Tennessee’s rich food tradition defines the state’s reputation as one of the epicenters of culinary education. Best for its home-cooked Southern culinary recipes and hospitality, Tennessee takes pride in several upscale restaurants, coffee shops, burger shops, and hole-in-the-walls.
The state is also home to many popular tourist attractions and events, including music festivals, ski resorts, theme parks, and adventure parks that draw visitors each year. And with the vibrant tourism industry, the food and foodservice industries thrive as thousands of hungry tourists visit to immerse themselves in the different culinary flavors of the state. That said, Tennessee is a promising spot for culinary professionals.
Tennesee’s Culinary Industry: The Facts
Pursuing work as a chef or cook in Tennessee is an excellent career path. Chefs or head cooks in the state get as much as $47,610 in median pay annually, depending on the type of dining facility, location, academic credentials, and professional experience.
Most employers in Tennessee will hire culinary professionals with a high school diploma or equivalent. Alternatively, they can earn a culinary arts program or technical certificate from a college, university, or private institution. Memphis, Knoxville, and Nashville are Tennessee’s major cities offering diverse culinary schools.
The Best Culinary Schools in Tennessee
: Nashville, TN
Nashville State Community College’s Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts is one of the few culinary arts programs in Tennessee accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation. This two-year academic program features a holistic curriculum that develops students’ management skills in various culinary settings.
NSCC’s Culinary Arts associate program’s courses in Supervisory Management, Nutrition, and Sanitation meet the American Culinary Federation (ACF) standards at the national and local levels. The associate program is offered in partnership with Dexter Russell Knives, Kickin’ Coffee & Tea, and Sysco.
NSCC also runs these short-term culinary arts training programs for students who aren’t ready to pursue the two-year AAS degree:
- Culinary Arts Apprenticeships
- Culinary Arts Technical Certificate
- Fundamental Cook Technical Certificate
NSCC offers four Culinary Arts Apprenticeships integrated into its Culinary Arts programs:
- ACF-certified Sous Chef Apprenticeship. Combined with the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, it requires 4,000 hours of on-the-job learning apprenticeship, with a 24-month completion. The certification exam for the Certified Sous Chef will be taken during the summer term of the 2nd year of the AAS program.
- ACF-certified Culinarian Apprenticeship. Taking as little as 12 months, this 2,000-hour on-the-job learning apprenticeship is integrated into the Culinary Arts Technical Certificate.
- ACF-certified Fundamental Cook Pre-Apprenticeship. This single-semester program requires a 1,000-hours on-the-job learning apprenticeship integrated into the Fundamental Cook Technical Certificate.
- ACF-certified Fundamental Cook High School Pre-Apprenticeship. Requiring1,000-hours on-the-job pre-apprenticeship, this program may be completed by high school students in their junior and senior years.
The Culinary Arts Technical Certificate is a one-year program covering foundational baking, cooking, and food preparation skills. It requires 30 credit hours for completion of the certificate program.
The Fundamental Cook Technical Certificate program has the same objectives and courses as the Culinary Arts Technical Certificate but requires only 16 hours to complete.
: Clarksville, TN
Austin Peay State University offers a 100% on-campus accelerated Culinary Arts Certificate program designed primarily for the active-duty personnel or the US Army “Food Service” soldiers, but it is open to anyone interested.
This four-week program accepts 16 students per class, with three full-time faculty to educate and train them. It is funded through the US Army, and students won’t have to avail their Tuition Assistance.
The courses offered are:
- Sanitation and Food Safety
- Nutrition for Culinary Arts
- Purchasing and Cost Control
- Fundamentals of Baking OR Culinary I
All culinary arts courses are credit-bearing courses and can be applied to the Associate of Applied Science – Restaurant Management program should students wish to pursue.
: Knoxville, TN
Pellissippi State Community College’s Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts program is accredited by the American Culinary Foundation. Highlighting various culinary principles and theories and basic managerial applications, it requires 61 credit hours for degree completion.
The AAS in Culinary Arts program at Pellissippi State maintains a standard course sequence; it is a learning format that students starting college-level work during the fall semester adhere to.
Students learn from various unique culinary courses in this program, including Nutrition for Culinary Arts, Breakfast Cookery, Professional Catering, and Garde Manger.
Students must be enrolled in the AAS program for the Culinary Internship course and have already completed at least 15 credit hours, with an overall minimum GPA of 2.0 and a minimum 2.5 GPA in all culinary arts courses. To graduate, Culinary Capstone and Culinary Internship courses must be accomplished.
: Knoxville, TN
Ideal for students who prefer a shorter program duration, the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Culinary Program features 200-hour coursework. Students enjoy these learning resources and tools:
- A fully equipped commercial kitchen and specialized classroom for culinary studies,
- A two-year access to the On Cooking textbook, a crucial component of the catering and culinary program, featuring comprehensive culinary essentials, including all-new recipes, culinary production systems, recipe conversions, and the latest culinary trends.
Running for eight weeks, the UT Culinary Program is shorter than average than most traditional programs. The rigorous culinary training coursework, however, requires students to put their skills to the test in real-life scenarios, including running a food truck during lunch hours and catering large dinner events.
While yet to be accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation, it is recognized for producing the state’s top professionals. Since launching in 2013, over 130 non-traditional graduates have already completed the UT Culinary Program, and some graduates have pursued chef’s certification through the American Culinary Federation.
Applicants must show a high school diploma or GED equivalent to apply for the UT Culinary Program, but experience is not required. The university offers payment and financing options, including its Deferred Payment Plan and the Sallie Mae Smart Option Loan. Students qualified for education benefits through the GI Bill can enroll with minimal fees.
: Morristown, TN
Walters State Community College is home to the Rel Maples Institute for Culinary Arts that offers an Associate of Applied Science in Business – Culinary Arts program. It is one of the few American Culinary Federation-accredited culinary arts programs in the state.
The program was developed under the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 and is designed for students who don’t intend to pursue a baccalaureate degree program. It is meant for students seeking careers in non-commercial foodservice, restaurant/kitchen management, baking, cooking, and food preparation. Although the school offers a recommended full-time schedule, students are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor to register for courses.
The 60-credit hour AAS program has two options: the Baking/Pastry Option and the Hot Foods Option, including a 45-hour concentration in the Culinary Core and Business Core. Learning Support courses are also offered.
AAS students at Walters State Community College transferring to another public community college around Tennessee can use their academic credits toward completing the same Culinary Arts program at the receiving college.
Walters State Community College offers a Culinary Arts Technical Certificate program featuring fundamental training in baking, cooking, and food preparation with two concentrations: the Hot Foods Option and the Baking/Pastry Option. To receive certification, students must complete 25 credit hours and 450 clock hours of supervised internship programs, with 50 clock hours during fall and spring semesters and at least 350 clock hours of internship. All courses completed in this program are credited towards the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts program.
: Memphis, TN
Tennesse’s list of top-rated culinary schools wouldn’t be complete without The University of Memphis and its diverse range of culinary arts programs offered through the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management. Students can pursue the following culinary arts options:
- Bachelor of Arts – Hospitality and Resort Management Culinary Arts
- Culinary Essentials Certificate
- Continuing Education Courses
- Recreational Classes
Students pursuing the Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality and Resort Management – Culinary Arts may complete the elective 24-credit-hour Culinary Arts Concentration courses in Food Analysis, Food/Beverage Controls, Food Safety & Sanitation in Hospitality, Advanced Culinary Skills, and Senior Culinary Design. Overall, 120 credit hours are required for the baccalaureate program.
The Culinary Essentials Certificate is a 1-year comprehensive program that meets the academic standards set by the American Culinary Federation. This two-semester, 23-credit hour certificate program features culinary math, nutritional analysis, safety and sanitation, pastry and baking, world cuisines, cooking methods, and fabrication techniques. It is designed for students seeking employment in food establishments, including hotels, resorts, country clubs, and restaurants.
Students also work in immersive and collaborative settings as 2/3 of the program focuses on applied and practical learning. They must meet the 240-hour internship requirement.
Students will also have the option to add a Culinary Arts Minor to any degree on-campus by taking 18 credit hours in the following areas:
The Continuing Education culinary courses at The University of Memphis features non-credit courses in baking and pastry and culinary arts. Participants can register for the ServeSafe Alcohol, ServeSafe Food Handler, or ServeSafeFood Handler Spanish courses.
A diverse range of interactive and hands-on Recreational Culinary Classes are open to the general public, as offered by Bluff City Bites and A Taste of Memphis, among others, featuring food & wine pairing, artisanal baking, and more.
: Memphis, TN
Acknowledged by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, Remington College offers the Culinary Skills Essentials Diploma and the Culinary Management Associate programs.
The Culinary Skills Essentials Diploma is an 8-month, 100% online diploma program facilitated by chef-instructors. Graduates become prepared for entry-level career opportunities in catering venues, private residences, food trucks, schools, hospitals, resorts, hotels, and restaurants. Students are also taught sanitation and safety practices in an instructor-supervised kitchen setting.
The Culinary Management Associate program takes 21 months to complete. This hybrid program produces graduates proficient in culinary business principles, event planning, and restaurant management. Students are exposed to simulation tools during hands-on lab experience in designing and laying out menus and running a virtual restaurant.
: Chattanooga, TN
The Sweet and Savory Classroom, a top-rated non-traditional culinary school, offers cooking classes for kids and adults. Participants can either purchase one of the following culinary classes at the Sweet and Savory Classroom:
- Date Night
Sweet and Savory’s Virtual Cooking classes held via Zoom are ideal for families. Participants are provided a list of ingredients to buy, equipment, and recipes, which must be prepared, measured, and organized beforehand. Everything must be cooked or baked in sync with the chef-instructor during the class.
A variety of In-Person classes, which are recommended based on age, are also offered at Sweet and Savory for adult learners.
Sweet and Savory offer the following Kids Cooking classes for parents and their children:
- Parent/Child Classes
- Family Classes
- Kids Camps
- Kids Workshops
- Kids Birthday Parties
Date Night Cooking classes are ideal for couples or singles seeking new connections. The classes are similar to In-Person; however, most classes are suitable for a couple. Each class costs anywhere between $140 and $180 per couple, depending on the recipe.
Sweet and Savory offers Recorded Classes for participants who can’t join real-time sessions. For a fee, the recorded Virtual Cooking sessions can be accessed anytime.
: Knoxville, TN
With diverse culinary classes for both children and adults, The Cutting Edge Classroom is an excellent place for these cooking and baking classes in Knoxville:
- Adult Classes
- Kids Classes
- Kids Camps
- Private Lessons
- In-Group Classes
- Virtual Group Classes
- In Your Home Cooking Classes
Adult Classes accepts participants 16 years old and up, while Adult/Child classes for parents and their kids at least five years of age. Facilitated by a chef-instructor, this class requires no prior culinary experience. Participants will have the option to work in groups or individually.
For children, The Cutting Edge Classroom offers four types of culinary classes to choose from:
- Kids Classes (Ages 9 to 15)
- Adult/Classes (Ages 5 to 15)
- Mommy & Me Classes (Ages 3 to 5)
- Kids Camps (Ages 9 to 15)
Each participant of any Kids Classes will learn food safety techniques and proper food handling. They are also taught how to use a variety of cookware, kitchen equipment, and other tools. Chef-instructors will demonstrate, coach, support, and guide children as they work in the kitchen.
The Cutting Edge Classroom is where the Private Cooking and Pastry Lessons are held. Participants can choose their topic, cuisine, culinary method, technique, and recipe. Experienced chef-instructors teach all Private Classes.
Private In-Person Group Classes are perfect for larger groups cooking and preparing for family reunions, holiday parties, team buildings, and birthday parties. Each group class will have a chef-instructor facilitating the two- to three-hour class. Participants can use the entire commercial kitchen’s tools and equipment.
The company has Virtual Group Classes for busy cooking enthusiasts taking their first step toward a culinary career. Participants enjoy convenient and personalized guidance in planning and organizing shopping lists, ingredients, and menus. This 1.5-hour interactive cooking session accommodates 500 people.
The Cutting Edge Classroom’s In-Home Cooking Classes are excellent for family activities, date nights, or corporate team buildings. A chef-instructor supervises the two- to four-hour interactive or hands-on culinary class involving sumptuous meal creations!
: Nashville, TN
Dabble Tours and Events offers a one-stop-shop for all fun and creative events for non-traditional students in Nashville. Students of all ages can enroll in these painting classes, food & sightseeing tours, and culinary classes:
- A Night In Spain
- Benedict Brunch Basics
- Foodie Fiesta
- Italian Kitchen
- Mexican Favorites
- Secrets of Sushi
- Southern Kitchen
The company also runs Private Cooking Events that cater to larger groups of up to 75 participants. Participants can either book the entire cooking studio or register for off-site cooking events in their preferred venue or one of Dabble’s partner venues. Dabble can customize a special menu for the group, or participants can choose from any Cooking Class menus offered at the studio.
The Dabble Studio Cooking Class has a participant age requirement of 21 years or older. Strict age requirements are applied to any Cooking Class featuring alcoholic beverages as part of the menu. Regardless of age, the studio will verify participants’ IDs.
All cooking classes at Dabble Studio are designed as recreational cooking, making it ideal for the non-cooks and home cooks. Students said the cooking classes are just as engaging, interesting, and useful to chefs, regardless of professional background.
The classes run from two to four hours. Because Dabble Studio maintains exclusivity for a more personalized and engaging learning experience, each class has 12 to 16 participants only, who can all recommend a Cooking Class theme and suggest a personal menu or any local specialty. All supplies, cooking/baking equipment, utensils, and cooking ingredients are provided.