Many of these students, like Brittany Schall, share the same dream.
"Life long dream, maybe open a small little restaurant in the area," she said.
Time Magazine reports enrollment in culinary schools has jumped 20 percent in recent years. Martin Gravely echoes that at the University of Richmond's Center for Culinary Arts.
"We see 5 to 10% growth annually in our classes," Gravely said.
The recession led many who lost jobs to explore cooking as a career.
"The Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flays of the world have help the cause as well. But also I think people like to explore the culinary arts. Who hasn't dreamed of having their own café or catering operation?" Gravely explained.
Some students are already cooks.
"Maybe this will help me find a greater job, better job and earn a little more," said culinary student Ralph Magbanua.
But Gravely says most of his students are people who just want to learn to cook.
"I think it has to do with general interest people have in eating healthy food. They want to know how to prepare food from scratch as opposed to buying a lot of processed foods," he said.
"The city and surrounding area have seen an influx of local restaurants opening, a good flair of different types of food. People are now interested," added Schall.
For career seekers, is the cost worth it? Culinary tuitions range from $2,000 to $40,000. Starting salaries for line cooks, $20,000 to $40,000. Some experts say training under a restaurant chef is also effective training, without the cost.
But either way, there's good news. The Labor Department says employment in food services has risen from 8 million in 2000 to 10 million this year. Gravely says culinary schools show students what restaurant life is really like.
"I think what we can offer students here is a little taste of what its like so they're more prepared. The reality can be a little different than the perception, than the dream," Gravely said.
Being a chef usually means long hours and hard work. But that doesn't seem to be scaring any students away.
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