Known as a city within a park, Macon, with a population of about 100,000, is small, but with a healthy appetite for good food. When it comes to eating in Macon, you will find plenty of options no matter what type of food you crave, though inexpensive eats reign here. Farm to table food is big here, as is seafood, burgers and barbeque from locally owned places, and fast food chains. Yes, salaries are less in Macon, compared with other Georgia cities.
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200,000 people live and eat in the Augusta region, yet it’s not yet considered a culinary hotspot - yet. Though typical Southern fare is served here, the food truck scene is growing, slowly but steadily. You have institutions like Hildebrandt’s, which opened in 1879 and newer places cashing in on the locavore movement. The BLS suggests that first line food supervisors in the restaurant industry in Augusta can earn an average wage nearing $26,000 and with a 7% increase through 2024. Head cooks and chefs can pocket nearly $42,000, with a 7% growth rate.
With just 200,000 people in the Columbus metro region and over 500 restaurants, Columbus, even though it’s merely an hour and half drive south from Atlanta, is still not on everyone’s radar, but the food scene is picking up steam in part due to more opportunities than Atlanta offers, while still have a close proximity to it. The BLS suggests that bakers can earn an average wage nearing $26,000 and with a 7% increase in overall growth through 2024.
Atlanta is the food capital of Georgia, if not the entire American South, and its influence is extending. This is evidenced by Atlanta's surging culinary job market, which is pretty impressive for a city of half a million people. The Georgia Labor Market Explorer (GLME) projects above-average employment growth for a number of different food professionals, which is good news for students attending cooking and culinary schools in Georgia. Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and GLME project long-term employment growth.
Georgia stands on its own two feet against any southern food, and its current culinary awareness promotes an understanding of food that detours from well-established southern traditions. Sure, shrimp and grits is a classic Georgia dish but barbeque is equally as famous as well as Spanish tapas and nouvelle French food, soul food like collard greens and black-eyed peas and cornbread and biscuits. But to limit Georgia to these typical foods is to limit your own understanding of this state.
Just south of San Francisco, nearly a million people reside in San Jose, best known for Silicon Valley. Yes, San Jose is the stepchild of San Francisco, but that does not mean the region does not offer a vibrant culinary scene all its own. Before tech giants came along San Jose was an area brimming with orchards and fields; apricots, cherries, walnuts, prunes and peaches, and the region still holds agriculture close to its heart. The Silicon Valley has been a good thing for culinary students; needless to say corporate chefs are in demand.
The San Diego culinary scene is booming along with a surge in sommeliers to cover its 1.4 million residents. Culinary schools in San Diego, long known for fish tacos and Mexican fare, offer insight into an energetic food scene that combines the best of old world flavors with the latest dining trends and cuisines. Residents and tourists to San Diego and points north can choose from more than 4,000 establishments serving up everything from BBQ, to sushi to fusion cooking.
Outside of New York, San Francisco is the undisputed king of the culinary arts in America. Iconic eateries like Chez Panisse and The French Laundry have elevated the food scene to near mythic status. There is such a diversity of culinary influences that one cannot state what it typical – which is why food in the Bay Area is a pilgrimage for many. Of the dozen U.S. restaurants awarded a Michelin three-star in 2015, four are in the Bay Area, two in San Francisco.
Home of the state capital, this enclave of just 500,000 people often gets treated as a second class citizen when compared to San Francisco. Yet Sacramento holds its own with the Le Cordon Bleu School and several other accredited schools offering 10 different degree and certificate programs. Though Sacramento sees lower wages than Los Angeles or San Francisco, this city has a lot to offer culinary students; namely easier access for entry level jobs and better upward mobility for your culinary career.
LA has always marched to its own drumbeat. For whatever reason, Michelin starred restaurants no longer exist in LA as Michelin stopped raking them in 2009. Maybe that’s for the better, because what LA has always offered is an amalgam of ethnic diversity, fresh produce (California agriculture feeds most of the US), innovative food and experiences, and even a strong food truck segment. Add to that a stellar catering segment and private chef opportunities and you understand why getting work here can help launch a successful long-term career.