The West Coast's variety of regional cuisines, flavors and attitudes can give local culinary students an advantage in the restaurant industry. For example, a daily abundance of fresh Pacific seafood is always available. Also, menu planning is easier, since year-round vegetable farming in most areas ensures the freshest choices. Finally, the health-conscious attitudes of this diverse population means that chefs who learn to cook healthy, fresh cuisine are highly in demand.

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

Located in the premiere wine making region of the Napa Valley, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone teaches students master chef techniques as well as business skills. The school offers two different 21-month Associate in Occupational Studies (A.O.S.) degrees; one in the culinary arts and another in baking and pastry. Students learn hands-on skills in cooking techniques, world cuisine and menu development. The CIA also offers a Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) in Culinary Arts Management and a BPS in Baking and Pastry Arts Management. Students of any program must also serve in an 18-month paid externship program in the U.S., Spain or Italy in order to graduate.

As a 60-year old institution, the Culinary Institute of America has strong ties with the restaurant industry, and graduates are at a distinct advantage over others when it comes to finding a job as a chef. Over 90 percent of students receive financial aid through loans, grants and work study programs.

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone 2555 Main St. St. Helena, CA 94574 800-CULINARY ciachef.edu/california/

Epicurean School of Culinary Arts

Aspiring chefs in Southern California can receive training at one of two locations of the Epicurean School of Culinary Arts. This 21-year-old training center offers classes at its main campus in Los Angeles and as a satellite program in Orange County. In as few as 24 weeks, students can learn classic French cooking techniques that will enable them to successfully start a new career in the food service industry. The program was founded by graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, and it's a shorter version of this highly respected institution's program.

Day, night and weekend classes are offered to suit the needs of full-time and part-time students. These classes are also offered for those who want to hone their cooking skills for recreational purposes only. All students have individual workstations with professional-grade appliances, and they receive immediate hands-on training from the first day. Numerous workshops, classes and special events are offered throughout the year for students and the general public.

Epicurean School of Culinary Arts (West Hollywood) 8500 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90069 310-659-5990

Epicurean School of Culinary Arts (Orange County) 270 S. Clementine St. Anaheim, CA 92805 310-659-5990 epicureanschool.com/Epicurean_School/Contact.html

Oregon Culinary Institute

In the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon Culinary Institute provides aspiring professional and recreational chefs with programs in culinary arts, baking and pastry, and restaurant management. Students aspiring to the Culinary Management Associate of Applied Science degree will learn everything from basic skills--such as sanitation, product identification, menu creation and wine studies--to advanced level schooling in spices, sauce creation and world cuisine. General education courses in human resources and restaurant management are also part of the curriculum. All students will work at the on-site campus restaurant for one month and serve in a paid externship at a school-approved restaurant before graduation.

Oregon Culinary Institute 1717 SW Madison St. Portland, OR 97205 oregonculinaryinstitute.com 503.961.6200