So you're vegan and have this passionate love of food. You would like to pursue this passion further, but you're not sure what the vegan cooking school options are out there. Happily, there are plenty! There are quite a few schools that focus on plant-based meals, and many that are not exclusively vegan can be geared toward you, so you will not find yourself chopping chickens and preparing fish if you're not into that.
There are many casual plant-based cooking classes around the world if you're looking for something just for fun without any fancy certification. In this article, though, I focus more on professional programs that have varying degrees of intensity. Some require only a little time and money if you do not want to be a professional chef; others will take you the full distance to running your own kitchen.
Without further ado and in no particular order, here's a list of some popular schools around the world, with some information about each.
Living Light Culinary Arts Institute
Where is it? Fort Bragg, California
What do they offer? 100% vegan and raw food instruction
When do the programs run? Multiple times a year, depending on the program
The Living Light Culinary Arts Institute is located in a small coastal community on the Mendocino coast. If you love the ocean, temperate weather, and raw vegan cuisine, you'll love this school. Run by Cherie Soria, the “mother of raw food”, this is the raw foods institute. This is the one that draws people in from all around the world and produces top-of-the-line celebrity chefs of all kinds.
There are several types of courses, including a Gourmet Chef Certification Series (6 weeks), Advanced Instructor Training Certification Series (4 weeks), Raw Food Nutrition Educator Series, and the full-out Professional Chef Series, which runs almost an entire year, including a 250-day internship at the school.
Many of the well-known raw food chefs around the world went to Living Light for their training, including Chad Sarno and Jennifer Cornbleet.
The Natural Gourmet Institute
Where is it? New York, NY
What do they offer? Public classes and professional chef training that are plant-based and vegan-friendly
When do the programs run? Inquire by e-mail on their website
The Chef's Training program they offer is an intensive, professional course which can be taken part-time or full-time, but runs 619 hours. This school does teach people how to prepare seafood, chicken and eggs, but if you're vegan you can opt out of that. This school teaches a wide range of cooking styles, including how to ferment, prepare raw foods and macrobiotic foods, and even Chinese medicine and medicinal cooking. The emphasis is on whole, plant foods.
The Natural Gourmet Institute offers a fun Friday night dinner, where the people enrolled in the school prepare a fine-dining experience for the general public at big, communal tables (with candlelight!), So if you're in the area, you could swing by and see what it's all about.
The Matthew Kenney Academy – formerly the 105 Degrees Academy
Where is it? Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
What do they offer? Chef certification program in raw foods
When do the programs run? Monthly, or several times a year for the more advanced classes
Matthew Kenney offers very small and personal raw food chef's training classes (typically 4-8 people). It's designed for beginners and chefs alike.
There are two 4-week training sessions – Level 1: Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine, and Level 2: Advanced Raw Cuisine. The Level 1 courses run every month and is Monday to Friday, 9am – 3pm. The Level 2 course runs 4 times a year and is the same hours as the Level 1 classes.
Cordon Vert School
Where is it? Altrincham, Cheshire, UK
What do they offer? Vegetarian leisure classes and workshops, a diploma program for professional chefs only
When do the programs run? Several times throughout the year; programs are short
The Cordon Vert School offers classes at their Vegetarian Society headquarters, and they even have rooms for lodging. They have a variety of vegetarian courses, ranging from 1 to 2 day workshops, classes for leisure, and professional classes. Their professional diploma class, a week in duration, is only available to professional chefs. However, their workshops and leisure courses are open to the general public, and occur frequently through the year.
Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts
Where is it? Austin, Texas
What do they offer? Full professional chef program that is vegan-friendly, public classes
When do the programs run? Begins every August and February
This school specializes in vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, ayurvedic and raw food preparation and cuisine. They offer a full 900-hour professional chef training program. All of the training takes approximately a third of a year, if you jump straight from training into internship. This is an intensive course that will fully prepare you to work in a natural kitchen.
They also offer public classes, although they're sparse and seldom due to the emphasis on the professional chef training program.
The School of Natural Cookery
Where is it? Boulder, Colorado
What do they offer? Professional training as a foundation course, with the option to go further
When do the programs run? Most are in the Fall and Spring
The foundation course at the School of Natural Cookery is a 16-week diploma course where you learn fundamentals, bread making, gastronomy, nutrition and more. If you achieve a very high mark in this course, you may take a 4-week personal chef course or teacher training course. However, in order to pursue the teacher training course, you must have finished their classes as well as have five years experience with natural food.
Courses are typically offered for a spring semester and a fall semester and run the duration of a typical school semester.
Vegan Culinary Academy
Where is it? Anguin, California
What do they offer? Online courses and a 1000 hour professional apprenticeship
When do the programs run? Anytime
There are two major highlights of this school – first, someone who is looking for a professional apprenticeship opportunity will find it here, and it can be completed in six months to two years depending on how much you work, and second, they offer a distance learning program. The online program requires only that you have a camera and a computer with internet, and each student gets personal attention from the instructors in addition to all of the class materials and lessons. The apprenticeship is geared toward those who are already chefs, dietitians or food service managers.
Heaven on Earth Vegetarian Institute
Where is it? Hamilton-Stoney Creek, Ontario
What do they offer? A vegan, macrobiotic and ayurvedic 3-module program
When do the programs run? Mid-October to mid-March for all 3 modules
This institute offers a Holistic Health Consultant & Cooking Certification program that runs in 3 modules and goes far beyond cooking. It delves into many aspects of holistic health, including yoga, pranayama, diet and lifestyle changes for preventing diseases, and of course healthy food preparation. All of the cooking is vegan with the exception of one class, where fish is included.
Natural Kitchen Cooking School
Where is it? Mercerfield, New Jersey, Haddonfield, New Jersey and New York City
What do they offer? A natural chef training program
When do the programs run? October to May, one weekend each month
This school has several locations and occurs during weekends, making it more accessible. The class sizes are kept small (12 or less) so personal attention and assistance can be given.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it does cover the major vegan-friendly cooking schools out there. Every year, more and more small classes pop up in different cities, so if you're just looking for some basic instruction and have no interest in pursuing a career in cooking, check out what your city (or nearby city) has to offer. If you are looking to get serious with preparing that awesome vegan food, there are a few great choices on this list that could help you achieve your dreams.