The diverse population of California has created an environment where new chefs can play with cuisines and come up with a style all their own. There are 38 million people in California, many of whom live in the state’s largest cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that California has above average Asian and Hispanic populations, so there are opportunities for chefs that want to cook different types of cuisines.
There are a variety of excellent restaurants throughout California, like Son of a Gun, Osteria Mozza, and the French Laundry. With so many urban centers in California, there are plenty of ways to start a new culinary career.
If you are ready to start your culinary program, there are 65 programs in California you can choose to attend. These schools offer a mix of certificate and Associate’s degree programs. The average cost of tuition in California is $4,248, and the average scholarship award is $1,640.
Part of choosing a school involves deciding what you want to study. There are four main program choices in California: culinary arts, chef training, culinary food preparation, and baking & pastry arts. Culinary arts is a general overview of everything involved in the restaurant field, while chef training specifically prepares you for the role of an executive chef in a restaurant. Culinary food preparation educates you on the specific plating and appearance of food, and baking & pastry arts helps you tackle the field of desserts.
Culinary Schools in California
Many programs expect you to have a basic understanding of cooking and culinary techniques, because they want you to be able to pick up on new techniques very quickly. You’ll start with jobs and tasks you’ll need to work as a line chef. For instance, you may learn about knife skills, including julienning, dicing, and mincing.
A major part of all culinary programs is safety training. Restaurants are heavily supervised and regulated at a state level, and one wrong step in food storage or safety can lead to heavy fines and citations. Your program may offer a state-specific course in food safety regulations.
Since California is so large, you have countless employment opportunities after graduation. You may choose to work in a fine dining restaurant, where you will likely start as a line chef and work your way up. If you have special knowledge in any ethnic cuisines, you may be able to take on a chef position at a specialized restaurant. There are also catering and private chef opportunities, particularly with the number of celebrities living in California.
Some of the main chef employers in California include Gate Gourmet, Gecko Hospitality, and BBRG BRIO. If you have business acumen, you may also have the opportunity to open your own restaurant.
California joins most other states in the country with its lack of licensing requirements for cooks and chefs. Rather than looking for certification, employers look at your education and experience in the field.
If you would like to earn a certification that demonstrates your skills, you can look into American Culinary Federation certification options. They offer different levels and subjects of certification, depending on what your specialty is.
In general, the salary potential for culinary graduates in California is high. Both chefs and restaurant cooks earn salaries above the national average. Restaurant cooks in California earn, on average, $23,200 per year (O*Net, 2012). Chefs earn an average salary of $45,000 per year (O*Net, 2012).
There are salary variances among chef titles. Line chefs tend to earn the lowest salaries; specialty chefs earn slightly more. Executive chefs earn the most money, followed by sous chefs.
The overall job outlook in California is extremely bright. The demand for restaurant cooks is expected to increase by 27%, more than two times the national average (O*Net, 2010). Job openings for chefs are expected to increase by 21% between 2010 and 2020, which is significantly higher than the national average of -1% (O*Net, 2012).