Ahhh, California. With its sky-high mountains and one of the hottest locales on Earth -- not to mention the fact that it has the ninth-largest economy in the world (huffingtonpost.com) -- California is indeed golden. So it's not surprising that the food scene there is a bounty of wondrous sights and smells as well.
California culinary scene
A microcosm of the American melting pot, California's distinct cuisine borrows and fuses ingredients and dishes from the state's Native American, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and frontier residents. With an emphasis on fresh, local foods, California has both reinvented the pizza according to SF Weekly (sfweekly.com) and spawned a drive-through burger obsession. The fresh and local approach is generally regarded as starting in the 1970s with Alice Waters' restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The restaurant started using locally sourced fruits, vegetables and meats -- before it was cool! -- and created something uniquely Californian.
The state also remembers its heritage. Until 2006, the state was home to Imperial Dynasty Chinese Restaurant, a 123-year-old restaurant started by a Chinese railroad worker selling bowls of noodles for 5 cents in the state's Central Valley (npr.org). Seafood fusion dishes of fish tacos and salmon barbeque can be found right next to the "anything goes" style of California pizza and Japanese American dishes such as green tea cheesecake.
California culinary schools
Culinary arts schools pepper the state of California. From the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco to the Art Institute of California-Los Angeles, California has a number of culinary academies to choose from. Some have produced American Culinary Federation award-winning student chefs and educators (acfchefs.org/ACF).
It is also important to remember that a chef's education continues well past graduation. With that in mind, California is home to world-renowned restaurants such as 2012's 48th Best Restaurant in the World Manresa (Los Gatos), San Francisco's Coi, and the world-famous French Laundry in the Napa Valley, as well as the countless other restaurants the state offers where future chefs might hone their skills (theworlds50best.com).
There is also the "father of California cuisine," Michael McCarty, and his landmark 1979 Michael's Santa Monica restaurant (huffingtonpost.com). Celebrated for its use of fresh and seasonal produce and seafood, the opportunity to learn contemporary American cuisine at one of the most respected restaurants in the state should be enough to attract culinary arts students from across the U.S. -- besides the beautiful weather, of course.
"California Economy Slips to Ninth Largest, Behind Brazil," January 12, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/12/california-economy-slips-behind-brazil_n_1203254.html
"Death Valley is World's Hottest Place, World Meterological Organization Reports," Huffington Post, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/death-valley-world-hottest-place_n_1883858.html
"In Rural California, an Imperial Dynasty Ends," NPR, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5298206
"Manresa," William Reed Business Media, 2012, http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-winners/manresa/
"Michael McCarty," Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-mccarty/
"Pizza Smackdown," SF Weekly, 2007, http://www.sfweekly.com/2007-09-26/dining/pizza-smackdown/
"2010 ACF National Convention National Competition Winners," ACF, http://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Events/EventArchives/NationalConventions/2010Convention/2010ConventionCompetitions/ACF/Events/Archives/Convention/2010/Competitions/
"2012 ACF National Convention National Competition Winners," ACF, http://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Events/EventArchives/NationalConventions/2012Convention/2012ConventionCompetitions/ACF/Events/Archives/Convention/2012/Competitions/