The SDCI Difference

The Commis Method™ prepares you to become a Chef.

It's more than just a way to teach cooking. It's how you learn to become a Chef. You study:

  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Leadership

The skills you need to lead a kitchen and become a Chef.

Culinary students learn these skills best in the kitchen, with food products and cooking tools at hand. So, over 80% of our Commis program takes place in the Kitchen Classroom. We introduce you to these topics in the lecture hall and then you practice them in the kitchen — the place you'll deal with things on the job.

As a result, you retain more. You step into your new job better prepared. That's why so many SDCI grads are working in the business and running their own kitchens right now.

Learn Techniques,
Not recipes

You can learn recipes from a cookbook; you go to culinary school to study technique.

At SDCI you'll learn the techniques you need to cook with the world's finest restaurants. You learn the "how" and also the "why" recipes work so that you avoid pitfalls — and how to fix them when they happen. That's why so many SDCI grads find work in the world's top restaurants.

Flavor Theory
Understanding how food creates the experience of Flavor

Most culinary programs include a course on 'palette development' or something similar. At SDCI, we go much deeper. We prepare you with some of the knowledge that the world's best chefs develop over the course of thirty years in the kitchen.

You learn how flavor works. Not just 'how' to make a dish taste good, but and understanding of the 'why' of taste. How to add dimension and structure to the flavors in your dishes, how fats and acids interact with the diner's taste buds and other sensory organs to create the sensations that make the culinary press rave about the world's most renown dishes.

Your first class in the kitchen introduces you to a new world of flavor – and once you enter, you will begin to experience food in an entirely new way. Every class you take after that point refers back to and builds upon what you learn in this class.

Practical Skills
The Commis Method is hands-on. You practice every skill: again, and again, until you attain the level of mastery you need to work in any of the world's best kitchens

80% of your program takes place in the kitchen, where you will learn each new skill and build your talent like individual bricks in a house. Before we throw you in to cook complicated and challenging recipes, we introduce you to each individual skill you need to execute: braising, grilling, sauté – and many more from a list of the hundreds of skills you will master before you graduate. You learn how to properly season your dishes and why, for instance, no two pieces of salmon will ever be alike and will always require slightly different seasoning to compensate.

As you study not only cooking techniques but also new skills in business, marketing, personnel management, and more, you will learn to integrate your cooking with the demands of commerce. This new set of business skills define the difference between between you becoming a talented cook or a successful Executive Chef, in charge of your own crew.

The kitchen will become your second home – and for those truly destined for greatness in this career, it may become the place you prefer to be.

Culinary Business and Professionalism
The skills that define the successful Executive Chef as opposed to the talented cook

Before you set foot in the kitchen, you will study Introductory Business, Culinary Professionalism, and Safety and Sanitation. Your career success will depend upon your ability to integrate these professional concerns into your work. You will learn not just to cook, but to cook profitably. You will learn the classic and the current organization of the professional kitchen so that you understand your role there on your first day on the job as a Commis and later when you take over the reins as the Chef of your own kitchen.

SDCI is more than just a cooking school. We are a chef school and these are the management skills every chef must master to run a successful kitchen. These skills will set you apart in the kitchen and make you more valuable to your employers. These are also the skills that enabled so many of the SDCI graduates before you to quickly move up the ladder from a position cooking on the line, to management and ultimately to the top job as chef.

Unparalleled Student Success

SDCI's unique, proven approach has resulted in unprecedented graduate success stories unmatched by any other school in the country* in:

  • Career Placements
  • Awards and Recognition
  • Career Achievements

If you have the drive and the passion to work with the world's best chefs, SDCI's proprietary Commis Method could prepare you with the skills you need and our network of contacts can help to get you in the door.

*SDCI graduates work now or have recently worked at Noma, Per Se, Alinea, Coi and many other top ranked restaurants, which include several of the world’s highest ranked restaurants, the top restaurant in Europe and the top two restaurants in the US — each of which has a top-ranked chef at its helm. You can find rankings at:

Superior Career Placements
Graduates that begin their careers working for the very best...

The best and the brightest working chefs scour the world for the best culinary talent they can find. Aspiring chefs camp out on the doorsteps of these top chefs, just for the chance to work in their kitchens.

Competition to work for a top chef is fierce because a place in their kitchens can be the spring board for an incredible culinary career. These top chefs:

  • Thomas Keller
    (owner Exec Chef of Per Se, The French Laundry — 2 of only 11 US restaurants that hold 3 Michelin stars)
  • Gordon Ramsay
    (holds more Michelin stars than nearly any chef)
  • Grant Achatz
    (owner Exec Chef Alinea, Next — one of America's top ranked chefs)
  • David Kinch
    (owner Exec Chef Manresa — holder of 2 rare Michelin stars)
  • Daniel Patterson
    (owner Exec Chef Coi — also a holder of 2 Michelin stars)

...all apprenticed in the kitchens of the best chefs in the business. And the next wave of culinary superstars now works in these chefs' kitchens, developing their own talents, to one day go out and make their own way with their own kitchens.

In addition to being among the finest chefs working in the world today, what do these chefs all have in common? Graduates of the SDCI have recently begun work in their kitchens.

SDCI is About Quality, Not Quantity
...and our high placement rates are no accident

We graduate fewer than 180 students per year from our diploma programs. That makes us quite a bit smaller than other well-known culinary schools. We work hard to ensure that those that enroll at SDCI come to us with a drive and a seriousness of purpose and we only issue a diploma to those students that meet every one of our stringent list of graduation requirements.

Because we focus our attention on fewer students working in smaller class sizes, as a group our graduates perform better in the industry. Between 80% and 90% of our graduates find work in the culinary field (ask your Admissions Advisor for the latest statistics). Those rates rank among the highest in the culinary education field and seem all the more impressive when one considers the quality of those placements.

Some of the world's greatest chefs recruit our graduates because they recognize the quality of an SDCI education and because those graduates prove themselves so capable in the kitchen. Earning an extraordinary job in a top kitchen, well...that's up to you and your hard work. We cannot promise any student a job.

We can promise you this: we have a history of placing several of our students in extraordinary jobs. And the diligent hard work of those graduates before you has opened up opportunities for SDCI graduates to come. Few other schools can offer you the same.

Our next star graduate — it could be you.

Pioneers in the Culinary Industry
Our Alumni are making their own mark on the local - and international - restaurant scene

Our alumni don’t just work for some of the best chefs: they’re becoming them. SDCI alumnus and Top Chef Contestant, Rich Sweeney, was recently voted as the runner-up for best chef of San Diego in 2011. At his restaurant, R Gang Eatery, itself voted runner-up for best new restaurant in 2011, Chef Sweeny employs several SDCI grads, including his sous chef.

Other well-regarded SDCI alumns include:

  • Todd Camburn, Executive Chef of Barrio Star
  • Chris O'Donnell, Executive Chef of La Villa
  • Lhasa Landry, Executive Chef of The Lion's Share
  • Guillermo Barreto, Executive Chef of El Sarmiento (Ensanada)

In addition to the restaurant Chefs named above, several entrepreneurial graduates have opened other types of successful culinary businesses, including catering companies, culinary products companies, and personal chef businesses. Among them:

  • Jennie Parker, Pop Culture Desserts
  • Andrea Scala, Andrea at Your Table
  • Tom Howell, Evergreen Cuisine Catering

This is just a small sample of our alumni who have gone on to become Executive Chef or start their own culinary business. Ask an Admissions Advisor for a more complete list of alumni success stories.

More Experienced Instructors
No top-tier school sets a higher minimum standard for experience among Chef Instructors

SDCI's Chef Instructors have cooked for royalty and heads of state. They have run kitchens in Geneva, London, Tokyo, Bahrain, Sao Paolo, New York, San Francisco, and of course San Diego. They have published books, appeared on network television, and most of all they have met the incredibly high standards of one of the world's most exacting culinary schools.

These chefs will be your mentors in the kitchen.

At the SDCI, our Chef Instructors:

  • bring a minimum of 5 and an average of 10 years as an Executive Chef
  • have an average of over 25 years total culinary experience
  • all possess the Certified Executive Chef designation
  • all participate in on-going continuing education
  • most possess the Certified Chef Educator designation

With the range of experience they bring to your classroom, you will learn not only how to excel as a cook, but also glean the acumen to excel in the business of being a chef.

Develop Your Craft Side-by-Side with Top Chef Instructors

Many schools boast attractive ratios of Students to Instructors, but a low ratio may not be the measure most important to your search for the best culinary school.

Unlike other schools, SDCI never uses classroom assistants or associate instructors to improve the student/teacher ratio. You work side-by-side with a senior instructor in classroom designed to promote instructor-student interaction. Your instructors demonstrate each new technique virtually at your elbow and work with you in the classroom as you perform your own production.

Every Student Prepares Food Every Day in the Lab

At SDCI, you never have to sit and watch your classmates do the cooking. You never have to compete for equipment or time at the stove. You perform every required skill and practice each of them repeatedly over the course of your studies.

Your Chef is More Than Just Your Instructor

In addition to educating you, the Chef Instructors work with you directly on your career development. Your job search begins in the classroom. Part of your course work involves preparing and developing your resume and your portfolio of cooking accomplishments to show to hiring chefs.

Your coursework also includes job search and interview skills. Counseling on how to establish and develop your career. And our Chef Instructors will work with you directly on your job search: not only for your first job, but also your second and third and…

In addition to assisting our students and graduates with placement, our chefs also advise those students working on starting their own business, opening a new kitchen — and whatever career step you might be taking.

A Solid Culinary Education Requires a Well-Equipped Kitchen

Our Kitchen Classrooms are uniquely designed to provide the best learning environment for our students. Every classroom includes work space for every student, including burners, pots, pans, large utensils, and (for the patisserie students) a full sized cutting block.

Each student has their own work-station with a full-sized cutting block, induction burner, and plenty of open space for their utensils and cooking materials. Everything from your knives to the pots and pans are very high quality and very similar to the materials you'll be using once you start working in some of the finest kitchens in the world.

Small Classes and Student/Instructor Ratio
More personalized, one-on-one attention from your Instructor

We limit class-sizes to no more than 16 students in the Kitchen Classroom and average around 12 per class. Smaller classes means you work more directly with your highly qualified Chef Instructor — and we never use Chef’s Assistants or other, less qualified kitchen helpers to improve our student/instructor ratio like other schools do.

While we agree: it's nice to have a low student/teacher ratio, we believe that it's important to go further and offer our students smaller classes.

Please note: certain lecture classes will be larger than 16 students. These will include the Introductory Lecture course series and the Entrepreneurship course. These courses represent less than 20% of your program and you will never have more than 16 student in a Kitchen Classroom. Please ask your Admissions Advisor for more details.

Induction Burners

Our classrooms feature hi-tech Induction Burners, rather than the gas burners found in many culinary schools.

We chose to equip our Kitchen Classrooms with induction burners because it teaches our students to watch their food cooking in the pan, rather than develop the bad habit of watching the size of the flame beneath it.

Induction burners also allow us to provide a cooking area for every student in the classroom. While SDCI students often work in teams of two or three students in the kitchen, the option of having all students work independently is one that few other cooking schools can offer.

The last — and perhaps most important advantage — offered by induction burners: by using them, we aren’t required to work with the large overhead blowers necessitated by gas burners. Without those loud overhead blowers, you’ll be able to hear your Chef Instructor’s instructions and coaching while you work. This is a huge advantage in the classroom environment.

SDCI is One of the Most Affordable, Top-Tier Culinary Schools

Culinary education is expensive. Your success in this career will require that you invest more than just the cost of tuition in your education. You must also invest your time and your passion. You must commit yourself to the work.

While we offer everything you will need to launch your culinary career, the value of what we offer depends on you. We can't do the work for you.

Tuition and Fees at SDCI are currently as follows:

Advanced Professional Diploma in Cuisine: $23,612

Advanced Professional Diploma in Pastry: $22,609

Tuition As Little As 1/3rd the Cost of Other Schools

As a school of the culinary arts, we focus exclusively on the courses you need to one day become a chef. By offering a diploma, we keep the cost of your tuition down because we don’t have offer General Ed courses in subjects such as History or Economics — and we recognize that no culinary school can possibly teach those topics well.

Our innovative kitchen design also helps us to maximize your lab time while minimizing our costs of providing you with a quality education.

Most of all, we operate efficiently and honestly to ensure you that you get the best education money can buy. Some prospective students wonder, "how can SDCI offer a comparable education for 1/3 the cost?" At the end of the day, the only meaningful answer to that question can be found in the satisfaction of our current students and the success of our graduates. We invite you to investigate both.