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Become A Chef

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Working As A Chef

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Coaching and Developing Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $30,000

    Average Salary

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.

Duties

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.

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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.

Education

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.

Training

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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Do you work as a Chef?

Chef Jobs

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Chef Career Paths

Chef
Chef/Kitchen Manager Chef Manager Executive Chef
Assistant Food Service Director
5 Yearsyrs
Security Officer Night Auditor Front Desk Supervisor
Assistant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Director Of Food And Beverage Assistant General Manager Restaurant Manager
Beverage Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Machine Operator Office Manager Event Coordinator
Catering Sales Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Cook Supervisor Kitchen Manager Dietary Manager
Certified Dietary Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Food And Beverage Manager Catering Manager
Director Of Catering
7 Yearsyrs
Chef Manager Executive Chef
Director Of Food And Beverage
9 Yearsyrs
Director Of Food And Beverage Food Service Director
Director Of Food And Nutrition Services
10 Yearsyrs
Delivery Driver Operations Manager Purchasing Manager
Director Of Purchasing
10 Yearsyrs
Executive Chef General Manager
District Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Line Chef Sous Chef Executive Chef
Food And Beverage Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Assistant General Manager Kitchen Manager Sous Chef
Food Production Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Head Chef Executive Chef
Food Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Head Chef Chef/Kitchen Manager Executive Chef
Food Service Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Executive Chef Director Of Food And Beverage
General Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Cook Supervisor Sous Chef Restaurant Manager
Multi-Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
General Manager Account Manager Operations Manager
Plant Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Chef Manager General Manager Account Manager
Purchasing Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Delivery Driver Night Auditor Assistant General Manager
Restaurant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
General Manager Account Executive
Sales Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Chef?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Executive Chef 5.6 years
Chef/Owner 5.4 years
Chef Manager 3.6 years
Head Chef 3.0 years
Cooking Chef 3.0 years
Chef/Catering 3.0 years
Pastry Chef 3.0 years
Chef 3.0 years
Sous Chef 2.9 years
Chef De Cuisine 2.8 years
Banquet Chef 2.7 years
Chef De Partie 2.5 years
Sushi Chef 2.4 years
Assistant Chef 2.2 years
Line Chef 1.9 years
Prep Chef 1.6 years
Top Employers Before
Sous Chef 15.8%
Line Cook 11.7%
Cook 11.5%
Manager 3.7%
Cashier 3.6%
Prep Cook 3.3%
Head Chef 3.3%
Internship 3.3%
Lead Cook 2.5%
Server 2.5%
Top Employers After
Sous Chef 14.0%
Cook 9.3%
Line Cook 7.2%
Head Chef 4.0%
Manager 3.8%
Chef/Owner 2.9%
Server 2.4%
Prep Cook 2.3%
Cashier 2.3%

Do you work as a Chef?

Chef Demographics

Gender

Male

71.7%

Female

26.3%

Unknown

2.0%
Ethnicity

White

79.2%

Hispanic or Latino

11.6%

Asian

6.9%

Unknown

1.7%

Black or African American

0.5%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

46.1%

French

16.0%

Italian

11.2%

German

4.2%

Japanese

3.0%

Chinese

2.7%

Arabic

2.3%

Portuguese

2.1%

Mandarin

1.9%

Korean

1.5%

Russian

1.5%

Thai

1.5%

Greek

1.5%

Hindi

0.8%

Polish

0.8%

Swedish

0.6%

Hawaiian

0.6%

Vietnamese

0.5%

Filipino

0.5%

Cantonese

0.5%
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Chef Education

Schools

Johnson & Wales University

27.9%

Culinary Institute of America

24.7%

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

6.5%

University of Phoenix

5.1%

Arizona Culinary Institute

3.7%

Johnson County Community College

3.7%

New England Culinary Institute

2.7%

Michigan State University

2.6%

Delgado Community College

2.2%

Sullivan University

2.1%

Florida International University

2.0%

The Academy

2.0%

Grand Rapids Community College

1.9%

Liberty University

1.9%

Cornell University

1.9%

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts - Scottsdale

1.9%

Art Institute of Atlanta

1.8%

Southern New Hampshire University

1.8%

French Culinary Institute

1.7%

Ashford University

1.7%
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Majors

Culinary Arts

40.8%

Business

14.4%

Hospitality Management

7.1%

Management

3.9%

Food And Nutrition

3.3%

Health Care Administration

3.1%

Criminal Justice

3.1%

Psychology

2.9%

General Studies

2.5%

Education

2.1%

Computer Science

2.0%

Liberal Arts

1.9%

Accounting

1.9%

Communication

1.8%

Graphic Design

1.8%

Biology

1.7%

English

1.6%

Marketing

1.4%

Fine Arts

1.4%

Nursing

1.2%
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Degrees

Other

38.2%

Bachelors

25.3%

Associate

22.9%

Certificate

6.6%

Masters

3.9%

Diploma

2.3%

Doctorate

0.4%

License

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Chef Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Senior Development Chef NestlÉ R&D Center, Inc. Solon, OH Jul 28, 2016 $100,000 -
$120,000
Chef Veronica and Josephine Corp New York, NY May 04, 2015 $98,259
Chef/Cookbook Developer Formac Inc. Irving, TX Sep 08, 2016 $87,360
Chef Gent's Enterprises Inc. New York, NY Apr 14, 2015 $79,997
Specialty Chef Yee FATT Corp. Hoboken, NJ Jul 22, 2015 $79,352
In House Chef Gotham Industries LLC New York, NY Jul 29, 2015 $79,352
Chef Bridgewater Associates, LP Westport, CT Jan 21, 2016 $78,125 -
$155,550
Chief Chef, Japanese Sugio LLC New York, NY Feb 17, 2016 $77,938
Indian Continental Fusion Chef Rasika, LLC Washington, DC Feb 12, 2015 $73,070
Indian Continental Fusion Chef Rasika West End, LLC. Washington, DC Apr 29, 2016 $73,070
Chef Jawid Inc. D/B/A Charcoal Kabob Herndon, VA Dec 14, 2016 $73,070
Chef Il Sole LLC NY Oct 24, 2016 $68,000
Chef Mediterranean Food Greek Kitchen Inc. New York, NY Mar 22, 2016 $68,000
Chef, Japanese Specialty Sushi Land, Inc. Bryn Mawr, PA Jul 27, 2015 $51,958
Chef Indian Delhi Palace, Inc. Phoenix, AZ May 01, 2015 $51,862
Chef Hunan Chef Hwy 6 Houston, TX Apr 16, 2015 $51,834
Chef, Chinese Specialty (Pastry) Fu Lam Moon Kun Kee, Inc. Fremont, CA Aug 08, 2016 $51,834
Chef-Korean Foods Pon Kap Yang D/B/A Seoul Garden Houston, TX Jun 10, 2015 $51,834
Chef, Chinese Specialty (Pastry) Fu Lam Moon Kun Kee, Inc. Fremont, CA Jun 23, 2016 $51,834
Oriental Specialty Chef Evergreen Hospitality, LLC DBA Jade Dragon Merrimack, NH Sep 30, 2016 $51,688
Chef Komolo, Inc. Landover, MD Sep 16, 2015 $51,667
Specialty Chef JSJ-Sc Project, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Oct 15, 2015 $45,302
Korean Chef Sudam Inc. Los Altos, CA May 17, 2016 $45,302
Korean Sundae Chef Jangtu Restaurant Sunnyvale, CA Sep 22, 2015 $45,302
Korean Chef Sudam Inc. Los Altos, CA Sep 09, 2015 $45,302
Korean Chef Sunny & John, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Dec 22, 2015 $45,302
Japanese Food Chef Sushiyobee, LLC (D/B/A Sushiyobi) Nashville, TN Apr 11, 2015 $45,282
Korean Chef JD Entertainment, Inc. Las Vegas, NV Jan 28, 2016 $45,198
Chef May's Sushi, Inc. Santa Cruz, CA Sep 25, 2015 $45,136

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Top Skills for A Chef

KitchenOperationsFoodPreparationAreasBanquetsSafeFoodDinnerServiceCustomerServiceFoodCostChefsCuisineFoodProductionFoodItemsMenuPlanningSautSousDailySpecialsSuperviseSpecialEventsFoodServiceMenuDevelopmentPizza

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  1. Kitchen Operations
  2. Food Preparation Areas
  3. Banquets
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Directed kitchen operations in support of Executive Chef and supervised all line stations.
  • Monitored and maintained all food preparation areas, cooking surfaces, and utensils.
  • Set up buffet style and plated meals per corporate orders, counted and measured accurate amounts of food for banquets.
  • Followed procedures for safe food preparation, assembly, and presentation.
  • Coordinated expo line during dinner service

How Would You Rate Working As a Chef?

Are you working as a Chef? Help us rate Chef as a Career.

Top Chef Employers

Chef Videos

Modern Apprenticeships: Being a chef

Becoming a Chef: Advice from Nick Nairn

Career Advice on becoming a Head Chef by Paul Z (Highlights)