Cooks in the Kitchen

Culinary programs across the state are heating up.

Thomas Nelson Community College

For students with ambitions of becoming the next Tyler Florence or winning Top Chef, an education at a top culinary school can be an important first step. But tuition at the Culinary Institute of America for the 2017-2018 school year, for example, was more than $29,000, and that’s not even including room and board, supplies, or enough coffee to get through exams. And any chef will tell you that starting pay, even in great restaurants, is often not that much above minimum wage.

Community colleges have stepped into this gap, expanding their culinary programs to provide quality instruction with more affordable tuition that can be completed in a shorter amount of time than traditional culinary school programs. For example, Rappahannock Community College in Glenns has added baking and pastry fundamentals, a 16-credit career studies certificate program headed by chef Hatley Bright, who has hired certified pastry chefs to teach. At Thomas Nelson Community College in Williamsburg, the ChefsGO program, an 11-week program with a 15-week internship, gives a boost to students’ culinary skills to make them more employable at area restaurants without taking too much valuable time. And at Tidewater Community College in the Hampton Roads area, students can complete a 28-week program in restaurant management, and their credits can also be applied to TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Hospitality Management. 

High school students are wowing in the kitchen as well. Students in the culinary program at Phoebus High School in Hampton (one of the Hampton City High Schools) won NASA’s HUNCH culinary competition this spring, which means their creation will be used as part of the food service program for the International Space Station. Chef Travis Walker led their six-member team, whose Organic Harvest Hash includes butternut squash, parsnips, fennel, sweet potato, Parmesan cheese, and pancetta—a big improvement over freeze-dried ice cream. 


For more about Rappahannock Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Tidewater Community College, or Hampton City High Schools, check out Top High Schools and Colleges 2019. This article originally appeared in our October 2019 issue.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum