Guide to Culinary School Scholarships in 2020

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 9/09/20

Culinary skills are a science and an art, and cooking is considered an invaluable skill. If you are planning to pursue a culinary degree, you should consider all your financing options on your path to being a part of this exciting industry. 

While a plethora of options exists, sifting through them can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you explore the top culinary school scholarships in 2020 and find the best fit for you. 

Refresher on Financial Aid Options

First, it is important to remember that financial aid is available to anyone who wishes to attend a higher education institution. To see what type of financial aid you qualify for, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most federal financial aid is based on financial need. 

The primary types of financial aid are:

  • Grants: Need-based funding that does not have to be repaid
  • Scholarships: Funding based on alternative qualifications, such as academics or skill
  • Work-study: A program that provides a federally funded part-time job, allowing students to earn money while attending school
  • Federal student loans: A variety of federally funded loans with different repayment options
  • Private student loans: A variety of student loans from private lenders based on creditworthiness

Federal or state scholarship programs typically require you to complete the FAFSA first to capitalize on any need-based funding. Even if you do not qualify for need-based financial awards determined by the FAFSA, though, other types of funding might be available based on achievement or merit.

Generally speaking, it is always best to explore grants and scholarships before taking out student loans. 

How to Apply for Culinary School Scholarships in 2020

Scholarships are gifts funded by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations. Merit-based awards can be based on academic achievement, special talents, particular interests, demographics, or background. Having an interest in a culinary degree opens up the possibility of numerous scholarships. 

Here are the steps to apply for scholarships that can help fund your culinary degree.

  1. Complete the FAFSA. Like most types of financial aid for higher education, your first step is to complete the FAFSA. This application will help you understand how much money you will need to attend and may include options like grants, need-based scholarships, and federal student loans. 
  1. Identify the scholarships and/or grants that you wish to apply for and ensure the requirements are a great fit. Some can be based on financial need, academic merit, or demographics like region or race. Even if you seek to apply for performance-based scholarships, the FAFSA is still your first step, as it will guide you through your need-based aid options first.
  1. Make a plan for getting the requirements completed. Many scholarships will require essays and letters of recommendation. Determine what the requirements are for each scholarship you wish to apply for and begin working on these immediately since they can take the most time to complete. 
  1. Submit applications with supporting documents on time. This may sound like a no-brainer, but turning in applications late can disqualify you from getting scholarships at all. Keep in mind that for some scholarships, there are hundreds of applicants and only a few awards, so submitting your application in a timely fashion is crucial to maximize your chances.
  1. Confirm that your application was received. If you submit all items online, you should receive some type of confirmation page or email confirmation. If you were required to mail documents, you might want to call and follow up with the organization to ensure it was received. 

Scholarships From Culinary Organizations

Some culinary organizations have set aside millions of dollars in funding to support future culinary arts connoisseurs. Here are just a few:

James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program

The James Beard Foundation has awarded nearly $8 million in financial aid to over 2,000 students. The average scholarship award amount is $20,000 and not renewable annually. 

However, you can reapply each year if you meet the requirements. The scholarship program is open to undergraduates as long as you plan to study at a licensed or accredited culinary school in the upcoming year. 

AIWF Scholarship Program

The American Institute of Wine and Food awards various scholarship amounts to full-time students attending accredited schools through the organization’s local chapters. Check the chapters in your area to find out what scholarships are available. 

National Association of College and University Food Services’ Clark E. DeHaven Scholarship

This merit-based scholarship is funded by the Clark E. DeHaven Scholarship Trust established in 1990, honoring the first executive director of NACUFS. The awards go to those dedicated to a food service career and students who wish to attend institutions that are part of their organization. Since 1992, 89 students have received scholarships totaling $361,500.

Cooking Competition Scholarships 

If you consider yourself an amateur chef, have a natural knack for cooking, or have already taken courses in culinary education, you might be a great candidate for a cooking competition scholarship. Prove your skill firsthand and receive the opportunity to advance your cooking skills further while gaining the credentials to back them. 

C-Cap Careers Through Culinary Arts Program 

This unique approach to financial aid is done through a cooking competition. The winner is awarded a full-tuition scholarship at a top school. While the cost will vary, the average award is approximately $36,000. Scholarships are renewable for up to four years, as long as the student maintains at least a 2.75 GPA. 

C-CAP runs the largest scholarship program for students to get a culinary education. Currently, it is open to students younger than 21 who wish to study culinary arts (or hospitality management), and students must reside in the following states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

Art Institute’s Best Teen Chef Competition

With award amounts up to $30,000, high school students aspiring to be chefs can apply for this scholarship by submitting a two-course menu with detailed recipes.

A minimum 2.0 GPA is required, along with essays as to why you want to be a culinary professional and who inspires you. 

Demographic-Based Scholarships

Some scholarships are awarded to groups based on demographics. For example, there are scholarships for women only, and those awarded only to minorities. 

Sweeney Family Scholarship

The Sweeney Family Scholarship provides financial assistance to students with disabilities. The award amount varies and is provided annually to help individuals with disabilities enrich their lives through education and training in the food service industry.

LDEI Scholarship

Individual chapters of Les Dames d’Escoffier International award this scholarship to women who meet the criteria and apply to their local chapter. The annual award amount varies from chapter to chapter and is reserved for women pursuing careers in the culinary industry. 

Women Chefs & Restaurateurs’ Scholarship & Internship Program

Another female-specific scholarship is awarded by Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. This organization has partnered with a variety of culinary organizations to provide a wide range of scholarships. The specifics and award amounts vary annually.

Scholarship With Award Amounts Under $5,000

While the larger award amounts may look more appealing, applying for some smaller scholarships could help cover college expenses. These scholarships are all under $5,000, and in some cases, this means award money is distributed to more individuals.

Hungry to Lead Scholarship

High school seniors and currently enrolled students pursuing a degree in a food service or hospitality program can apply for this scholarship. This scholarship is sponsored by Amana Commercial and Professional Reps, who provide professional service and expertise in the commercial food service industry. This scholarship is designed to provide financial support to future leaders in the industry. Three annual scholarships are awarded: two for $2,500 and another for $500.

AAC Culinary Scholarships

The American Culinary Federation Education Foundation has partnered with the American Academy of Chefs to offer semi-annual scholarships to those pursuing a culinary education. Award amounts range from $1,500 to $2,500 and include an apprenticeship program, certificate program, and postsecondary degree program.

Niche Culinary Scholarships

Any high school or college student who wishes to pursue a culinary degree can apply for a $500 award from Niche. It can be used for tuition, supplies, or other education-related expenses. 

Take the Next Step

If you are planning to take your culinary skills to the next level through a culinary degree program, make sure you have explored all of your financial resources. 

For more information on smart college financial planning, explore our resources at We provide helpful tips and guidance to ensure you get the most out of your college education and make informed decisions to minimize borrowing costs.