Community College Culinary School Versus Dedicated Culinary Schools: The Case for Specialization

Community college culinary school or dedicated culinary school...which is the right choice for you? Explore the benefits of each before you decide.

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June 10, 2020 6 min read

Students considering culinary school have quite a few decisions to make.

Where do they want to study? On campus or online? Should they learn at their local community college or choose a dedicated culinary school instead?

Although there are benefits to both models, dedicated schools like Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts have certain advantages that may be unmatched at a community college culinary school.

Still, for some students, community college may be the right choice. While they’re not known at a national or international level, they often have local connections. So students who plan to live and work in the city or county may find that the network at a community college meets their needs.

However, for students who are laser-focused on their culinary education and career advancement, a dedicated culinary school may be a better choice. Here’s why.

An International Reputation

Dedicated culinary schools like Escoffier have name recognition on a national and global level.

Why is that important? Because potential employers want to know what they can expect from a culinary school graduate.

A well-known name like Escoffier signals to prospective employers that you’ve had a quality education. International companies, major cruise lines, famous resorts, and world-renowned restaurants hire Escoffier graduates because they know who we are. The same companies may not be familiar with the culinary program at your local community college.

Mary Ann Mathieu, Senior Recruiter, Sodexo“What I think makes Escoffier the best culinary school for us to recruit from is the fact that their graduates are predictable. I know they have been trained properly, and I know they have a real passion for providing quality food for our customers.”
Mary Ann Mathieu, Senior Recruiter, Sodexo

Students at Escoffier can enjoy the benefits of that reputation before they even complete their program. Escoffier students have the opportunity to take an industry externship with some of the top culinary employers in the country – supplementing theory with real industry experience in a restaurant, hotel, or other foodservice establishment. Our Career Services staff works with students to match them with the right externship where they’ll get real world, hands-on experience.

Michael Pythoud, Culinary Director at Walt Disney World Resorts & Escoffier Advisory Board Member, reflects on the Disney and Escoffier relationship

As a dedicated culinary school, Escoffier has developed partnerships with global brands like Disney to provide externship and employment opportunities that most community college programs simply can’t match.

A Singular Focus

Huge community colleges have dozens of departments competing for the same resources. Whether that’s funding, equipment, square footage, or administrative attention, some departments will always access more than others.

In contrast, every resource at a dedicated culinary school is earmarked to further the goals of the culinary students and graduates.

Escoffier Career Services staff helping students

Escoffier Career Services staff helping students

Plus, a concentrated campus makes it easier for students to connect and network with fellow students and Chef Instructors. These are the people that you’ll be reaching out to throughout your culinary career, sharing your wins and looking for opportunities. So it’s important to get to know them!

Award-Winning Chef Instructors

A dedicated culinary school also attracts some of the best faculty. Chef Instructors at Escoffier, for example, have 20, 30, even 40 years of real-world restaurant, resort, and hotel experience.

Monica Paredes, Austin Pastry Arts Graduate“My excellent education at the school and the empowering and supportive Chef [Instructors] in my Pastry Arts program are ultimately what has given me the confidence to reach for the next level. My Chef [Instructors] encouraged me to create the opportunities I could not otherwise find.”
Monica Paredes, Austin Pastry Arts Graduate & Executive Chef at Authentic Tuscany

Award-winning instructors like 2-time James Beard nominee Executive Chef Bob Scherner could be one of your instructors on the Boulder campus. And online students may learn from Executive Chef Chanel Martinez, two-time nominee for LCB Educator of the Year.

Executive Chef Bob Scherner instructing a Culinary Arts student

Executive Chef Bob Scherner instructing a Culinary Arts student

Not only could you learn from these world-class instructors — they could also become part of your extensive industry network upon completion of your program in the culinary or pastry arts.

Opportunities For Career Advancement

Both dedicated and community college culinary schools will usually have a career placement or career services department.

But just like the other resources at a community college, that department’s focus will be spread among dozens of academic programs — and thousands of students — at a large community college.

“The culinary school provides a fun and energetic learning environment that encourages students to fulfill their dreams. I have hired many graduates, and they have all succeeded in my very demanding kitchen.”
Chef Hosea Rosenberg, Top Chef Season 5 Winner & Owner of Blackbelly Catering

At Escoffier, students have access to job placement assistance dedicated solely to culinary and pastry arts careers. This lets the school staff build one large culinary network to help graduates — instead of being over-extended across dozens of smaller networks for the entire college.

Escoffier Boulder Pastry Arts graduate and Pastry Chef & Owner of Tee & Cakes Kim Boos has noticed the difference. “My co-workers are surprised by how much help the school has given me throughout my career,” she says.

Dedicated Culinary School Has More to Offer

While community college culinary schools may make sense if you want to stay local, with global name recognition, some of the best Chef Instructors, and a focused Career Services staff, dedicated culinary schools like Escoffier are able to offer some of the best networking opportunities and potential for career growth.

To get a feel for the on-campus environment at a dedicated culinary school, take a virtual tour of our Austin and Boulder campuses or consider our fully online, diploma or degree in Culinary Arts or a diploma in Pastry Arts with industry externship.

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