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Working as a Chef

MMM, do you smell that? Working as a chef comes with some good-smelling perks, especially if you're good at what you do. Chefs are in charge of preparing food for establishments where food is served, typically restaurants.

The schedule of a chef varies widely depending on where you're cooking. Sometimes they work early mornings, late evenings, weekends and even holidays. Yes, people still want to eat your delicious food on Christmas

What Does a Chef Do

Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.


Chefs and head cooks typically do the following:

  • Check the freshness of food and ingredients
  • Supervise and coordinate activities of cooks and other food preparation workers
  • Develop recipes and determine how to present dishes
  • Plan menus and ensure the quality of meals
  • Inspect supplies, equipment, and work areas for cleanliness and functionality
  • Hire, train, and supervise cooks and other food preparation workers
  • Order and maintain an inventory of food and supplies
  • Monitor sanitation practices and follow kitchen safety standards

Chefs and head cooks use a variety of kitchen and cooking equipment, including step-in coolers, high-quality knives, meat slicers, and grinders. They also have access to large quantities of meats, spices, and produce. Some chefs use scheduling and purchasing software to help them in their administrative tasks.

Chefs who run their own restaurant or catering business are often busy with kitchen and office work. Some chefs use social media to promote their business by advertising new menu items or addressing customer reviews.

The following are examples of types of chefs and head cooks:

Executive chefs, head cooks, and chefs de cuisine are responsible primarily for overseeing the operation of a kitchen. They coordinate the work of sous chefs and other cooks, who prepare most of the meals. Executive chefs also have many duties beyond the kitchen. They design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train cooks and other food preparation workers. Some executive chefs primarily handle administrative tasks and may spend less time in the kitchen.

Sous chefs are a kitchen’s second-in-command. They supervise the restaurant’s cooks, prepare meals, and report results to the head chefs. In the absence of the head chef, sous chefs run the kitchen.

Private household chefs typically work full time for one client, such as a corporate executive, university president, or diplomat, who regularly entertains as part of his or her official duties.

How To Become a Chef

Most chefs and head cooks learn their skills through work experience. Others receive training at a community college, technical school, culinary arts school, or 4-year college. A small number learn through apprenticeship programs or in the Armed Forces.


Although postsecondary education is not required for chefs and head cooks, many attend programs at community colleges, technical schools, culinary arts schools, and 4-year colleges. Candidates are typically required to have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter these programs.

Students in culinary programs spend most of their time in kitchens, practicing their cooking skills. Programs cover all aspects of kitchen work, including menu planning, food sanitation procedures, and purchasing and inventory methods. Most training programs also require students to gain experience in a commercial kitchen through an internship or apprenticeship program.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most chefs and head cooks start working in other positions, such as line cooks, learning cooking skills from the chefs they work for. Many spend years working in kitchens before gaining enough experience to be promoted to chef or head cook positions.


Some chefs and head cooks train on the job, where they learn the same skills as in a formal education program. Some train in mentorship programs, where they work under the direction of an experienced chef. Executive chefs, head cooks, and sous chefs who work in upscale restaurants often have many years of training and experience.

Some chefs and head cooks learn through apprenticeship programs sponsored by professional culinary institutes, industry associations, or trade unions in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeship programs generally last 2 years and combine instructions and on-the-job training. Apprentices must complete at least 1,000 hours of both instructions and paid on-the-job training. Courses typically cover food sanitation and safety, basic knife skills, and equipment operation. Apprentices spend the rest of their training learning practical skills in a commercial kitchen under a chef's supervision.

The American Culinary Federation accredits more than 200 academic training programs at postsecondary schools and sponsors apprenticeships around the country. The basic qualifications required for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 17
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Passing grade in substance abuse screening

Some chefs and head cooks receive formal training in the Armed Forces or from individual hotel or restaurant chains.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification can show competence and lead to advancement and higher pay. The American Culinary Federation certifies personal chefs, in addition to various levels of chefs, such as certified sous chefs or certified executive chefs. Certification standards are based primarily on work-related experience and formal training. Minimum work experience for certification can range from 6 months to 5 years, depending on the level of certification.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Executive chefs and chefs who run their own restaurant need to understand the restaurant business. They should know how to budget for supplies, set prices, and manage workers so that the restaurant is profitable.

Communication skills. Chefs must communicate their instructions clearly and effectively to staff so that customers’ orders are prepared correctly.

Creativity. Chefs and head cooks need to be creative in order to develop and prepare interesting and innovative recipes. They should be able to use various ingredients to create appealing meals for their customers.

Dexterity. Chefs and head cooks need excellent manual dexterity, including proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing.

Leadership skills. Chefs and head cooks must have the ability to motivate kitchen staff and develop constructive and cooperative working relationships with them.

Physical stamina. Chefs and head cooks often work long shifts and sometimes spend entire evenings on their feet, overseeing the preparation and serving of meals.

Sense of taste and smell. Chefs and head cooks must have a keen sense of taste and smell in order to inspect food quality and to design meals that their customers enjoy.

Time-management skills. Chefs and head cooks must efficiently manage their time and the time of their staff. They ensure that meals are prepared correctly and that customers are served on time, especially during busy hours.

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Average Salary$44,816
Job Growth Rate11%

Chef Career Paths

Top Careers Before Chef

Sous Chef
16.1 %
Line Cook
11.9 %

Top Careers After Chef

Sous Chef
14.4 %
9.3 %

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Chef

Chefs in America make an average salary of $44,816 per year or $22 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $63,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $31,000 per year.
Average Salary

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Edison, NJ
Salary Range45k - 74k$58k$57,978
Philadelphia, PA
Salary Range40k - 66k$52k$51,842
Washington, DC
Salary Range40k - 66k$52k$51,586
Seattle, WA
Salary Range42k - 62k$51k$51,454
Portland, ME
Salary Range39k - 56k$47k$47,103
New York, NY
Salary Range36k - 60k$47k$46,793

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Chef Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Chef. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Chef Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Chef resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Chef Demographics



70.3 %


25.8 %


3.8 %



57.3 %

Hispanic or Latino

17.4 %


11.0 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


48.5 %


14.9 %


10.4 %
See More Demographics

Chef Education


11.9 %



31.6 %

High School Diploma

26.2 %


23.0 %

Top Colleges for Chefs

1. Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

2. University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH • Public

In-State Tuition

3. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

4. University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX • Public

In-State Tuition

5. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition

6. Southwest Minnesota State University

Marshall, MN • Public

In-State Tuition

7. Inter American University of Puerto Rico Ponce

Mercedita, PR • Private

In-State Tuition
See More Education Info
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Full Time
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Top Skills For a Chef

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.4% of chefs listed customer service on their resume, but soft skills such as business skills and communication skills are important as well.

  • Customer Service, 13.4%
  • Kitchen Equipment, 10.8%
  • Food Service, 7.6%
  • Menu Items, 6.8%
  • High Quality, 5.8%
  • Other Skills, 55.6%
  • See All Chef Skills

Best States For a Chef

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a chef. The best states for people in this position are Hawaii, New Jersey, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Chefs make the most in Hawaii with an average salary of $67,054. Whereas in New Jersey and Delaware, they would average $57,920 and $55,476, respectively. While chefs would only make an average of $54,715 in Rhode Island, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Hawaii

Total Chef Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Delaware

Total Chef Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Pennsylvania

Total Chef Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Chef Employers

1. Ruby Tuesday
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3. Sodexo Operations LLC
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