Depending on what you want to do involving food, a community college might be the right place to start. Food and cooking careers need not be all about the traditional trudge up the brigade system to eventually become a chef/restaurateur. If you have competency in specific disciplines, it might be worth pursuing degrees in one of those disciplines and then using that credential along with your desire to work in food to figure out your career trajectory. For example, if you are strong in chemistry, you may wish to get a chemistry or chemical engineering degree and work in food science. A particularly good mix is business degrees. If you work in a restaurant while obtaining a business/management/accounting degree, you will be positioned excellently to work in a larger food-service business or start your own. Love English composition? Become a food writer! There are many other good options, but you're the one who knows what you are good at and like to do (I'm sure you have more than one interest).
If you want to go the traditional line cook to chef route, culinary school isn't required. Intern in as many places as possible. Travel. Go to places where excellent chefs are and beg them to let you work your butt off for pennies. If you care enough about what you do and work hard enough at it, culinary school won't matter. The problem is, the clock is ticking, so you need to commit to becoming excellent so you can do the hard work while all your parts still work.