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Become A Head Cook

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Working As A Head Cook

  • 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

  • $37,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Head Cook 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 Cook

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 Cook Jobs

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Head Cook Career Paths

Head Cook
Sous Chef Executive Chef General Manager
Director Of Food And Beverage
9 Yearsyrs
Sous Chef Executive Chef
Chef Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Sous Chef Executive Chef Manager
Area Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Chef Consultant Assistant Manager
Assistant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Chef Consultant General Manager
Food Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Chef Consultant Office Manager
Administrative Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Machine Operator Foreman Manager
Food And Beverage Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Machine Operator Foreman Assistant Manager
Restaurant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Machine Operator Foreman Operations Manager
General Manager Of Operations
8 Yearsyrs
Driver Field Service Technician Service Manager
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Driver Account Executive Service Manager
Culinary Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Senior Technician Specialist Food Service Director
Director Of Food And Nutrition Services
9 Yearsyrs
Driver Electrician Owner/Operator
Food Service Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Head Chef Chef/Catering Lead Cook
Dietary Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Banquet Chef Corporate Executive Chef Kitchen Manager
Assistant Food Service Director
5 Yearsyrs
Technician Production Supervisor Line Supervisor
Line Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Head Chef Corporate Executive Chef Kitchen Manager
Cafeteria Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Cook/Baker Lead Cook Dietary Manager
Certified Dietary Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Cook/Baker Lead Cook Food Service Manager
Nutrition Services Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Pastry Chef Culinary Arts Instructor Food Service Manager
Food Safety Director
8 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
First Cook 3.9 years
Head Chef 3.2 years
Cook/Baker 3.1 years
Head Cook 3.0 years
Cafeteria Cook 3.0 years
Cooking Chef 2.9 years
Cook/Trainer 2.8 years
Lead Cook 2.8 years
Cook/Bartender 2.8 years
Cook/Dietary Aide 2.7 years
Dietary Cook 2.7 years
Dinner Cook 2.3 years
Cook 2.0 years
Assistant Cook 2.0 years
Breakfast Cook 1.9 years
Kitchen Cook 1.8 years
Camp Cook 1.8 years
Prep Cook 1.7 years
Cook/Dishwasher 1.6 years
Top Careers Before Head Cook
Cook 21.5%
Line Cook 12.4%
Cashier 9.8%
Prep Cook 6.3%
Manager 4.6%
Chef 3.1%
Sous Chef 2.9%
Server 2.5%
Grill Cook 2.4%
Lead Cook 2.2%
Waitress 2.0%
Top Careers After Head Cook
Cook 20.2%
Line Cook 10.5%
Cashier 7.0%
Prep Cook 5.2%
Manager 5.0%
Chef 4.9%
Sous Chef 4.8%
Lead Cook 3.1%
Grill Cook 2.6%
Supervisor 2.5%
Server 2.5%
Head Chef 2.3%

Do you work as a Head Cook?

Head Cook Demographics

Gender

Male

58.6%

Female

33.4%

Unknown

8.0%
Ethnicity

White

64.0%

Hispanic or Latino

14.1%

Black or African American

11.2%

Asian

7.4%

Unknown

3.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

65.4%

French

7.1%

Italian

5.2%

German

4.1%

Greek

2.6%

Japanese

2.2%

Portuguese

1.9%

Chinese

1.9%

Arabic

1.5%

Albanian

1.1%

Polish

1.1%

Swedish

0.7%

Mandarin

0.7%

Korean

0.7%

Thai

0.7%

Filipino

0.7%

Carrier

0.7%

Tagalog

0.7%

Vietnamese

0.4%

Romanian

0.4%
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Head Cook Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

19.7%

Johnson & Wales University

9.6%

The Academy

7.7%

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

7.6%

Kaplan University

6.3%

Culinary Institute of America

5.4%

Ashford University

4.3%

Delgado Community College

3.6%

Cuyahoga Community College

3.6%

University of North Dakota

3.6%

Baker College

3.6%

Kirkwood Community College

3.5%

Hinds Community College

3.2%

Gateway Technical College

2.7%

A-Technical College

2.7%

University of Akron

2.7%

Oberlin College

2.5%

Ultimate Medical Academy - Clearwater

2.5%

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

2.5%

Art Institute of Atlanta

2.5%
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Majors

Culinary Arts

24.6%

Business

20.3%

General Studies

5.3%

Criminal Justice

5.0%

Hospitality Management

4.5%

Health Care Administration

4.1%

Nursing

3.5%

Management

3.4%

Computer Science

3.3%

Psychology

3.3%

Accounting

3.2%

Food And Nutrition

3.0%

Medical Assisting Services

2.8%

Education

2.5%

Automotive Technology

2.3%

Liberal Arts

2.1%

Precision Metal Working

1.8%

Graphic Design

1.8%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.6%

Communication

1.5%
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Degrees

Other

44.0%

Associate

21.9%

Bachelors

19.2%

Certificate

9.0%

Diploma

3.2%

Masters

1.9%

License

0.6%

Doctorate

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$37,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$22,000
Min 10%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$62,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Hanjin International
Highest Paying City
Danbury, CT
Highest Paying State
Connecticut
Avg Experience Level
3.1 years
How much does a Head Cook make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Head Cook in the United States is $37,245 per year or $18 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $22,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $62,000.

Real Head Cook Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Head Cook JK Grill DBA Le Marais New York, NY Feb 10, 2015 $79,997
Head Cook, Mexican Cuisine BDD Page Ave Restaurant Corp D/B/A Cabo New York, NY May 05, 2016 $66,742
Head Cook, Spanish Cuisine Coamex Restaurant Inc. Jackson, NY Dec 31, 2015 $66,742
Head Cook, Italian Cuisine Taro Rest. Inc. D/B/A Due Restaurant New York, NY Jun 02, 2015 $66,742
Head Cook, Italian Cuisine 289 Bleecker Restaurant LLC New York, NY Aug 28, 2015 $66,742
Head Cook, Continental Cuisine Guapo Bodega New York, NY Sep 18, 2015 $66,742
Chef & Head Cooks Pan Asia CAFE N Grille Braintree Town, MA Nov 25, 2015 $66,664
Chef or Head Cook Pepe West 48Th Street, LLC D/B/A La Masseria New York, NY Sep 10, 2015 $66,518
Chef and Head Cook Mskan Inc. Birmingham, AL Jan 03, 2016 $65,000
Head Cook, Italian Cuisine Luma Restaurant Inc. New York, NY Aug 03, 2016 $64,501
Head Cook Toros Restaurant Clifton, NJ Nov 20, 2015 $64,501
Head Cook CAFE Joelle, Inc. Sayville, NY May 20, 2015 $64,168
Chef and Head Cook Yakiniq San Francisco, CA Sep 10, 2015 $62,213
Head Cook (Russian Cuisine) Roxy E, LLC Sunny Isles Beach, FL Apr 10, 2015 $52,000
Head Cook Ah-Kai Sushi & Grill, LLC Goodyear, AZ Jan 12, 2015 $51,690
Head Cook Bistrot Du Coin Washington, DC Oct 27, 2015 $51,667
Head Cook Style Concept Studio Washington, DC Oct 20, 2015 $51,667
Head Cook-Korean Food Texas Moon Group, Inc. Dallas, TX Sep 02, 2016 $51,000
Japanese Food Head Cook Lucky Food Inc. Lynnwood, WA Jul 14, 2015 $49,795
Specialty Korean Head Cook Spoon House, Inc. Champaign, IL Aug 07, 2016 $49,500
Head Cook-Korean Food Texas Mercury, Inc. Dallas, TX Oct 05, 2016 $49,200
Head Cook/Mediterrranean Cuisine Persian Mediterranean Cuisine DBA: Mirage Restaurant, Inc. Clearwater, FL Sep 16, 2015 $45,760
Head Cook/Mediterranean Cuisine Mirage Restaurant, Inc. Clearwater, FL Mar 23, 2016 $45,760
Head Cook/Mediterrranean Cuisine Persian Mediterranean Cuisine DBA: Mirage Restaurant, Inc. Clearwater, FL Feb 23, 2016 $45,760
Chef/Head Cook Amici, Inc. Kennebunk, ME May 15, 2015 $45,622
Head Cook Gonna Enterprise, Inc. Paramount, CA Nov 18, 2015 $45,448
Head Cooks Oasis Foodservice, Inc. Blacksburg, VA Feb 17, 2016 $45,000
Chef/Head Cook Mai Thai Restaurant Westmont, IL Jul 07, 2015 $44,907
Pakistani Indian Head Cook NAAN-N-Curry LLC Renton, WA Jun 10, 2016 $44,866 -
$46,000

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Top Skills for A Head Cook

  1. Kitchen Equipment
  2. Food Safety
  3. Meal Prep
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Demonstrated proficiency in knife techniques and ability to safely use kitchen equipment maintaining proper sanitation standards.
  • Followed food safety procedures according to company policies and health and sanitation regulations.
  • Provide direction, supervision and assistance to approximately fifty individuals during daily meal preparations for approximately five hundred inmates.
  • Prepared restaurant menu items to customers specifications.
  • Recognized by widely by customers, coworkers and management for customer service excellence and outstanding job performance.

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Top 10 Best States for Head Cooks

  1. Nevada
  2. New Jersey
  3. Vermont
  4. Hawaii
  5. Minnesota
  6. Texas
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Wyoming
  9. Colorado
  10. Nebraska
  • (399 jobs)
  • (827 jobs)
  • (83 jobs)
  • (150 jobs)
  • (1,023 jobs)
  • (3,201 jobs)
  • (123 jobs)
  • (65 jobs)
  • (1,046 jobs)
  • (235 jobs)

Top Head Cook Employers

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