Graduating from an aspiring chef to a confident culinary artist in just six months is possible at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA).

Students from around the world have flocked to a culinary school with some of the most hands-on kitchen hours in North America: Vancouver’s Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Celebrating 20 years as a professional culinary institute, “what makes us so unique is that the training is 90 percent hands-on,” says Julian Bond, the school’s Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer.

At PICA you can get a diploma in Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts within six months. Each includes over 900 hours of hands-on instruction in one of the school’s eight professional kitchens. Bond says that’s equivalent to the amount of hands-on training in some one- or two-year programs. There’s even an option to complete both diplomas back-to-back within a year. Culinary arts students start with knife skills, stock preparation, and butchery. And they are taught by instructors who have two distinctions. First, they have at least 10 years of experience at their craft. And second, they’re all European-trained.

Within six months students are skilled at classic French cooking as well as international cuisine. Their plating skills are honed, their palates are developed, and they’re ready to start making their mark on the culinary world. “Our students are looking for something beyond just basic training,” says Bond. “They’re passionate about food and want to get as hands-on as possible.” Baking and pastry students start with the essential skills of baking, and before the program is done confidently produce delicious artisan breads, pastries, desserts, and cakes.

Courses in wine certification and food and beverage operations management allow students to add an extra edge to their diplomas. Students in both programs also graduate having prepared food for diners at Bakery 101 and Bistro 101 — PICA’s well-known restaurant and bakery.

Over 3,000 PICA alumni can be found in some of the best kitchens across Canada and the world. Many of them have found their positions through the school’s lifetime job placement assistance program. Graduates can be found in restaurants across Vancouver and in culinary hotspots like London, Las Vegas, Toronto, Montreal, and Melbourne. PICA alumni are found in restaurants in the Gordon Ramsay group, flagship hotels, and at the helm of their own establishments.