Culinary Schools in Virginia


At Virginia culinary schools, students with a passion for food can develop a command for classic and contemporary culinary methods. You may enroll in a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree program, which can range from one to four years of study. Courses that you might take include food safety, seafood identification and fabrication, menu development, and so much more. Towards the end of the program, students typically complete an externship to obtain hands-on experience through working in a real-world restaurant setting, allowing them to put their theoretical knowledge to practice.

Food Scene

Quintessential coastal cuisine, swanky urban restaurants, and an abundance of local ingredients have made Virginia a haven for chefs and foodies alike. Virginia’s cuisine incorporates fresh ingredients, particularly produce and seafood, into down home Southern dishes. One of the wealthiest states in the South, areas of Virginia with a hopping food scene include Charlottesville, Richmond, Virginia Beach, and DC neighbor, Arlington. With more than 200 wineries, Virginia has become a wine destination and is also known for producing oysters, blue crabs, peanuts, apples, and its famous Virginia ham.


While a degree is not vital to pursuing a career in the culinary arts, culinary degrees can increase your marketability. After graduating from culinary school, you may find employment as a sous chef, pastry chef or eventually an executive chef. Outside of the kitchen, culinary arts degree holders could open their own establishment, manage a successful restaurant or become a food stylist. In addition to the locations mentioned above, some Virginia cities where you might seek employment include Newport News, Alexandria, Lynchburg, Norfolk, and Falls Church.

Employment and Salary

In 2013, Virginia was the number three top paying state for food service managers (Bureau of Labor Statistics). However, as a whole, the salary for culinary and restaurant positions in the US tends to be modest. In 2012, the median annual wage for restaurant cooks in Virginia was $22,474. Bakers earned $24,759, chefs and head cooks made $42,226, and food service managers received $57,023 (Virginia Employment Commission).

As with most industries, top positions in the culinary world are competitive. While restaurant and institution and cafeteria cooks positions are expected to increase at a faster than average rate of 17.67% and 21.74%, respectively, positions for food service mangers and chefs and head cooks will only increase slightly at a rate of .06% and 1.85% from 2010 to 2020. The employment of bakers in Virginia is also expected to increase by nearly 11%, resulting in 340 new positions.

2012 Virginia Employment and Annual Wages
Occupation Employment Mean Entry-Level Median Mean Experienced
Cooks, Fast Food $7,580 $17,031 $18,757 $20,118
Cooks, Short Order $1,750 $17,051 $20,636 $24,200
Cooks, Restaurant $27,770 $17,538 $22,474 $27,105
Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria $8,240 $17,823 $23,449 $28,557
Cooks, All Other $440 $21,062 $40,693 $42,612
Chefs and Head Cooks $2,430 $30,446 $42,226 $53,499
Bakers $2,720 $18,073 $24,759 $31,668
First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers $23,290 $22,901 $32,274 $40,449
Food Service Managers $2,960 $40,421 $57,023 $72,970
Lodging Managers $900 $36,362 $53,271 $75,802

Source: Virginia Employment Commission

Professional Organizations

Professional culinary and hospitality associations with presences in Virginia include the American Culinary Federation (ACF), the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association (VBRA), and the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association (VHTA).

The American Culinary Federation
The ACF is a national organization comprised of culinary professionals. Members receive a variety of benefits, among them the opportunity to obtain certification in 14 different culinary fields, ranging from Certified Culinarian to Certified Master Chef. The six local chapters in Virginia are as follows:

  • New River Valley Chapter (Blacksburg)
  • Old Dominion ACF Chapter (Fort Lee)
  • ACF Virginia Chefs Association (Richmond-Williamsburg)
  • ACF Southwestern Virginia Chapter (Roanoke)
  • ACF Blue Ridge Chefs Association (Staunton)
  • ACF Tidewater Chefs Chapter (Virginia Beach)

The Virginia Beach Restaurant Association
The VBRA is open to all those affiliated with the restaurant industry in the city of Virginia Beach. They promote the restaurant scene in VB through their website

The Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association
The Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association encompasses restaurant, lodging, travel, and hospitality professionals throughout the state. They aim to educate members and be a partner in helping Virginia’s hospitality businesses to grow. Members receive dual membership with the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, as well as a variety of money saving, marketing, and educational benefits.

Exploring Schools

Whether you want to become a chef or pursue a management role in the food industry, culinary schools in Virginia can help you reach your career goals. Learn more about the schools below to start on your path to a culinary career.

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