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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:
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.
Hispanic or Latino11.6%
Black or African American0.5%
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Average Length of Employment
Johnson & Wales University27.4%
Culinary Institute of America24.6%
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts6.6%
University of Phoenix5.3%
Johnson County Community College3.8%
Arizona Culinary Institute3.6%
New England Culinary Institute2.7%
Michigan State University2.6%
Delgado Community College2.3%
Florida International University2.1%
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts - Scottsdale2.0%
Grand Rapids Community College1.9%
Southern New Hampshire University1.8%
Art Institute of Atlanta1.8%
French Culinary Institute1.7%
University of Florida1.7%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|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|
|In House Chef||Gotham Industries LLC||New York, NY||Jul 29, 2015||$79,352|
|Specialty Chef||Yee FATT Corp.||Hoboken, NJ||Jul 22, 2015||$79,352|
|Chef||Bridgewater Associates, LP||Westport, CT||Jan 21, 2016||$78,125 -
|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|
|Chef||Jawid Inc. D/B/A Charcoal Kabob||Herndon, VA||Dec 14, 2016||$73,070|
|Indian Continental Fusion Chef||Rasika West End, LLC.||Washington, DC||Apr 29, 2016||$73,070|
|Chef Mediterranean Food||Greek Kitchen Inc.||New York, NY||Mar 22, 2016||$68,000|
|Chef||Il Sole LLC||NY||Oct 24, 2016||$68,000|
|Mediterranean Specialty Chef||Liman Restaurant||New York, NY||Nov 10, 2016||$67,413|
|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, 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||Hunan Chef Hwy 6||Houston, TX||Apr 16, 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|
|Ramen Chef||Umaya Ramen||Cerritos, CA||Apr 05, 2016||$45,488|
|Chef, Chinese Speciality||Legend of Asia, LLC||Blue Springs, MO||May 27, 2016||$45,469|
|Chef||Seong Buk Dong Inc.||Los Angeles, CA||Jul 31, 2015||$45,448|
|Chef||A Mi Japanese Restaurant, Inc.||Los Angeles, CA||Oct 02, 2016||$45,448|
|Chef, Japanese Food||TAKA-O Japanese Restaurant Inc.||San Clemente, CA||Jun 10, 2016||$45,448|
|Chef, Japanese Food||YABU Restaurant||Los Angeles, CA||May 02, 2016||$45,448|
|Chef, Korean Food||13321 Artesia, Inc.||Cerritos, CA||Dec 29, 2015||$45,448|
|Chef (Japanese Food)||Iwan, Inc.||Torrance, CA||Aug 10, 2015||$45,448|
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