Over 700 Hours of Hands-On Learning
Hands-on learning is the best way for you to develop culinary intuition. Through the program, you will gain:
• An intuitive sense of taste and seasoning,
• A working knowledge of ingredients,
• Professional work habits that are second to none.
The vast majority of your 730 hours will take place in a kitchen. Intuition comes from repetition and you don’t get hands-on learning sitting in the lecture halls and demonstration classrooms found at most schools. At SFCS the kitchen is your classroom everyday where you’ll cook and taste your way through the Program.
SFCS is not a cookie-cutter program. Whether you’re interested in a restaurant career or an alternate food-career path such as food media, catering, private chef, or food entrepreneurship, you’ll find that we’ve designed our program to strike an important balance between preparing you for success in the kitchen and exposing you to many different facets and career opportunities available in the world of food today.
Director of Culinary Arts,
Full-Time Program Instructor
Kirsten has been an instructor at San Francisco Cooking School since it opened, and has a depth of food knowledge which can only be described as fascinating. From working at Mario Batali’s famous Babbo in New York to restaurant kitchens in Europe and Southeast Asia, Kirsten runs her classroom with unbridled passion and a contagious curiosity.
Part-Time Program Instructor
Marc graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, then was so impressed with the food on a visit to San Francisco that he decided to make it his home. He worked in the kitchens of Zuni Café, Quince and Pizzaiolo, then became head chef of Boot and Shoe Service in 2011, a position he held until 2017 when he joined SFCS full time as a chef instructor.
Catherine Pantsios is the founding director of the culinary arts program at San Francisco Cooking School. A 30 year veteran of the industry, Catherine was instrumental in pushing forward the farm to table movement in northern California. While Catherine retired from our teaching kitchen at the end of 2017, she remains involved in ongoing curriculum development and makes regular appearances as a valued guest instructor.
The SFCS Culinary Arts Experience
Every moment of your culinary school experience at SFCS has been thoughtfully designed to maximize the investment of your money and time. It begins with our contemporary curriculum which has been tooled to provide a relevant culinary education (no, you won’t learn ice sculpting, sorry). You will learn elements of the classic French canon, but through an eclectic and evolving lens relevant to what’s happening in restaurants and bakeries right now across the globe.
Our academic curriculum, however, is only a portion of your culinary school experience. You will routinely network with top local chefs and food talents through in-class workshops and field trips. You will choose elective courses to supplement your training in areas that interest you. You will execute your own restaurant service top to bottom. And you will be thrown into the fire of a restaurant kitchen during your externship.
Our curriculum is contemporary, relevant and designed to build an intuitive sense for cooking that will prepare you for the challenge of cooking professionally.
In these first modules of your program you will be building basic culinary foundations as well as knowledge of key ingredients and learning how to taste. 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 will 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 into play with butchery and new cooking methods. You will build integrated dishes, influenced by the ingredients and flavors you’ve become 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 habitual during this unit.
Extending Your Learning
With all the basic cooking methods and ingredients covered, you’re now ready to explore more 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.
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.
As part of your culinary school experience at SFCS you can look forward to 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.
Field trips take you out of the classroom to get you up close and personal with some of the most notable members of the Bay Area food community. Whether it’s an early morning with the fishmongers at Monterey Fish, foraging Point Reyes with Hank Shaw, or experiencing the line while cooking at Pizzeria Delfina, these hands-on experiences will extend your learning outside the kitchen and into the classroom that is San Francisco, and beyond.
In-Class Workshops by Guest Instructors
Supplementing your outstanding chef instructors are hands-on workshops with a variety of local guest chefs. Focusing on a specific ethnic cuisine or working with you to build a menu based on dishes from their restaurants, guest instructors will introduce you to new techniques and ingredients while also sharing stories about their own careers. They all leave you with their email addresses so when you find chefs who you really connect with, you can keep the dialogue going outside the classroom. Recent guest instructors include Stuart Brioza (State Bird Provisions), Taylor Boetticher (Fatted Calf) and Laurence Jossel (Nopa).
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. As you choose from classes that range from wine to food writing to baking, you will encounter domain experts and diversify your exposure to working food professionals. Interested in teaching cooking one day? You can also use your electives to be a Teaching Assistant in our recreational program. Working side by side with some of the best cooking teachers and chefs in the area, you’ll gain experience as a teacher while networking with even more local talent.
There is no shortage of notable food-driven events and activities to be part of in San Francisco. Top local, national, and international talent participates in these events and San Francisco Cooking School is their go-to spot for finding quality volunteers to help them out. We know you’re busy so all opportunities that come into the school are vetted to make sure these are top shelf opportunities and not just requests for “slave labor”. Individually, these opportunities range from food events to award shows to demonstrations and press events. Collectively, these opportunities extend your learning outside the classroom, and give you an extremely broad exposure to food careers that only culinary epicenter like San Francisco can provide.
As a culinary student there’s no better place to broaden your exposure, make great connections, and plant the seeds of your new food career than San Francisco.
The last unit after your final exam is Restaurant Week. This week will really let you prove to yourself how far you’ve come in the kitchen. It’s the true test of whether you possess the skills and work habits to be successful in a commercial kitchen and, therefore, is the ideal bridge between your time in the classroom and your externship. After working with your classmates to design a menu, you will launch into recipe testing until your dishes are restaurant quality. With your friends, family, and some industry notables as your customers you will transform the school into a working restaurant while you execute two days of polished, delicious food service.
Watch this video to get a sense of what you can expect during Restaurant Week.
SFCS will place you in a meaningful externship that maps to your personal career goals. Be it a restaurant, bakery, or even a test kitchen, this part of your program will give you practical experience in the industry that will round out your education.
Before your time in the classroom ends, you will decide what your externship concentration will be. You can focus on the restaurant or bakery path, spending your externship in a top Bay Area kitchen. You also have the opportunity to choose another path in the world of food, such as recipe development. No matter where you go, you will be placed in a well-managed environment where you will take the core skills and professional work habits you have learned in the SFCS kitchen and apply them in the real world.
This aspect of your education is something we take very seriously, and prior to your externship starting, we will make sure you get an opportunity to learn a bit more about the concentration you select, via in-class speakers, field trips, and other core classes.
Our externship is very unique because we work closely with each partner to make sure that your experience is designed to expose you to many aspects of the field you choose.
While SFCS will ultimately decide where to place you for your externship, the placement will be driven by your individual career interests and goals as well as your performance in the classroom.
The following are some examples of recent SFCS externship partners:
State Bird Provisions
Liholiho Yacht Club
May 2019 Full-Time Session
August 2019 Full-Time Session
January 2020 Full-Time Session
January 2020 Part-Time Session
Now Accepting Applications
Enrollment is Open for Full-Time and Part-Time Certificate Programs.
Fill out the form to request admissions information.
"Our SFCS Extern has no difficulty keeping up with the pace of the kitchen. She is calm, organizes herself, works diligently, and already possesses a confidence that generally develops after years of working."
Robert Vallejos Chef de Cruisine, Spruce