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Become A Head Chef

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Working As A Head 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

  • $42,561

    Average Salary

What Does A Head 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 Head 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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Head Chef jobs

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Head Chef Career Paths

Head Chef
Food Service Manager Food Production Manager Executive Chef
Assistant Food Service Director
5 Yearsyrs
Food Service Director Service Director Director Of Food And Beverage
Assistant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Assistant General Manager Kitchen Manager Restaurant Manager
Beverage Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Food Service Manager Food Service Director
Certified Dietary Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Assistant General Manager Restaurant Manager Catering Manager
Director Of Catering
7 Yearsyrs
Chef Manager Executive Chef
Director Of Food And Beverage
9 Yearsyrs
Chef Manager Food Service Director
Director Of Food And Nutrition Services
10 Yearsyrs
Food And Beverage Manager Operations Manager Purchasing Manager
Director Of Purchasing
10 Yearsyrs
Executive Chef General Manager
District Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Restaurant Manager Banquet Manager
Food And Beverage Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Cook Supervisor Sous Chef
Food Production Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Chef/Kitchen Manager General Manager
Food Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Restaurant Manager Chef Executive Chef
Food Service Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Executive Chef Director Of Food And Beverage
General Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Driver Night Auditor Assistant General Manager
Multi-Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Chef/Kitchen Manager Executive Chef General Manager
Operations Director
9 Yearsyrs
General Manager Account Manager Sales Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Food Service Director District Manager Operations Manager
Plant Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Food And Beverage Manager Director Of Food And Beverage Assistant General Manager
Restaurant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
General Manager Account Executive
Sales Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Head Chef Demographics

Gender

  • Male

    77.4%
  • Female

    20.9%
  • Unknown

    1.7%

Ethnicity

  • White

    79.6%
  • Hispanic or Latino

    11.4%
  • Asian

    6.9%
  • Unknown

    1.6%
  • Black or African American

    0.5%
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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

    39.8%
  • French

    17.0%
  • Italian

    15.2%
  • German

    4.1%
  • Thai

    3.5%
  • Chinese

    2.9%
  • Japanese

    2.9%
  • Vietnamese

    1.8%
  • Hindi

    1.8%
  • Korean

    1.8%
  • Portuguese

    1.8%
  • Hmong

    1.2%
  • Indonesian

    1.2%
  • Greek

    1.2%
  • Arabic

    1.2%
  • Mandarin

    0.6%
  • Sanskrit

    0.6%
  • Turkish

    0.6%
  • Bengali

    0.6%
  • Russian

    0.6%
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Real Head Chef Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Head Chef Propose#101Inc. New York, NY Dec 23, 2011 $80,933
Production Head Chef Ping Pong Holdings, Inc. Rockville, MD Dec 24, 2015 $79,082
Head Pakistani Chef NAAN-N-Curry LLC Renton, WA Dec 22, 2014 $78,000
Head Chef Lippi Restaurants, LLC Miami, FL Jun 12, 2013 $77,000
Head Chef Lippi Restaurants, LLC Miami, FL Jun 21, 2013 $77,000
Head Chef, Afghan Food Top Nosh LLC Falls Church, VA Aug 22, 2016 $73,070
Head Chef St. Marks 6 LLC. New York, NY Nov 10, 2016 $67,413
Head Chef South Beach Hospitality, LLC Miami Beach, FL Sep 23, 2015 $65,114
Head Chef South Beach Hospitality, LLC Miami Beach, FL Sep 19, 2015 $65,114
Head Chef Hong Kong Alleys Kitchen, LLC Orlando, FL Aug 17, 2016 $64,563
Head Chef Mirage Charcoal Kabob, Inc. Dba Zen Boston, MA Aug 20, 2015 $64,522
Head Chef Propose#101Inc. New York, NY Apr 10, 2015 $64,501
Head Chef Ban-CI Inc.Dba Asagao Croton-on-Hudson, NY Aug 07, 2015 $64,501
Head Chef/Cook Chili Mango & Lime Inc. Hingham, MA Jul 15, 2016 $64,000 -
$67,000
Head Chef/Cook Chili Mango & Lime Inc. Hingham, MA Jun 28, 2016 $54,000 -
$65,000
Head Chef Texas Money Maker, Inc. Austin, TX Oct 01, 2012 $53,518
Head Chef Texas Money Maker, Inc. Austin, TX Sep 01, 2012 $53,518
Head Chef Daikanyama Cuisine LLC Newton, MA Sep 06, 2013 $53,500 -
$57,500
Head Chef, Asian Fusion Food O-Fire Corporation San Diego, CA Apr 07, 2015 $53,000
Head Chef Chi Dining Lounge Westbury, NY Dec 09, 2016 $53,000 -
$54,000
Head Chef Chi Dining Lounge Westbury, NY Dec 21, 2016 $53,000 -
$54,000
Head Chef Sweet Papaya Inc. Buffalo, NY Sep 01, 2014 $53,000
Head Chef AWON Corporation Los Angeles, CA Apr 24, 2012 $47,382
Head Chef Suzumo Japanese Restaurant, Inc. Los Angeles, CA May 25, 2012 $47,382
Chef, Head Restaurant Koshiji Torrance, CA Jan 30, 2012 $47,382
Sushi Head Chef Nami International Inc. Alpharetta, GA Aug 05, 2015 $46,176 -
$55,000
Head Chef, Korean Food Brother BBQ Inc. Lakewood, CA Oct 15, 2015 $46,000
Head Chinese Food Chef LK Sena Inc. Texarkana, TX Oct 30, 2015 $46,000
Head Chef Srs Restaurant Inc. Houston, TX Nov 17, 2016 $45,781
Head Chef Srs Reaurant Inc. Houston, TX Aug 30, 2016 $45,781

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Top Skills for A Head Chef

KitchenOperationsFoodCostSafeFoodDinnerServiceBanquetsMenuPlanningCustomerServiceFoodProductsDailySpecialsSuperviseNewMenuItemsMenuDevelopmentSpecialEventsLaborCostsQualityFoodFoodItemsInventoryControlCostControlBeverageFoodService

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Top Head Chef Skills

  1. Kitchen Operations
  2. Food Cost
  3. Safe Food
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Supervised all daily kitchen operations including food purchasing, food preparation, scheduling, hiring, and food costs.
  • Completed monthly inventory and answered for increases/decreases to inventory level and food cost.
  • Adhered to safe food handling practices ensuring safety of cast and crew.
  • Led a team of talented line cooks through nightly dinner services, brunch services, and on/off site catering events.
  • Prepared and cooked for public and private catering events, banquets and assisted with the creation of the daily menu.

Top Head Chef Employers

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