Napa Valley Cooking School’s Advanced Professional Culinary Program begins on our St. Helena campus every August and January. The program’s Global Externship component begins immediately after completion of curriculum in St. Helena and is completed in time for students to graduate in March (August start) and September (January start).

This fast-paced six-month intensive program follows a curriculum designed to build on itself. Culinary techniques learned in each course are repeated throughout the program to enforce the mastery required to be a successful professional fine-dining chef.

Led by Executive Chef Elena Sirignano, students also have the opportunity to receive regular instruction from noted experienced guest faculty who are experts in their fields.

Hands-on topics include:

  • Advanced Knife Skills
  • Advanced Plating Design & Execution
  • Wine Pairing & Appreciation
  • Food & Beverage Costing
  • Catering & Special Event Planning
  • Self-Care & Career Planning
  • Culinary Gardening & Organic Farming Practices
  • Butchery & Charcuterie
  • Advanced Baking & Pastry
  • Molecular Gastronomy
  • American Regional Cuisines
  • World Cuisines: French, Italian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Filipino, Northern European, Eastern Mediterranean, North African, Mexican, South American, & Central American

At the end of the semester students participate in Restaurant, a student run restaurant created with the goal of providing real time, hands-on experience of the operations of a fine-dining establishment. Students are required to design a multi-course chef’s tasting menu including recipes, plate presentations, food costing, prep-sheets, and order sheets. Students also rotate through different stations and undertake responsibilities for the fine-dining experience for up to 70 guests each day.

Entrepreneurship & Special Events

To support the development of entrepreneurial skills, students create and host a retail Marketplace in conjunction with seasonal special events. Marketplaces are designed to showcase the students’ work as artisan culinarians, connect them with the public in a market setting, and celebrate the unique culinary history and culture of the Napa Valley and the 8,000+ volume collection of cookbooks housed on our campus.


  • Prepare prospective chefs and culinarians for a career in fine dining establishments.
  • Gain real-world experience and practice in both catering and fine dining restaurant settings.
  • Develop a well-informed sense of culinary creativity.


  • Operate a professional kitchen observing Health Department regulations.
  • Perform calculations using basic culinary math.
  • Production and application of sweet and savory pate a choux.
  • Identification, care for, and handling of salad greens.
  • Adapt small recipes and cooking methods to unfamiliar equipment and large-scale service.
  • Plan and cost multiple course menus.
  • Understanding of the origins and history of wine grapes and winemaking.
  • Understanding of culture and historical context of world cuisines.
  • Gain knowledge and observe sustainable farming practices.
  • Prepare dough by hand and machine using multiple formulas and methods.
  • Demonstrate effective practices for menu planning, inventory, purchasing and receiving.
  • Advanced technique of translating classic flavors into modern interpretations.
  • Planning, timing and executing a cooking demonstration.
  • Draw and execute final plate presentations.
  • Increased knowledge of career options in the culinary arts and how to successfully pursue them.

As a culmination of the 6-month intensive culinary training, students are required to design a seven course chef’s tasting menu including recipes, plate presentations, food costing, prep-sheets and order sheets. Dishes are presented to the chefs for critique. Final menus are chosen featuring local, sustainable products prepared exclusively by the students.