Our Mission is to serve the culinary arts and hospitality professions by providing scholarships, awards, financial incentives and skills development opportunities to deserving individuals in Southwest Florida who are committed to furthering their education and enhancing their careers.


Did you know that over the years since 2001, CHEF has been so successful that it has been able to award over $300,000 in scholarships to well over 200 students?

CHEF initially began in 2001 as a loosely organized group with a mission similar to CHEF’s mission today, becoming, in 2004, The Culinary and Hospitality Education Foundation of Southwest Florida, a 501(c)(3) organization. Its early fundraisers were so successful, beginning with Culinary Odyssey 2001, that the organization began awarding scholarships immediately.

By 2004, the decision was made to incorporate as a 501(c)(3), and the resulting organization, The Culinary and Hospitality Education Foundation of Southwest Florida, Inc. (CHEF), became a reality on October 26, 2004.

During these early years, from 2001–2006, our high school Awards Program began, as did our outreach programs to area vocational and high schools. Scholarships awarded to individuals were designed to benefit those already working in the industry as well as high school age students.

The way scholarships were awarded changed in 2007, when CHEF signed agreements with The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York; Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Florida; and Florida Gulf Coast University’s School of Resort & Hospitality Management, authorizing them to administer CHEF funds given them by directly awarding scholarships to deserving students residing in Collier and Lee Counties.

Another change took place in June of 2017, when CHEF joined the Community Foundation’s Scholarship Connector, an area online community resource for scholarships , including its own, that reaches many potential future culinarians. Along with this new program, CHEF continues to direct funds for scholarships to area students attending the Culinary Institute of America and FGCU’s School of Resort and Hospitality Management. In addition, CHEF provides competition grants and product grants to area high schools and vocational schools.

Fundraising has evolved over the years as well. Hospitality-related businesses, educational institutions, supporters and gastronomes gather now in a revolving spotlight that focuses on new trends in the hospitality and culinary arts industries as well as celebrating past excellence.

The inspiring result makes us eager to keep learning, innovating and collaborating ourselves so that we maximize our support of young students seeking an excellent education in the culinary and hospitality arts professions.