The SFCS Culinary Arts Experience
Your time here has been thoughtfully designed to maximize the investment of your money and time. It begins with our contemporary curriculum, which has been created to provide a relevant culinary education (no, you won’t learn ice sculpting, sorry). You learn elements of the classic French canon, but through an eclectic and evolving lens, consistent with what’s happening across the globe right now.
Choose Your Concentration
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.
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 and 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.
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 will confirm your concentration. We will make sure you are well informed in order to make this decision as it will help guide your externship placement.
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.
You will select an area of concentration based on your career goals and your externship placement will be designed to help you down that path. For many students that concentration will be a restaurant or bakery, but we understand that isn’t for everyone. We also support our students concentrating on an area of Food Media or diving into a Food Entrepreneurship project.
Before your time in the classroom ends, you will decide what your 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, cookbook writing, food styling, or food entrepreneurship. No matter what you choose you will be matched with mentors, the top in the business, to help you take what you’ve learned in the SFCS kitchen and translate these skills into 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 more about the concentrations offered.
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 and help move you forward professionally.
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
August 2020 Full-Time Session
January 2021 Full-Time Session
January 2021 Part-Time Session
May 2021 Full-Time Session
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If you're looking to take short-term classes for fun visit
our Cooking Classes page.
"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