6 Best Culinary Schools in New Mexico

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The culinary industry is an exciting field for anyone who has a passion and interest in food preparation and serving. Creating sumptuous dishes and experimenting with different flavors to satisfy guests are only part of it. There are a host of other responsibilities that culinary art professionals deal with every day, which makes their day-to-day routine dynamic.

But for those who wonder whether the culinary arts industry is the right career path, see the following factor points for making that important decision:

It Requires Endurance and Stamina

The kitchen environment is anything but a walk in the park. Professional chefs and cooks must have strong physical endurance and stamina to help them withstand the job’s challenges. They can expect to be standing on their feet for long hours at a time. It is not uncommon for them to get blisters, calluses, cuts, and burns.

The process can be overwhelming and demanding, especially during peak hours when customers flock. If one is not prepared to face all of these, then culinary arts might not be an ideal profession for them.

It Cultivates Your Passion

Most chefs love to use their creativity in developing their craft by working with their hands. They often refine their skills by experimentation, using unique ingredients, or trying new flavors and combinations. They must execute their menus with flair, as they take passion and pride in seeing their ideas and crafts come to life.

It Needs Focus and Technical Skills

Knowledge isn’t enough to make a Culinary Arts professional successful. The job requires focus, requiring them to learn good techniques and use the full faculty of their senses to explore and refine food tastes and textures. They are also expected to be efficient in the mundane side of food preparation. Their responsibility is to take full command of the kitchen, collaborating with other staff to get things done.

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Pursuing a profession in the culinary arts takes a good education! A good school will equip students with the right skills and experience to prepare them for a thriving career in the food and hospitality industry. Some emphasize hands-on learning by allowing students to practice what they learn, either in the state-of-the-art kitchen on campus or in restaurants in the community.

Choose from the many culinary schools in New Mexico that offer certificates and other degree programs for aspiring chefs.

Best Culinary Schools in New Mexico

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

: Dona Ana County, NM

Founded in 1888, the New Mexico State University has been serving the educational needs of a diverse population. They have provided numerous comprehensive programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. They have campuses across the state, including Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Doña Ana, and Grants. Some of their programs are also offered online.

In their Doña Ana campus, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts degree program. It is ideal for students who possess basic knowledge of the discipline. They are expected to learn basic kitchen routines and standard kitchen calculations. They are taught how to master knife handling safety, and sanitation.

They can also expect to learn about kitchen designs, workflow, and commercial equipment along with the techniques, methods, and application of basic food production principles. It is also important that they know how to select and use ingredients.

Students must complete a total of 78 to 79 credits to earn the program. They must also get a final grade of C- or better in CHEF-designated courses. A minimum cumulative grade-point average of at least 2.0 is also expected to meet major requirements. Some of the courses included are Math for Kitchen Operations, Purchasing and Kitchen Management, Culinary Arts Fundamentals, and Baking Fundamentals.

New Mexico State University considers Doña Ana as one of its homes. New Mexico’s second-largest city Doña Ana has a vibrant restaurant scene with flavor-filled niches. From breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there is a good dining choice for locals and tourists. Culinary arts students can take the opportunity to explore the rich food culture of the city. The thriving food scene also means they will have an easier time when it comes to finding work once they graduate.

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Central Mexico Community College

Central New Mexico Community College 

: Albuquerque, NM

Central Mexico Community College is considered the largest community college in New Mexico. It has remained committed to providing quality and affordable education since its establishment in 1964. Students have more than 200 associate degrees, certificates, and training options to choose from across various areas. One of their program offerings is the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts.

This degree program is most suitable for pursuing a career in the rapidly growing food industry. Students are taught innovative trends in the hospitality and food service industry by providing a learning atmosphere that encourages growth and teamwork.

They will explore and delve deep into professional cooking, safety, sanitation, baking and pastry, supervisory skills, and even business practices. There is a good mix of classroom and laboratory time. This top-rated culinary program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Accrediting Commission. Once completed, culinary arts graduates can become certified through ACF. They can also obtain certificates in Baking or Culinary Fundamentals.

Students have the option to earn the four-term program part-time or full-time. The courses they will tackle include Food Safety Principles, Safety and Sanitation Principles, Introduction to Culinary Skills, Introduction to Baking Fundamentals, and Intermediate Culinary Skills.

The college is located in Albuquerque, a booming food scene. Culinary students in this city can enjoy a wealth of opportunities in terms of employment and internships.

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Santa Fe Community College

Santa Fe Community College

: Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe Community College stayed true to its commitment to providing affordable, high-quality educational programs for its diverse community for more than 35 years. Its credit, noncredit, and adult programs have served more than 13,000 students every year. To make it big in the food and food service industry, consider earning an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts.

This hands-on non-professional program provides students with the needed skills for a career in the culinary arts. All areas of the hospitality industry are covered, with its world-class instructions touching on nutrition, sanitation and safety, restaurant design, and cost controls and management. 

Not only does the program showcase comprehensive lecture classes but there are also plenty of experience-based learning opportunities. They can hone their basic cooking skills in the college’s high-quality kitchens. They can also try running food trucks and apprenticing in one of Santa Fe’s restaurants and caterers. The program is the only training facility for the world’s oldest international gastronomic society, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs of New Mexico.

In total, students must earn 65 credits to earn the program. Some of the courses include Introduction to Culinary Arts, Human Nutrition, Advanced Culinary Skills, Controlling Cost and Purchasing Food and Beverage, and Fundamentals of Meat Fabrication and Butchery.

Santa Fe Community College is headquartered in Santa Fe, a city with a famed dining scene. It is teeming with restaurants and other dining places that offer the perfect combination of delicious food and a unique experience. It is a delight to culinary arts students in the Santa Fe Community College who benefit from the thriving local food scene.  

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Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

: Santa Fe, NM

Founded in 1960, the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute has remained committed to serving the Native American Community through a strong educational foundation for students’ success. The institution is a part of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).  Their programs are designed for those who want to immediately join the workforce and make a career out of their chosen field.

One of the programs they offer is the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts. This degree program prepares students for commercial food preparation, baking, and food service management. It emphasizes culinary fundamentals that aim to build their gastronomic knowledge and skills. Students will gain experience and confidence to help them attain entry-level culinary careers in the food service industry. They must also demonstrate proficiency in in-depth culinary technical tasks and apply critical thinking skills in food service environments.

Some of the courses covered in this program include Safety & Sanitation, Basic Food Preparation, Fundamentals of Baking, Culinary Nutrition, Garde Manger, Banquets, Catering, and Buffet Preparation, Intermediate Algebra, American Regional Cuisine, and International Cuisine, among many others.

The Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The city is best known for its local cuisine that powerfully combines American and Spanish flavors, often incorporating red and green chiles. They have a variety of eating and dining places, from cafes and restaurants that locals and tourists alike will be spoilt for choice. This is a good place for culinary arts students to thrive.

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Navajo Technical University

: Crownpoint, NM

Navajo Technical University is one of New Mexico’s tribal colleges and universities to help all tribes move toward self-determination. This institution was established in 1979 when it started as the Navajo Skill Center. Since then, the university has provided quality education to its immediate community, with programs that find the unique balance between science and technology and culture and tradition.

The university offers an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts. Designed to prepare students for thriving employment in the industry, this program helps students gain training and skills in professional cooking and baking. Each of the courses is tailored to specific demands in the industry. This includes key skills such as food and beverage management, human resources management, and planning and management.

Students must complete 61 credit hours to earn the program. They will tackle Nutrition, Banquets and catering, Food Safety and Sanitation, Professional Baking Basics, and Professional Cooking.

The Associate in Culinary Arts program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation. Students can be guaranteed the quality of education from this program as the instructors are also certified by the American Culinary Federation, the largest Chefs Association in the world.

Notable for its hospitality and artistry, Zuni is home to Navajo Technical University. Its food culture is tied to its traditional past, such as the famous bread baking in the beehive oven. The rich food culture means a wealth of opportunities for culinary arts students who want to pursue a career in the food industry.

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Eastern New Mexico University

Eastern New Mexico University

: Portales, NM

Eastern New Mexico State University has solidified its place as one of the best culinary schools in the state. Their commitment to quality education has been proven for 85 years, preparing students for careers and advanced study. The university aims to give equal opportunity to all with its affordable tuition rates. It is also recognized as New Mexico’s largest regional comprehensive university. To date, they offer over 90 programs with 1,200 courses.

Students seeking a career in the food industry might want to consider earning a Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences in Culinary Arts that focuses on professional cookery and hotel administration as the fundamental skills. The coursework includes Food Operations Management, Bar and Beverage Management, History of Cooking, and Hospitality Facilities Management.

Students can complete the program in an online, in-person, or blended format. These options offer a flexible learning schedule that will work best for working adults. Upon completing the program, students must complete a 6-credit internship. 

To enter the program and earn their first bachelor’s degree, students must have an Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences from an accredited institution. They can also meet the minimum of 30 credit hours in a career-technical-related discipline from a CHEA-accredited institution. Students must complete 120 hours to earn this degree.

Portales, where Eastern New Mexico State University is located, is famous for its Valencia peanuts. The ranching community offers more than that, though. They have an assortment of eateries with menus built around indomitable beef cooked in every kind of method, including roasted, chopped, and steak. Culinary arts students can benefit a lot from their thriving food scene.

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor