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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:
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.
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.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Cooking Chef
Top Careers After Cooking Chef
Hispanic or Latino12.6%
Black or African American0.5%
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Johnson & Wales University15.9%
University of Phoenix8.0%
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts6.8%
Delgado Community College5.7%
Johnson County Community College5.7%
Hinds Community College4.5%
Kirkwood Community College4.5%
Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago4.5%
Art Institute of Atlanta4.5%
Elgin Community College4.5%
Eastern Oregon University3.4%
Glendale Community College3.4%
Fresno City College3.4%
Boise State University3.4%
University of Alabama at Birmingham3.4%
Arizona Culinary Institute3.4%
University of Florida3.4%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Chefs and HED Cooks||BSDH, Inc. D/B/A Star Diner CAFE & Restaurant||North Wildwood, NJ||Mar 07, 2012||$65,978|
|Chef Cook||Africana Restaurant & Lounge||Madison, WI||Jul 27, 2010||$54,340|
|Cook-Chef||RKJM LLC||Portland, OR||Jul 15, 2014||$51,043|
|Cook-Chef||RKJM LLC||Portland, OR||Aug 01, 2014||$51,043|
|Chef/Cook||Cosmo's Italian Kitchen-Las Flores Inc.||Rancho Santa Margarita, CA||Oct 18, 2007||$45,914|
|Head Cook/Chef||N.A.F.A. Consultants & Employment Agency, Corp.||Miami, FL||Oct 04, 2007||$45,914|
|Chefs and Cooks||Fiorentino Ristorante, Inc.||New York, NY||Dec 21, 2010||$45,664|
|Cook-Chef||RKJM LLC||Portland, OR||Jun 01, 2014||$44,161|
|Korean Cook Chef||Kimchi Hana LLC||Temple, TX||Aug 16, 2016||$41,900|
|Chefs and Cooks||Seoul Garden||Houston, TX||Sep 28, 2009||$41,475|
|Head Cook/Chef(North Italian)||53Rd Street Partens LLC DBA REMI Restaurant||New York, NY||Sep 17, 2008||$40,258|
|Head Cook & Chef||Joe's Pizza & Pasta||Ames, IA||Nov 15, 2013||$39,674|
|Head Cook & Chef||Joe's Pizza & Pasta||Ames, IA||Dec 01, 2013||$39,674|
|Chefs and Cooks||La Casona Grill CAFE, Inc.||Lake Jackson, TX||Oct 05, 2007||$35,464|
|Chef/Cook||Bucatini, Inc.||Santa Barbara, CA||Mar 03, 2014||$31,305|
|Chef Wood-Fire Argentine Cooking||E-Lift Inc.||NY||May 15, 2014||$29,072|
|Authentic Chinese Cuisine Chef/Cook||Su Wings Corporation||Lake Geneva, WI||Sep 01, 2015||$28,288|
|Head Cook, Chef||Boston Kitchen||Boston, MA||Jun 08, 2010||$26,505|
|Chef/Cook||Gurubaba, Inc. DBA Tandoor India||Santa Monica, CA||Dec 28, 2009||$26,088|
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