How to Evaluate a Culinary Arts Program

In the late 1970's and early 1980's there were only a couple of schools available for students interested in a career in Culinary Arts. Today in 2010 there are over 552 programs world wide.

There are many different types and levels of programs.  Many High Schools offer Culinary Arts and there are College level programs that offer AOS, Bachelor and even Masters Degrees.  There are also Certificate programs.  Besides straight school programs there are Apprenticeship programs that combine real work experience with schooling.  I am going to be dealing with the higher education options for culinary programs.  If you are lucky enough to be in a community that offers a High School course or something similar  by all means consider it.  All of the ones I’ve seen are exceptional.

A wide spectrum or organizations offer Culinary arts programs:

  • Not For Profit Privately owned Schools
  • Public Secondary Education Programs
  • Public Junior College Programs
  • Privately Owned Not For Profit Universities
  • For Profit Schools
  • For Profit Networks of Schools
  • And I'm sure more flavors of the above

Quality programs offered by many of these organizations. Don't assume that just because a program is from a "Not For Profit" that it is any better than a "For Profit School". You have to look at ALL the issues. Most programs try their best to give a good education but the quality of programs and facilities varies widely.

To help you evaluate a program there are considerations and questions you should get answers for:

Is the Program Academically Accredited and by whom?

Academic Accreditation means that the college credits you receive from an AOS or Bachelors program can be applied to a non-culinary Bachelors or Masters Degree. This is very important when you realize that only small portions of graduates from culinary programs are actually in the kitchen after 5 years.  
Most schools today are accredited but the big question is by whom. Why does it matter?  There are two general types of accrediting agencies, national and regional. The main issue is the transferability of credits from one institution to another. While nationally accredited institutions will usually accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from nationally accredited institutions.
This also means that if you hold an associate's degree from a nationally accredited school, you may have to start over if you later decide to pursue a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. Similarly, if you hold a nationally accredited bachelor's degree, you may not be eligible to enter a master's program at some regionally accredited institutions. Considering that state colleges and universities are regionally accredited, and are an inexpensive local option for many students, this is definitely something to keep in mind, the also offer great value for your tuition dollars. Bottom line before you select a program check with any other school to see if the credits you are going to be paying big dollar for are accepted by that school.

Is the program ACF Accredited?

ACF (American Culinary Federation) Accreditation means that the program has gone through a truly exhaustive evaluation process from the ACF. This accreditation process evaluates curriculum, facilities, student teacher ratios, Certification of Chef Instructors and much more. Programs that are ACF Accredited have shown a dedication to top quality culinary education.