A California Culinary Education
and San Francisco Food Experience
With 50% more restaurants per household than New York, the culinary epicenter of San Francisco is home to an abundance of growing regions, food artisans and award-winning chefs. As a culinary school student, there's no better place to plant the seeds of your new food career than San Francisco.
Our Certificate Program is designed to balance academic fundamentals with relevant industry exposure. You will simultaneously dive into a rigorous in-class curriculum while being instantly immersed into the San Francisco food community.
FIRST PERSON: Culinary Student Stephanie Hua shares her SFCS experience with KQED.
Meet Your Instructor
Director of Culinary Arts, Full-Time Program Instructor
Catherine Pantsios mentored SFCS partner Jodi Liano 15 years ago when she taught and oversaw the professional cooking program at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. Pantsios oversaw that program for eight years and also taught avocational classes at Draeger’s, Sur la Table, and Ramekins.
Prior to teaching cooking, Pantsios developed her extensive culinary knowledge over many years in restaurant kitchens, including Zuni Café, Hayes Street Grill, the Ritz Carlton in Chicago, and the Quilted Giraffe in New York. She was also chef and co-owner of the critically acclaimed Zola’s Restaurant in San Francisco for nine years. Most recently, Pantsios was the culinary supervisor and test kitchen chef at Ketchum Communications, a PR firm with a broad portfolio of agricultural commodity and ingredient clients.
As a founding educator at SFCS, Pantsios was instrumental in helping to develop and update the contemporary curriculum at SFCS. A career chef and instructor for twenty-five years, Catherine Pantsios is beloved by her students and has both a passion and talent for imparting knowledge in the kitchen through teaching and mentoring.
Chef Instructor, Part-Time Program Instructor
Growing up in the Bay Area, Kirsten was exposed to an extraordinary array of foods. This early exposure instilled in her a great curiosity and passion for regional cuisines, food sources, and culinary arts.
In 1998, Kirsten studied cooking under the tutelage of Catherine Pantsios before working in restaurants such as Mario Batali’s famous Babbo in New York’s West Village and Nancy Oaks' Boulevard in San Francisco. Kirsten has worked in restaurant kitchens in Europe and traveled extensively in South East Asia where she took cooking courses and spent as much time as possible in the food markets of every city she visited. Kirsten has been an instructor at San Francisco Cooking School since it opened, and has also managed a thriving Bay Area personal chef and catering business.
Introducing a Contemporary Curriculum for Relevant Culinary Education.
Hands-on learning is the best way for you to develop culinary intuition. Through the curriculum, you will gain (1) an intuitive sense of taste and seasoning, (2) a working knowledge of ingredients, (3) and professional work habits that are second to none.
We don't have lecture halls and demonstration classrooms, so access to a kitchen isn't something that is rationed during your tenure as a student. The kitchen is your classroom everyday. You'll cook and taste your way through the following modules:
In these first modules of your program you will be building basic culinary foundations as well as knowledge of key ingredients. You’ll cook daily, starting with basic knife skills and working towards a mastery of both dry and moist heat cooking methods. Repetition is critical in these first weeks. The goal here is to help you create a battery of innate skills, values, and a taste memory that become second nature to you in the kitchen.
The next set of modules in the program takes the foundations you’ve mastered and teaches you how to apply them to create new dishes. Proteins come in to play with butchery and new cooking methods. You will build integrated dishes, influenced by the ingredients and flavors you’re already familiar with, as well as the new techniques you will be learning. Repetition, again, plays a key role in helping build your culinary know-how; expect many skills to become second nature during this unit.
Extending Your Learning
With all the basic cooking methods and ingredients covered, you’re now ready to explore new techniques. You’ll work with dough, both sweet and savory, and move on to more lessons in baking and pastry. This base knowledge of the pastry kitchen is critical to any well-rounded cook. This is also the time when you begin to use more modern cooking techniques, incorporating them into the preparation and presentation of your food.
The classroom culmination of this unit is Restaurant Week. This week will really let you prove to yourself how far you’ve come in the kitchen. It is the ideal bridge between your time in the kitchen classroom and your externship.
Real-World Industry Exposure in America's Food Capital
San Francisco is a city with a tight-knit food community committed to training the next generation of chefs, artisans, food entrepreneurs and other aspiring culinary professionals just like you. Your foundational education is routinely supplemented with local industry contacts and resources available to you in a variety of different ways.
Some of the best culinary resources in the Bay Area have been tapped to weave a healthy rotation of guest instructors into the SFCS curriculum. From local butchers, chefs, writers and farmers, some will visit you in the classroom and others you will visit on-site through a field-trip.
SFCS is not a cookie-cutter program. You are given 30 elective hours to curate an additional module of your curriculum to ensure you get the education most relevant to your personal career goals. Choose from classes that range from wine to food writing to baking.
Volunteering is a great way to build your personal contacts your personal contacts and gives you a breadth of exposure to many culinary career paths. Since 10% of the jobs in San Francisco are food-related (more than any other city), you can be sure the School will usually have more volunteer opportunities available than you can handle.
Your final module is your externship where you extend your classroom learning by taking your skills into a professional kitchen. SFCS has secured externship placements with some of the top kitchens in the city, so the only thing left for you to do is shine!