three in kitchen


culinary student


on line

photo: CMC Culinary Arts Apprenticeship students in the Keystone Resorts kitchen.

Culinary Arts Apprenticeship Track at Colorado Mountain College

Colorado Mountain College offers a superior, in-kitchen apprenticeship —for thousands less than other culinary schools

The Culinary Arts Apprenticeship track delivers the college’s most comprehensive hands-on learning experience, paired with the AAS Culinary Arts Degree. You’ll graduate from the apprenticeship track having completed a modern American Culinary Federation apprenticeship, an Associate of Applied Science degree, your U.S. Department of Labor Journey Cook certification and you qualify to take the American Culinary Federation Certified Sous Chef exam.

This paid apprenticeship will kick start your career with a minimum of 4,000 hours of structured on-the-job learning in up to six different restaurants over the course of the program, gaining real world experience that employers value.  At the end of the apprenticeship, your resume will have full-service hotel, large-scale banquet, quick serve, and fine dining experience.

The culinary arts apprenticeship track is sponsored by the Keystone Resort, a member of the Vail Resorts family of Resorts and is offered at the Summit Campus. The apprenticeship program has been identified as an Exemplary Program by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation.

Learn more about the program, including the curriculum, faculty and costs.

What type of program is the Culinary Arts Apprenticeship Track?

We are a comprehensive, hands-on learning program that develops essential, real world, work skills and paired with a solid classroom education at the same time.

How long is the program?

The average student takes three-years (9 semesters) to complete the requirements of the program; which include 4,000 hours of work experience and the demonstration of a wide variety of culinary skills on the job.

Student’s with prior experience may complete the program in as few as two-years by demonstrating the required skills and taking additional academic coursework.

Where is the campus?

We are based at the Keystone Resort. Our students rotate through a different kitchen every six months, which helps promote the development of a well-rounded cook and future chef.

The restaurants that you will rotate through include the Keystone Ranch, The Alpenglow Stube, The Ski Tip Lodge, the Keystone Conference Center, and many other of the resort’s dining facilities.

All of our culinary classes our taught at our Breckenridge location with the remaining general education courses being offered at either our Dillon or Breckenridge locations.

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship style education is based on an “On the Job Learning” system where you learn by doing.

You will be working in actual restaurants and will be required to perform at the level of the restaurant in which you are working. Your daily test is the guest eating your food.

Do I get paid?

Yes. As an Apprentice at Keystone you are also an employee. Apprentices are paid a competitive market wage. You will also qualify for a variety of benefits packages that will include health benefits, ski passes, and on mountain discounts.

The benefits package that you qualify for may vary. For more details please call Keystone Human Resources directly.

When does the program start?

The program traditionally starts every fall semester, with spring semester starts available on a limited basis.

What about vacations?

You will be working in a Resort environment. During the typical vacation seasons we are at our busiest. You should plan on working major holidays. Vacation time while enrolled in the program are during the Resort’s slow seasons that are during April and May in the spring, and October in the fall.

What about experience before I enroll?

We strongly recommend six months of experience in a restaurant that produces items from scratch before enrolling in the program. Most of our current students have either a year of experience or six months of experience and have been enrolled in a ProStart course.

Low-Debt Degrees Are Smarter

The culinary arts apprenticeship program is among the most affordable in Colorado while offering a quality, hands-on education where you’ll gain real-world experience and build professional connections that help you gain employment after graduation. That's smart.

Unlike many other culinary programs in Colorado, our culinary apprenticeship program students appreciate how CMC’s low costs prevent them from graduating with crushing debt. See how we compare:

Tuition for Culinary AAS Degrees for 2020/21

CMC In-district
60 minimum credit hours required.
CMC In-state
60 minimum credit hours required.
Red Rocks Community College (2019/20)
Culinary Arts Degree, 62 credit hours.
Johnson & Wales
Two years, 94.5 credit hours.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Request Information

Would you like to learn more about the culinary apprenticeship program? Contact us for info or to speak to an admissions counselor.

Learn About Tuition

Even though ours is the most affordable culinary arts degree in Colorado, we know you still might need some help a little help paying for it.

Fueling Success

We gauge our success by our students’ success. Based on what our students accomplish following graduation, we must be doing pretty well.

Eric Watson

“It was the most rewarding experience of my life. This is the real world. The other school I attended just kind of simulated it. This program gave me 100% confidence because I was doing the work on a daily basis. The Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute at Keystone provides an ideal environment for aspiring culinarians. The three-year apprenticeship equips passionate culinarians with the confidence to succeed in an aggressive and competitive industry.”

Eric Watson and his wife, Sara, another CMCCI graduate, own and operate Mezzaluna in Fargo, named best restaurant in North Dakota by and OpenTable. Read more: Eric Watson

Sara Watson

“My experience at the Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute was extremely challenging yet rewarding. The three years of hands-on training in a variety of kitchens provided me with the skills necessary to move forward in the kitchen and discover my own creativity. I learned the business end of the industry, from bookkeeping and keeping track of profit margins to marketing. Without this knowledge, our business would not be nearly as successful as it is today.”

Sara Watson is co-owner of Mezzaluna in Fargo, named best restaurant in North Dakota by and OpenTable. She manages the restaurant with her husband, Eric, another graduate. Read more: Sara Watson

Steve Nguyen

“Without the CMC program, I know I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. It is not only an honor but it is a pretty big privilege to be at this level at such a young age and so fresh out of college.”

Steve Nguyen is the Executive Chef of Hospitality the Keystone Resort in Keystone, Colorado. Read more: Steve Nguyen

Charles MacDonald

“Colorado Mountain College and Chef Kevin Clarke instilled in me the importance of foundation. There is no better foundation that I could have built my career upon than the one I received and experienced at Colorado Mountain College.” A Colorado native, Chef Charles MacDonald graduated as Colorado’s student culinarian of the year for 2007. Working with The PlimothOwner/Executive Chef Peter Ryan, Chef Charles crafts some of Denver’s best French cuisine. Formerly a Sous Chef at Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Chef Charles’ approach to cooking is first and foremost traditional, but with contemporary presentations and techniques. Charles MacDonald, Executive Chef, The Plimoth Restaurant, Denver

AJ Fazendin

CMC culinary graduate A.J. Fazendin launches Prescribed Spirits in Broward County, Florida. He’s custom distilling gin and breaking ground with an entrepreneurship partnership. An excellent martini gin, his recipe blends herbs and botanicals. He said it’s very fragrant, smooth and without overpowering juniper flavor. Read more: AJ Fazendin

Brian Baker

“I started out at the [Keystone] Ski Tip as executive chef in ’04, and 11 years later, we were recognized nationally for creating consistent, upscale cuisine. With the Open Table award, last year we made the top 100 list, and we felt like our hard work had finally been recognized. This year [2014], this time around, being named sixth best restaurant in the country goes to show that consistency in product and a quality staff in the front and the back of the house — the majority of whom come from Colorado Mountain College’s culinary program — make a real difference.”

Brain Baker, Chef/Owner, Watershed Café, Leavenworth, WA (locally sourced – farm to table, Pacific north west cuisine) Read more: Brian Baker

Kevin McCombs

“The culinary apprentice program at Colorado Mountain College was the perfect start to my career in the hospitality industry. It furnished me with the tools to become the Executive Chef of the award-winning Ski Tip Lodge and go on to owning my business as a personal chef in House Cured Culinary. You, too, can jump start your culinary career with the Colorado Mountain College Keystone Culinary Institute.”

Kevin McCombs, House Cured Culinary/Owner/Executive Chef, Dillon, Colorado Read more: Kevin McCombs

Matt Vawter

“My education at CMC has helped me in my career because of the three years of true kitchen experience. Not only was I introduced to all of the elements of classic cuisine, but I also was able to apply my classroom education in kitchens around the resort on a daily basis. When I graduated I was ready to step into any kitchen I wanted to. The chefs at Keystone helped mold me into the professional I am today.

Awards/Accolades: 2014 Zagat 30 under 30; 2015 Prince of porc Winner Dever Cochon 555/Competitor Grand Cochon; 5280 Magazine Best New Restaurants 2015; Best New Restaurant 2015 Westword; 5280 Magazine Best Restaurants 2015 #3; Ten Coolest Train Station Restaurants in the World – Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Matt Vawter, Chef de Cuisine/Proprietor, Mercantile Dining & Provision, Denver. Read more: Matt Vawter