cities, which include Chicago, Aurora, and Rockford. Since Chicago is fairly close to the Wisconsin border, Illinois also draws in a number of Wisconsin residents looking for good food.
The cost of living in Illinois is on par with the national average, so you can live on a decent salary in most parts of the state. Illinois is full of high-quality restaurants like Peel Wood Fired Pizza, Lotawata Creek, and 54th Street Bar and Grill.
There are 23 culinary training schools in Illinois, the majority of which are located in or very close to Chicago. Most of these schools offer Associate's degrees and certificates, and a few offer Bachelor's degree programs. Overall, the average cost of tuition in Illinois is $9,497, which is partially offset by the average scholarship award of $2,765. With an average acceptance rate of 58%, it is clear that there are some schools with competitive admissions processes.
If you want to earn a certificate in culinary arts, you can plan on spending about one year in school. You'll need two years of full-time study to earn an Associate's degree. Regardless of which degree path you choose, you will cover many of the same topics.
Some of the primary topics covered in culinary school include food and hygiene safety, basic cooking skills, and menu planning. Food safety is one of the most important parts of a culinary program, since you need to be able to meet state standards for food preparation safety. Basic cooking skills include knife skills like julienning, dicing, and mincing; protein preparation methods like roasting, poaching, and grilling; and menu planning for taste and health.
In addition to required culinary courses, you may have the chance to take courses that help you in your future career. Those that want to become restaurant owners, for example, may take business courses.
After completing your culinary degree or certificate, you have to decide how you would like to apply it to your career. Most chefs work in restaurants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, you may also be able to work as a caterer or private chef. While these two settings tend to be slightly less hurried than a restaurant setting, they also involve more erratic hours.
There are many large culinary employers in Illinois, including Gate Gourmet, Landry's Restaurants, and Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano. However, if you have business skills, you can also look into opening your own restaurant or catering business.
Like most other states, Illinois does not have any licensure or certification requirements for its cooks and chefs. This allows you to begin your career in the culinary field as soon as you have graduated from your program of choice.
While American Culinary Federation certification is not necessary, it is a good way to demonstrate your expertise in a specific field. You must pass a comprehensive written and skills exam to get this license.
Salaries for chefs vary widely depending on your level of experience and education. However, in general, executive chefs earn the highest salaries in a kitchen. They are followed by sous chefs and line chefs. The average salary for cooks in Illinois is $20,700 per year (O*Net, 2012). Chefs can anticipate earning an average salary of $38,500 per year (O*Net, 2012).
The general job outlook for chefs and cooks in Illinois is strong. O*Net expects the demand for chefs to increase by 2% each year between 2010 and 2020. In that same time frame, the demand for restaurant cooks is expected to increase by 21% (O*Net, 2010). This is much higher than the national average.