Working in the culinary arts field can provide the best of both worlds – professionals typically become culinarians because they love fun, they have fun cooking, and they enjoy sharing their creations with the public.
Who doesn’t want to get paid for doing what you love? That’s not to say that securing a position at a culinary arts school or a job at a successful restaurant is not competitive. It definitely is.
Chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, pastry makers, and restaurant managers are all in high demand, and the food service field is anticipated to grow by 10% from 2019 to 2029.
There are many access points into the culinary world. Some novices prefer to attend culinary school, while others hone their skills in restaurants immediately after graduating from high school.
There’s no right or wrong way into the kitchen, and luckily, there are plenty of organizations and donors who want to support emerging talent.
Reading ahead, we’ve compiled the top ten organizations offering culinary scholarships in the United States.
Our picks are not exclusive to any one college or institution; in fact, several of them are dedicated to awarding culinarians from all regions of the nation.
Other niche scholarships aim to support females, minorities, and those who have overcome certain hardships.
James Beard Foundation
The James Beard Foundation offers three types of financial awards based on need and/or merit: scholarships, tuition waivers, and work-study grants.
Higher learning institutions and grants fund tuition waivers are reserved for current culinary workers.
Each year, the James Beard Foundation Scholarship awards 12 scholarships – each totaling $20,000 – to students in 12 regions of the United States. Applicants submit two letters of recommendation and indicate the region in which they reside.
JBF offers additional culinary scholarship packages, including the Andrew Zimmern Second Chances Scholarship and the Caviar Chefs of Tomorrow Scholarship Fund.
For the Second Chances Scholarship, candidates pen a 250-word essay sharing the details of an extreme challenge that they have faced in their lives, then proceed to explain how the $10,000 scholarship could give them a “second chance” in overcoming their obstacles.
The JBF Caviar Chefs of Tomorrow Scholarship Fund awards up to two scholarships of $20,000 each to minority applicants who plan to study culinary or pastry arts at an accredited college or university in the United States.
The American Academy of Chefs (AAC)
The American Academy of Chefs (AAC) is dedicated to providing mentorship to budding culinary students and connecting them to scholarship funds.
They collaborate with the American Culinary Foundation to offer several annual scholarships, including the John Kacala Scholarship and the Ray & Gertrude Marshall Scholarship.
The AAC shares minimum eligibility requirements for all of their scholarships; most importantly, applicants should maintain an overall GPA of 2.75 or above, be currently accepted to a post-secondary institution, and plan on pursuing studies in culinary arts, pastry arts, or another food service-related major.
For the John Kacala Scholarship – named after John Kacala, who was a chef instructor at Johnson and Wales for twelve years – students should complete the application, submit two letters of recommendation, share an official transcript, and sign a photo release form.
The award ranges from $1,000 to $2,500 annually and is nonrenewable.
The Ray & Gertrude Marshall Scholarship also awards up to $2,500 each year and is nonrenewable.
Applicants complete the application, send a letter of recommendation, and provide a financial statement with official transcripts.
There are certain ways to gain an advantage in the competitive process of applying for AAC scholarships.
Students are more likely to earn a financial award if they maintain a high GPA, participate in culinary competitions, volunteer in culinary-related settings, and stay involved in the American Culinary Federation.
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) has awarded more than $23 million in culinary arts scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 each.
The application opens annually to undergraduate students on January 15 and closes on March 15. Applications are considered from April to May, and winners will receive scholarship award notifications in June.
As an expansive organization, the NRA manages over 30 scholarship funds that share minimum eligibility criteria.
Applicants must be accepted or enrolled either part- or full-time as undergraduate students at an accredited college or university.
Additionally, applicants should major in a culinary, food service, or hospitality-related program and plan to remain enrolled for a minimum of two consecutive terms. Those related to NRA/NRAEF employees or family members are unable to apply.
A popular scholarship housed within the NRAEF is Rachael Ray’s Yum-o! Scholarship, which awards $2,500 scholarships to budding culinarians.
Rachael Ray was recently honored for exceeding the $1 million threshold of support for NRAEF scholarships, and the most recent large donation of $50,000 will grant ten additional scholarships of $5,000 to students in the 2022-2023 year.
Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP)
The C-CAP nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping teens from historically underserved groups experience success in the culinary arena. They accomplish their goal by offering culinary/leadership experiences to more than 20,000 middle school and high school students living in seven regions of the U.S., including New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and several Navajo Reservation schools.
As the largest independent culinary program in the nation, C-CAP has awarded over $66 million in scholarships, and 95% of their students are hired for paid internships.
High school students are eligible to participate in their program offerings if they are enrolled in culinary classes at a C-CAP participating high school.
In addition to scholarships, C-CAP also hosts job trainings, apprenticeships and internships (paid and unpaid), college advisory sessions, career guidance, and cooking competitions.
Les Dames d’Escoffier
The only scholarship organization dedicated specifically to women in the culinary arts, Les Dames d’Escoffier supports beneficiaries through grants, scholarships, and mentoring relationships.
Over 2,400 female leaders steward the organization, which is made up of 43 international chapters.
Their most well-known scholarship is the Impactful Change Scholarship, which awards four $5,000 scholarships to women ages 21 and older seeking a culinary or pastry arts degree from an accredited institution.
Applicants are expected to demonstrate strong leadership skills, a passion for strengthening local communities, and a proven track record of commitment to social justice.
The $5,000 prize will be sent directly to the college or university where the winner is attending and used for tuition purposes, only.
To apply, candidates should maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA (on a 4.0 scale), submit a personal statement, provide two letters of recommendation, and share their most current academic transcript.
The NACUFS Foundation Clark E. DeHaven Scholarship
Clark E. DeHaven was the first executive director of the National Association of College & University Food Services, which currently manages his 30+ year old scholarship fund.
Since its inception, the scholarship has granted nearly $400,000 to almost 100 students. In the most recent year, NACUFS awarded four $4,000 scholarships to students at member institutions who are pursuing a career in various food service professions.
To apply for the scholarship, students should be enrolled full-time at an accredited NACUFS member institution and be in good academic standing with an overall GPA of 2.75 or above.
Only U.S. or Canadian citizens are eligible to apply, and they must be current sophomores, juniors, or seniors with at least one semester of school remaining until they graduate.
The Vegetarian Resource Group
Another unique scholarship opportunity is made available through the Vegetarian Resource Group, which awards $20,000 in scholarship funds on an annual basis to United States high school students promoting a vegetarian lifestyle in their schools and communities.
Three winners are selected overall – two receive $5,000 scholarships and a grand prize winner earns the $10,000 scholarship.
Only graduating high school seniors are eligible to apply to this competitive process (which receives over 250 applicants annually).
All applicants will pen a personal essay that can address a variety of topics, like what their “perfect life” might look like five years down the road, how or why they transitioned to a vegetarian lifestyle, and how they plan to promote vegetarianism in college.
Recent winners have gone so far as to complete plant-based projects in Cairo, Egypt, hold forums at national universities, study the intersectionality of sustainable consumption, construct gardens in food deserts, bring salad bars and increased vegan options to school cafeterias, and advocate for new food-based policies within the legislative branch.
The winners of the scholarships will see the funds deposited directly to the college or university they attend, as the funds are dedicated for tuition purposes only.
Overall, the ProStart organization is a career and technical education (CTE) program that seeks to teach culinary and hospitality management skills to high school students.
The ProStart Competition is a one-of-a-kind offering on this list – organized under the leadership of the National Restaurant Association – that offers scholarships specifically for competition participants and winners.
Each year, almost 400 high school students test their skills at the top high school culinary competition in the nation in front of leaders in the food service industry. There are two competing factions – management and culinary.
Hospitality management teams create a proposal for the most innovative restaurant concept and present it to a panel of judges. Next, they must use their industry skills to solve problems that restaurant managers face on a daily basis.
Culinary competitors, on the other hand, prepare a three-course meal in less than one hour’s time. Here’s the catch – they have no access to electricity or running water and can only use two butane-fueled burners!
Some of the scholarships available to participants include the Darden Scholars Award and the Coca-Cola Scholarship Fund. Winners are generally selected from a pool of eligible ProStart Invitational competitors.
The Darden Scholars Award grants a merit-based scholarship to students in 22 cities around the nation (such as Atlanta, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.) while the Coca-Cola Scholarship Fund awards $2,500 to a student pursuing an education in culinary arts or hospitality management.
In less than ten years, Food Dreams has helped over 60 students get started with their plans to either run restaurants of their own or work in some of the most acclaimed kitchens in the nation.
The Food Dreams Scholarship is meant for students who have graduated high school, demonstrated a financial need to attend a post-secondary institution, and are in good academic and behavioral standing.
It is suggested that they maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and be able to commit to at least one full year of employment with Jean-Georges restaurant properties.
Chef Jean-Georges owns and operates more than 40 restaurants across the nation and world. All scholarship beneficiaries will receive a placement at one of those locations, and typically rotate among different properties within the restaurant group.
Previous scholarship winners remark that the mentorship is an added bonus to the experience. Through working in the Jean-Georges kitchens, Food Dreams scholarship winners receive access to industry professionals and top-notch equipment.
The American Association of Candy Technologists
Who likes candy?! The American Association of Candy Technologists is looking for the next candy innovator!
The AACT is a national and regional community of professionals who share a passion for the science behind making candy.
Their John Kitt Memorial Scholarship totals $5,000 and is awarded to a college sophomore, junior, or senior with a strong interest in confectionery technology.
The most recent recipient of the scholarship is now entering her senior year in college. She has served as a peer mentor, member of the Food Science Club, and chocolatier at a local chocolate shop.
Additionally, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy, France, and Switzerland for pastry-related work experiences.
Applicants must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA or above on a 4.0 scale and attend a four-year accredited post-secondary institution in North America where they major in food science, chemical science, or biological science.