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9 Best Culinary Schools in Arizona

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Preparing and cooking food does not always make one a chef. This exciting career path takes more than mere passion and hobby because those who make a profession out of cooking have gone through rigid training to master the art of culinary delights. Students who want to take this career seriously might consider going to a culinary school to get a formal education and build upon their experience through a high-quality curriculum.

Earning a degree in culinary arts will give them a solid foundation to fulfill what is expected of them and prepare them for a rigorous career that will make them stand out from the competition. They will find a myriad of career options and opportunities in the vast food service and hospitality industry. Most programs are traditionally offered on campus, but some can be earned online. Since many of these programs are designed for working adults, the schedule is often flexible and convenient, with shifts in the evenings and even on weekends.

The culinary programs in Arizona are mostly associate degrees that can take students one to two years to complete. These programs often incorporate general education requirements and intensive culinary courses that tackle everything from food purchasing, handling, cooking techniques, nutrition, and even chemistry. Some programs may include internships or apprenticeships to provide students with real-world experience.

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What is in Store for Culinary Arts Graduates?

Students who have earned a degree in culinary arts often enter the foodservice and hospitality industry. Those who attended ACF-accredited schools may take the national ACF certification exam. This will give them a further edge over their counterparts as their marketability to employers will be enhanced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data presents that chefs and head cooks earn an average annual pay of $53,380 or $25.66 per hour. However, the amount can go up or down depending on one’s position, experience, and the city they are in.

See the most common career tracks for culinary arts graduates:

Chef

Most graduates of culinary arts aim to be chefs. This position entails a fast-paced and evolving career that encompasses a variety of responsibilities. Chefs are tasked to create fresh, flavorful food from high-quality ingredients. They can work in casual environments or fine dining. Whichever path they pick, they can expect a highly rewarding career that draws from their creativity and rich senses.

Pastry Chef

Unlike conventional chefs, pastry chefs specialize in baking bread, pies, cakes, pastries, and other delightful, sweet treats. They often focus on combining the foundation of pastries, including flour, sugar, butter, dairy, eggs, and other ingredients and flavors to create delicious dessert items. As a pastry chef, one can work in restaurants, wedding events, and catering. They can even open their own bakery.

Nutritionist

Culinary arts students who are passionate about food and how it can advance one’s health and wellbeing will find the job of a nutritionist as a good fit for a lifelong career. They are usually responsible for providing dietary advice to individuals with chronic diseases. They encourage their clients to achieve their weight loss goals and live healthier lifestyles.

In Arizona, students can choose from several acclaimed culinary schools to build a career in food service and hospitality industry. Here are some of the best.  

Best Culinary Schools in Arizona

Here are the 9 of the Best Culinary Schools In Arizona:


Arizona Western College

Arizona Western College

: Yuma, Arizona

Arizona Western College has contributed a lot to the thriving communities within its vicinity through offering quality education. They offer more than 100 degrees and certificates in a range of academic and career technical programs. Students may also look at some of their non-credit courses in areas of professional development, customized training, and personal enrichment areas. The Higher Learning Commission accredits the college.

Preparing students for a rewarding career in food service, the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts program gives them opportunities to hone their skills, harness their creativity, and carve a successful path to their ultimate goal in the culinary field. The bulk of the program deals with equipping students with the right knowledge and skills that will help them select and prepare quality food and demonstrate the different cooking methods. The latter include stewing, braising, sautéing, frying, broiling, grilling, and roasting, among many others. They will learn to identify and prepare glazes, syrups, creams, fillings, ganache, praline, and other sweet sauces and frostings. They are also expected to learn the basic skills of planning menus and utilizing their skills to prepare various types of cuisine.

The courses included in the curriculum are Sanitation, Menu Planning, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Introduction to Hospitality, Personnel Supervision, Nutrition; Food Costing, Purchasing and Inventory Control; Catering – Planning, Production and Dining Room, and more. Students must complete 66 credit hours to earn the degree program.

Yuma, where Arizona Western College is located, heavily relies on agriculture to sustain its economy. This means those in the foodservice industry can easily capitalize on the available resources at their disposal, especially regarding crops, livestock, fruits, and vegetables. Its blooming food scene can be enjoyed by both tourists and locals alike, from its casual eating places to fine dining restaurants.

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Scottsdale Community College

Scottsdale Community College

: Scottsdale, Arizona

Rigorous learning that focuses on students is the brand that Scottsdale Community College promotes. They are committed to providing high-quality, innovative, and accessible education opportunities through offering more than 100 degrees and 60 certificates in diverse occupational areas. They improve and facilitate success by leading in Developmental Education, Open Education Resources, Service Learning, and Undergraduate Research. The college is the only two-year public higher education institution on Native American Land, which is helped made possible by its partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Those interested in learning how to be a great cook can consider earning an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts. This program covers a wide curriculum where hands-on training is at its core. Header by expert faculty and instructors, the program equips students with the necessary knowledge and culinary techniques and concepts. It requires the completion of 64 credit hours. Students are equipped with the necessary skills and experience to gain entry-level positions in diverse food service operations. Some of the courses included in the program are Principles of Professional Cooking, Breakfast and Cold Foods, Savory Foods, Dining Room Operations, Food Service Sanitation, Safety, and Stewarding; Introductory Nutrition, Food Costing, Purchasing and Inventory Control, and more.

The college is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, known as the “Most Livable City and The West’s Most Western Town. While the fun and adventurous activities primarily draw the crowd in, visitors and locals can also explore its many dining options where a range of cuisines can be experienced. This makes the city a good setting for culinary arts students, allowing them the opportunity to learn and thrive through practical experience. They can also be guaranteed a wealth of career opportunities in the foodservice industry when they graduate.

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Pima Community College

Pima Community College

: Tucson, Arizona

Established in 1966, Pima Community College has always maintained its commitment to transforming lives through affordable education. This comprehensive, two-year institution serves students and employers in Pima County and beyond with its broad range of programs. Their focus is on equipping students with skills needed by today’s employers or stepping stones to successfully transfer into a four-year program. They offer associate degree and certificate programs across diverse fields.

The college has discontinued the previous Culinary Arts AAS degree program, but they have recently launched the Associate of Applied Science in Hospitality Leadership for students interested in culinary arts. This particular program emphasizes learning the fundamental principles of hotel and restaurant management in combination with the culinary arts. Students can choose among various concentrations. This includes Baking and Pastry, Culinary, Hotel and Restaurant Management, and Hotel and Restaurant Management Transfer.

The courses on the Culinary concentration focus heavily on hot foods, cold foods, baking, nutrition, and safety and sanitation. Others courses include Introduction to Hospitality Industry, Catering Operations, Introduction to Bar and Beverage Management, Bakery and Pastry Production, Food in History, Special Diets, and International Cuisine: World of Flavors, among others. The courses make up 64 to 65 credit hours and must be fulfilled to earn the degree. Students can ply their trade as accommodation managers, catering managers, chefs, restaurant managers, event managers, and bakers, among many others.

Tucson, Arizona, is home to Pima Community College. It is located in the Sonoran Desert, just north of the US-Mexico border, hence the unique blend of its cuisines that include Native American, northern Mexican or Sonoran, and American Ranch-Style Cowboy food traditions. Tucson is also considered the City of Gastronomy, a title conferred by UNESCO because of its great food and the identity of their food culture that tells a story that dates back 4,000 years. When one eats locally in Tucson, they are honoring history. The gastronomic roots of the city are closely linked to its many restaurants and dining places. This means culinary students will have plenty of opportunities to explore its food culture and tradition and apply what they learn to their craft. They can also be assured of many employment opportunities.

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Arizona State University – Polytechnic

Arizona State University – Polytechnic

: Mesa, Arizona

The Arizona State University Polytechnic campus is ideal for those who wish to study interdisciplinary sciences, engineering, management, technology, and education. Their distinctive course offerings are further enhanced by their key industry partnerships, providing opportunities for project-based learning within state-of-the-art facilities and laboratory spaces.

Those who wanted a more rigorous degree program may want to consider earning a Bachelor of Applied Science in Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship. This program complements or enhances the educational preparation of students who previously earned an AAS in Culinary or Hospitality Science, Sustainable Food Systems, or Diet Technology.

The College of Health Solutions offers the program on the Downtown campus or online. Students can only be admitted if they have earned an Associate of Science degree. For those who need financial assistance, different aid options are available. Most students can qualify for some form of financial aid, regardless of their income. They can also find and apply for relevant scholarships. Students who have completed this program can take on employment opportunities in food production, service, management, and marketing. They can also become certified dietary managers, registered sanitarians, and school foodservice and nutrition specialists.

Arizona State University Polytechnic campus makes it home in Mesa, Arizona. This city has a colorful food scene with diverse wine bars and chef-driven restaurants. Foodies love it because they can experience some of the best flavor combinations from south of the border. They can choose from American restaurants, Mexican and Southwestern fare, to the exotic cuisines of Indian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern restaurants. The possibilities are endless.

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Phoenix College

Phoenix College

: Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix College opened its doors to its first students in 1920. Since then, they have remained committed to their vision of providing student-centered learning opportunities for their community. They offer over 150 degree and certificate programs to help prepare students for their next step: university transfer, career training, advancement, or lifelong learning.

In the college’s Associate in Arts in Food Science and Technology, students will be able to explore many specializations within the field of food science. The interdisciplinary coursework means that students can choose among various courses, including food science specializations like food biochemistry, protein science, fermentation, food analysis using analytical techniques, and even research and product development. Students in this program are expected to master effective communication, whether oral, visual or written. They must demonstrate professional and ethical behavior that is appropriate to the food science discipline while critically evaluating the internal and external validity of scientific studies to make informed decisions.

The culinary courses that one can expect include Culinary Basics, Food Service Safety and Sanitation, Food Science Product Development, and many more. While the concentration heavily leans toward food science, this degree will provide students interested in culinary arts an edge over competitors as they can have a wider range of options for a future career.

Students must fulfill the 60-64 credit-hour requirement. They are also expected to earn a grade of C or better in all courses within the program to complete the degree successfully.

Phoenix College is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Like other Arizona cities, Phoenix has a rich and unique fusion of cuisines from different cultures, from Native American tradition to Mexican gastronomic delights. Phoenix’s food scene has undergone some revival and reinvention in recent years. Its most notable restaurants include Lux Central, the DeSoto Central Market, Futuro, Matt’s Big Breakfast, and many more.  

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Arizona Culinary Institute

Arizona Culinary Institute

: Scottsdale, Arizona  

Arizona Culinary Institute sets itself apart from other culinary schools because of its culinary programs designed to help students maximize their time and resources. Most of their programs can be completed in as little as eight months. They are big on hands-on learning experiences with opportunities to apply the skills and knowledge they learn in the kitchen. Plus, their instructors are talented chefs who know how to succeed in the food industry, providing a diverse and well-balanced range of expertise.

They offer a Diploma in Culinary Arts, Baking, and Restaurant Management. It covers all three fields in the foodservice industry. They often start with the basics through introductory courses in the basic skills, concepts, techniques, and theories of professional cooking. Students can expect to explore the Classical French cooking theory, such as the principles of Escoffier. Numerous traditional and modern preparation techniques for garde manger and mother sauces are also covered. They will also learn the proper knife skills and handling that are often considered the basic foundation of culinary arts.

Once the fundamental knowledge and skills are mastered, students complete a more solid foundation that involves techniques and speed refined with practice. In the Basic Culinary Arts II course, they will learn how to prepare soups, fish and shellfish, and various meats, including beef, chicken, pork, and lamb.

Other courses in the program include Saucier & Meat Fabrication, Baking & Pastry, Food & Beverage Management and Career Development, Advance Baking, Pastry & Showpieces, Restaurant Operations, and Advance Cuisine. They will also need to complete an internship program to render 210 hours. The internship can be paid or unpaid with a site approved by Arizona Culinary Institute. Students will complete the program in as little as eight months.

Recognized for its bold food scene, Scottsdale is the perfect setting for culinary arts students who attend the Arizona Culinary Institute. The city has vast restaurant and dining places options. Some of the most popular ones include Diego Pops, Mowry and Cotton, and Zuzu,

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Central Arizona College

Central Arizona College

: Coolidge, Arizona

Central Arizona College was founded in 1969. It is a premier choice of students in Coolidge, Arizona, for education and career excellence. The college has maintained its commitment to empowering its students through education by offering academic programs across numerous areas of interest, including business and professional studies, biological, physical sciences, and agriculture, among many others.

The college’s Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts program shapes future cooks, pastry chefs, and entry-level management professionals. Students will gain knowledge and skills in basic and advanced culinary arts in this program.

Some of the courses included are Culinary Principles and Applications, Food Safety & Sanitation, Dining & Beverage Management, Managing Food Service Operations, Applied Food Science, Asian Cuisine, Mexican and Latin American Cuisine, French Cuisine, Specialty and Wedding Cakes, Food Sustainability, Fundamentals of Culinary Arts, Applied Food Science and Catering Operations, among many others. The 60-hour program costs approximately $6,500, including tuition, books, and fees. Many students who completed the program continued their learning by earning a bachelor’s degree.

Coolidge houses Central Arizona College. This city is home to the Hohokam Native American tribe, and some of its cuisines are influenced by their culture. The city boasts an assortment of restaurants to choose from, with Rolbeto’s Mexican Restaurant leading the list. It is a favorite by both visitors and locals alike for traditional Mexican dishes, from its steak and shrimp plate to steak and shrimp quesadillas.

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Estrella Mountain Community College

Estrella Mountain Community College

: Avondale, Arizona

Estrella Mountain Community College of the Maricopa Community Colleges is one of the country’s largest and oldest community college districts. Since 1992, the college has provided meaningful and engaging learning environments. They have a range of degrees and certificates offered across a diverse field of interest.

One of its many offerings is the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts. Designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in diverse foodservice operations, the program teaches them the necessary and relevant skills to master the preparation of casual and upscale cuisine, whether it is for full-time service, banquet, a la carte, or bakery operations.

The courses are ideal for students seeking entry-level positions in the diverse food service and hospitality industry. Their learning is focused on the preparation of cuisine, ranging from casual to upscale. They will cover full-service preparations along with a buffet, banquet, a la carte, and even bakery operations. Students are exposed to all areas of professional foodservice, including safety and sanitation, food service management, professionalism and ethics, and teamwork and communication. They are expected to apply the knowledge they learned in practical dining settings.

Students need to submit a formal application before the kitchen tour and interview to be admitted to the program. Once they are in, they must earn a grade of C or better across all the program courses.

Estrella Mountain Community College is in Avondale, Arizona. This city has no shortage of dining options with its host of first-rate restaurants, whether one goes for casual eating spots or fine dining. One can also find full-service steakhouses and brewpubs for those who prefer trendy breakfast and brunch spots. Their famous eating places include Barrio Queen, Portillo’s, Café Zupa’s, Habit Grill, and the Halal Guys.

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Cochise College

Cochise College

: Sierra Vista, Arizona

At the heart of Cochise College’s mission is to provide inclusive and accessible educational opportunities that support meaningful careers, community engagement, and lifelong learning. Since 1964, it has offered high-quality associate-level education, professional development, and workforce training to more than 11,000 students every year.

At Cochise, students interested in culinary arts can choose among different options. The school offers associate’s degrees and certificates to provide ample training for the culinary arts. One of the offered programs is the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, a degree that can help students achieve direct employment in professional cooking, restaurant sanitation, gourmet preparations, and more. They are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the purchase, receipt, storage, and application of basic mathematical formulas for food and labor costs. Students will learn how to assemble and serve an international banquet.

It is also part of their training to plan and crate menus, incorporating themes, concepts, nutrition, the balance of flavors, cooking techniques, and proper serving. As future chefs, students must also harness their leadership skills in employing restaurant-style cookery, including garde manger, saucier, and baking techniques.

The program requires students to render 64 credits to fulfill the degree requirements. Some of the courses they will encounter include Pastry basics, Nutrition in Food Service, Food Service Purchasing and Control, Cooking Essentials, International Cuisine, and Dining Service Management, among many others.

Cochise College makes its home in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The city has its unique Arizona flair with its pretty eclectic food scene. One can find Mexican and Native American flavors and a host of other cuisines, from Korean and German to Japanese.

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor