The budding chefs at the California School of Culinary Arts will soon have some extra room to store their toques.

The South Pasadena-based academy is undergoing a major expansion, moving its headquarters to two buildings totaling 75,000 square feet of space in the Pasadena Playhouse District. The school will keep its existing 16,000-square-foot campus on El Centro Street to use for baking and some classes.

"This really reflects what Pasadena is all about education, culture and the arts," said John Alle, president of John Alle Co. of Pasadena, whose firm brokered the 20-year, $10 million lease for two properties at 521 and 561 E. Green St.

Chris Becker, founder and president of the 5-year-old institution, plans to use the three-story building at 521 E. Green for training labs and kitchens, admissions and faculty offices. The adjacent one-story structure will serve as a retail store.

In addition, Becker hopes to open a bakery caf & #233; and a fine-dining eatery run by his students. At one time, the school ran the Mission Street Bakery in Pasadena, but that venue was closed last year to convert the space for school use.

Becker, a former restaurateur and chef at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites, expects construction to be completed by the fall of next year in time for enrollment.

"With this expansion, the school will be the largest culinary school west of the Mississippi," Becker said.

Becker, 43, said the school has needed a bigger facility to accommodate enrollment. This year, 250 students have signed up for the 15-month program, a 150 percent jump over last year.

The increase in attendance reflects the growing popularity of culinary education nationwide. Some 1,000 hospitality programs are rapidly filling up.

At the Pasadena school, tuition can run $28,000 comparable to the other top academies in the United States that include the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. and the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

Much of the interest stems from the influence of superstar chefs, such as Wolfgang Puck, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken.

"Ten to 20 years ago, people had nobody to identify with except for Julia Child," said Caitlin Storhaug, spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

Food service and preparation jobs are the fastest-growing occupations nationally, and sales are expected to reach $354 billion this year more than eight times the level of 30 years ago.

"We can't keep up with the pace," said Peter Reinhart, a board member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals in Louisville, Ky. "People are eating out and also are taking prepared meals home. About two-thirds of chefs in the future will work for supermarkets making home meal replacements."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.