When one looks at some of the world’s most celebrated culinary artists, one finds that their passion for food began, more often than not, well before they had the chance to study the art formally.
From a young age, so many students know that they are drawn to the magic of food and the food industry. However, at the same time, many high schools won’t offer a robust selection of culinary arts classes.
And the school year, as every high schooler knows, can be a hectic time. The amount of time spent on mandatory coursework often diminishes a young culinary artist’s ability to practice their craft.
This is where a summer program can come in. During the summer, with much more time available to students, one can explore summer culinary arts education which can aid them in getting to the next level of their journey with food.
Through these programs, students will often have the right amount of time to fully immerse themselves in the culinary arts while also learning from professionals who train seasoned chefs.
Through summer programs, students can take courses designed for beginners to classes designed for experts, with all the time in the world to push one’s mastery to a level few high school students attain.
Because of all these reasons to attend a summer culinary program and more, students may be wondering where to look to supplement their culinary education with a summer program.
And because of this fact, this list will break down, in no particular order, 10 of the best summer culinary arts programs for high school students anywhere in the country.
Depending on a student’s individual needs, any one of these programs would be invaluable in aiding someone on their next step to becoming a master of their craft.
Summer Culinary (Multiple Locations)
The Summer Culinary program places 12 to 17-year-old students in professional kitchens with professional chefs. The program has three locations: one in New York City, one in Austin, and one in LA.
Although experience is desired, it is not required. The professionals at the program are more than used to teaching novice students, and as such, the only requirement is a love of food.
Sessions run from 1 to 2 weeks in length and include a curriculum covering the fundamentals of cooking (knife skills, kitchen safety, plating, etc.) and courses designed to inspire each student’s creativity.
Food photography, presentation, and health courses aid students in understanding the craft both technically and holistically.
The program brings professional chefs, food bloggers, and food photographers to work with students.
All of these exciting elements culminate in a TV-style competition, where students prepare their dishes for judges and competition winners are selected.
Camp CHOP (Clover, VA)
Camp CHOP in Virginia is a culinary arts camp for 10 to 17-year-old students that combines fundamental culinary instruction with summer camp activities that revolve around food.
Alongside classes that provide students a food handler certification or allow students to understand the chemistry of cooking, students also will participate in activities such as the Great Virginia Baking Show, Go Karting, Campfires, and more.
As such, this program combines all the fun of a traditional summer camp with the disciplined instruction of a 2-week culinary arts institute.
As a component of the larger American Campus Association, Camp CHOP works closely with the nearby Astrocamp program and Camp Motorsport, both of which are a part of the larger campus of which Camp CHOP is a part.
As such, Camp CHOP benefits from over 40 years of summer camp education it has inherited from its predecessors.
Home Cooking New York (New York City, NY)
Home Cooking New York City offers a summer camp for ten 15-year-old students in the heart of Lower Manhattan. This program focuses both on culinary exploration and classic home cooking hand-in-hand.
Within this 1-week program, students will be exposed to a wide array of culinary areas that are difficult to find formal instruction for in many comparable programs. Each day of the week is dedicated to a new culinary topic.
Class topics range from education regarding the culinary arts within specific nations—such as classes on Indian, Greek, or Korean cuisine—to classes on cheese making, comfort foods, and the art of brunch.
However, one thing is for sure: students will leave this program having experienced and explored food in ways they have never done previously.
Classic Thyme Cooking School (Westfield, NJ)
The Classic Thyme Cooking School has been in operation for 25 years, but in recent years has begun to offer a culinary arts summer camp exclusively for kids and teens.
This camp sits on a beautiful schoolyard garden within which Classic Thyme grows its own ingredients. As such, this summer program focuses on sharing what “farm to table” truly means with young culinary artists.
Alongside instruction on how to prepare all-natural ingredients for dining, campers will also receive education on how to grow their own ingredients. Planting, growing, weeding, watering, and harvesting are all subject matters discussed in the school’s curriculum.
The program runs throughout the summer—from the beginning of June to the last week of August for four days a week—allowing campers enough time to experience firsthand the fruits of their gardening labor by watching their garden grow.
Sur la Table Summer Series (Brownsburg, IN)
Sur la Table offers three different summer series designed for teenagers.
Classes run from June to August, and for each week of the summer, one of the 3 different week-long Sur la Table summer courses will be offered.
The first is its “Open Your Own Restaurant” series. This course focuses on instructing students on all the different core components of a restaurant menu—salads, soups, desserts, entrees, etc.—and culminates in students designing their own restaurant menus.
The second is the 5-day baking workshop. All things baking—making dough, the science of butter, different kinds of icing, etc.—are covered in this program.
The baking workshop culminates in students designing their own baking recipes from scratch.
Finally, their Academy of Cuisine program serves as an overview of all things culinary, with students making their own menu as a capstone project.
Stone Barns Summer Institute (Pocantico Hills, NY)
The Stone Barns Center combines the study of agriculture with the analysis of food to create both a flourishing farm and a world-class kitchen.
In 2017, Stone Barns announced the Summer Institute for teens. Here, students will receive an education focused on the core components of sustainable, farm-to-table culinary arts.
Students will receive culinary education, culminating in a chance to cook in one of Stone Barns’ partner restaurants, the Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
Along the way, students will learn how to grow ingredients sustainably and take courses regarding the importance of sustainable agriculture in the modern world.
As such, this program not only teaches students about the art of sustainable cooking but the importance of this practice for many social issues.
Students will learn about beekeeping, seed breeding, livestock farming, composting, and much more alongside their culinary education.
Walnut Hill College Summer Institute (Philadelphia, PA)
Walnut Hill College originally opened as the Restaurant School in 1974 and has provided high-quality culinary education.
Walnut Hill College offers two different summer programs for teens.
The largest of these is its two-week Summer Institute, which provides students the chance to personalize their study of all things food by selecting from coursework regarding the culinary arts, pastry arts, and management.
Walnut Hill specifies that students can tailor their coursework specifically for their interests instead of taking a general curriculum.
The second program offered here is a two-day program that explores the diversity of American cuisine, from New Orleans to New Jersey.
Along the way, Walnut Hill offers high school students the chance to participate in 2 different competitions exclusively for teens. One is its chocolate competition and the other is its culinary competition.
Winning this award is a substantial honor. The specific competition challenge will vary from year to year.
Yes Chef! Culinary Camp at Kendall College (Chicago, IL)
The Kendall College for Culinary Arts is one of the top 4 best culinary schools in the United States, according to Chef’s Pencil.
As such, the fact they offer a summer program for high school students that allows teens to take advantage of some of the most high-quality culinary education resources in the country is truly something special.
Yes Chef!—a one-week, overnight camp for high school students—includes foundational instruction in the culinary arts taught by the same highly-esteemed professors that teach Kendall’s undergraduate and professional students.
Kitchen terminology, knife skills, cooking methods, and more will be explored during the week of the camp.
Alongside classes in the kitchen, students will also take field trips to food destinations in Chicago and nearby agricultural sites.
Pali Adventures Culinary Camp (San Bernardino, CA)
The Pali Adventures Colunary Camp in Southern California is a wonderful culinary summer program for both first-time and experienced teen chefs.
This week-long program focuses on getting teens familiar with commercial equipment, expanding students’ culinary worlds, and inspiring creativity in the kitchen by exploring various flavors and techniques.
This program culminates in an “Iron Chef” style competition, in which students take all that they’ve learned and utilize it in the creation of a signature dish that expert professionals will judge.
For every camper, there are, on average, two camp staff members, meaning students will be adequately mentored during their learning journey.
As well, Pali summer camps have a particularly international student base, meaning that there is a high likelihood students will be exposed to various, international perspectives regarding food while at Pali.
The Culinary Institute of America Summer Academy (Hyde Park, NY)
The Culinary Institue of America is almost always ranked as the most prestigious and rigorous institute of culinary education in the United States.
Here, world-famous chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Anne Burrell, and dozens more culinary artists found their start. CIA alumni account for a whopping one-fifth of all Michelin Star restaurants in the world.
And their summer academy for high school students accepts those young chefs who demonstrate the skill necessary to join the ranks of the Culinary Institue of America’s world-changing alumni.
Like the CIA proper, the summer academy covers everything a young chef needs to know to make it in the world of culinary arts.
Whether it be the basics of culinary technique, exploring international dishes, learning about business and restaurant management, or diving into social issues and sustainable agriculture, this program has everything a young chef might need to begin a journey as an inspired culinary artist.