Written by Samuel Phineas Upham
The first cooking schools likely took place in small villages of our fledgling civilizations. They were taught in the homes of experienced cooks, who would show younger chefs the basics and help them to improve the skill. This practice extended into royalty during the medieval times, where cooking school was done within the castle walls and had an almost militaristic organization to it.
Religious establishments, like abbeys and colleges, would also teach students how to cook. In the olden days of cooking, massive numbers of people required feeding after long days of work. It was perfectly normal for everyone to gather within one or a few central locations, then meat for supper of some sort. This was common practice in colonial America and stretches back to the Viking settlements in Europe and beyond. That required a large number of people trained on how to cook, and how to serve food efficiently.
Students sometimes paid private tutors a tuition, and in these situations would often visit that teacher at home. Most of these types of schools catered to female students, men would apprentice and grow their craft with on-the-job experience.
Cooking schools entered America sometime around 1808 as an extension to pastry-making schools that were popular at that time. Elizabeth Goodfellow, a pastry shop owner from Philadelphia, is credited with shifting attitudes from private lessons to public ones. She hosted classes from within her shop, and was one of the first instructors to offer her services to the public.