FAQ | San Diego Culinary Institute
Frequently Asked Questions

How much does each diploma program cost?

The total cost for our Advanced Professional Diploma in Cuisine program is $23,491.80. This amount includes uniforms, a knife kit, a baking kit, textbooks, fees and applicable taxes — virtually everything you will need to attend the program.

The total cost for our Advanced Professional Diploma in Pastry program is $22,498.58. This amount includes uniforms, student supply kit, a baking kit, textbooks, fees and applicable taxes — virtually everything you will need to attend the program.

SDCI offers an array of loans and other programs to help you finance your education, including Federal Financial Aid, for those that qualify. You can be rest assured; we have helped students in your circumstances find financing for their education. Contact our Community Affairs Officer for more information on Financial Assistance programs, as always at 619.644.2100

Can I get financial assistance?

The San Diego Culinary Institute is proud to announce that it now accepts Federal Student Aid, for those those that qualify. To find out more about financial aid and to see if you qualify, please contact our Financial Aid Office. Additionally, SDCI works with several organizations and financial institutions to help you achieve your educational goals. You may qualify for tuition assistance, such as from the VA, the EDD, or other organizations. You also may qualify for one of an array of student loans through one of our lending partners.

SDCI sponsors an interest-free installment program, which can be arranged with the Admissions Department.

Whatever your circumstance may be, you should note SDCI has helped qualified students from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances to find a way to pay for their culinary education. We are committed to assisting those students that demonstrate seriousness and a passion for this business in any way possible.

In other words: convince us you are a future culinary star and we will do whatever we can to help you. Whatever your concerns about financing, the serious student should always contact us: don't give up before you call.

For more information, please call us at 619-644-2100 to schedule an appointment with one of our Admissions Advisors to discuss your financing options.

Do you accept grants?

If you have any doubts or questions concerning the terms of your grant, we urge you to contact the organization managing that grant to determine whether or not you can use it with our institution.

Do you accept career changers?

Yes, in fact we encourage them. Our student body typically consists of about 60% students that either worked in or studied a different career in college. Many of our students come from fields as diverse as engineering, marketing, and the military. We accept recent college graduates and students that have just graduated from high school.

The average age range of our student population is about 25-30, though our students have ranged in age from 17 to 60+.

How long does each diploma program take to complete?

Our Cuisine Program is available in a variety of class schedules to fit into your busy schedule. Classes are offered in one of the following schedules:

FULLTIME DAY CLASSES: Monday/Wednesday/Friday, 8AM - 5PM (approx. 8 month completion time)

PART-TIME DAY CLASSES: Tuesday/Thursday, 8AM - 5PM (approx. 11 month completion time)

EVENING CLASSES: Monday through Thursday, 6PM - 10PM (approx. 11 month completion time)

Our Pastry Program is only offered Mondays through Fridays, 7AM - 4PM and takes approximately 8 months to complete.

Please consult the class schedule for details. Some classes in your schedule may take place on a different day of the week than normally scheduled.

Do I have to go to culinary school to become a Chef?


Many successful and well known Chefs never went to culinary school -- Mario Batali, for instance -- but there are many clear advantages to going to culinary school if you choose your school wisely. First of all, many employers will only hire a Chef that has attended a good culinary school. You can check any of the many job-posting sites for examples. That is because it is difficult to learn "on the job" the wide body of knowledge you will study in culinary school. When you work in a kitchen, you only learn that restaurant's menu and only gain experience in that Chef's 'take' on that one cuisine.

A good culinary school will:

Introduce you to all the world's major cuisines
Teach you about food chemistry and how different foods react to heat, for instance, or acids.
Teach you about the business of the kitchen:
- how to cost a menu
- how to manage yields, and 
- how to turn a profit
Most importantly, a good school will give you contacts.
They will help you find your first job.
And they will help you with your career for many, many years into the future.

If you don't go to culinary school, in order to become a skilled and successful chef, you must follow a path something like:

Read. Cookbooks and everything else about the major world cuisines. Start with "Mastering the Art of French Cuisine."
Practice everything you read about. Especially knife skills.
Cook. Everything and all the time. Learn to make the classic stocks and sauces.
Find a very good Chef willing to teach you.
Work for free until you have some skills worth paying for.
Work for a year or so for maybe $8/hr.
Find another Chef working in another cuisine that's willing to teach you.
After another year or so, find another.
After a few years, you may have enough skills to start moving up the ladder.

If you are a self-starter and are very disciplined, it might be cheaper to skip culinary school. 

If you aren't, assuming you choose your school wisely, it will be cheaper to go to culinary school. If you work hard, a background with a good culinary school will help you to get a better job upon graduation and more opportunities for advancement.

What does it take to become a Chef?

Chef de Cuisine is a title, like General. Like the General of an army, one becomes a Chef when someone awards you with that title. To become a Chef, someone must trust you with a kitchen and a big piece of business.

A Chef must demonstrate more than just a talent for cooking. A Chef leads. And teaches. A Chef must manage — not just staff, but also product and finances. The Chef greets clientele. Assists with sales. The job description of a Chef encompasses a wide range of duties and anyone aspiring to this position benefits not only from a strong culinary education, but also from experience working for a top Chef.

Very few culinary school graduates are ready to lead a kitchen right out of school. At SDCI, we discourage our graduates from accepting Chef positions right out of school. You need experience to succeed as a Chef. And so far, our graduates are doing very very well. Because we always give them good advice.

Whatever your career aspirations, you can count on our Career Planning office to assist you in your search and to help you uncover opportunities you might not otherwise have discovered.

Do you offer placement assistance?

At SDCI, we offer more than 'placement assistance'; we offer Career Planning.

Of course we assist our students with placement but our Career Planning Services encompass a great deal more. As a part of your course of study with us, you will begin the process of career planning on your first day of class. You will learn about the different options available to you in the culinary industry and how to prepare yourself for your chosen corner of the field. Your course of studies will also cover interview skills and even salary negotiating strategies. You will also learn how to write a resume and prepare a portfolio that gets noticed — whether you are just beginning your career endeavors, you have years of experience working in food service, or you are a career changer. You will learn to display whatever experience you have to best advantage to the finest employers.

Once you complete your studies on our campus, we will place you in an externship with a top rank hotel, restaurant, resort, or catering company — in San Diego or throughout the country. Many of our students take full-time employment from their extern host.

You can also count on us to forward your resume directly to the finest employers. We work with every student — not just to secure employment — but to help them find work with fine dining employers committed to building their careers.

How large are your classes?

Your lab classes will never exceed a total of 16 students. We find that number to be optimal for our subject matter.

It means that you will always stand within an arm's length of your instructor at every cooking demonstration. It means that our student/teacher ratio describes a ratio of students to a team of instructors each with over 20 years of experience in some of the finest kitchens in the world — and we never substitute a less qualified 'teaching assistant' to augment our ratio.

Your kitchen/classroom will always be equipped with sufficient tools and cooking surfaces for every student — while you will typically work in teams of twos or threes, the classroom supports those occasions when every student works separately.

Do you accept foreign students?

We accept foreign students that meet all of the Bureau of Customs and Immigration Service's regulations. We gladly assist our foreign students with the preparation and processing of the necessary forms for you to obtain a visa for study in the United States — provided you meet SDCI's strict standards of admission.

How do I get accepted to the program?

The process for admission to San Diego Culinary Institute is stringent. We designed it to ensure that only the most committed students attend our programs — and thereby ensures that your classmates will be as committed to their studies as you are to yours.

As for the admissions criteria:

     • Demonstrate your passion for your culinary studies and your commitment to the business. 

     • Demonstrate your desire to complete the program.

We will learn these things about you by reading your resume, your letters of reference, and your mission statement — but most importantly, we will learn about you in your Chef Interview. This interview is your opportunity to tell us who you are and to express why you want to attend our institute. To read more about the enrollment process visit our How to Enroll page.