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Head Chef

Education and Training: Culinary school
Average Salary: $55,976 per year
Job Outlook: Fair

Head chefs oversee nearly all of the aspects of their kitchens. They are responsible for training and managing the staff, planning the menu, the ingredients, the equipment used, the sizes of the portions, the way that the food will be presented, and how the food will be prepared. Head chefs are also often expected to deal with patrons and/or vendors. The specific job requirements of a head chef depend upon the type of venue in which he or she works. For example, a head chef at a huge banquet hall may have different responsibilities from those of a head chef at a small restaurant.

Education and Training Requirements

While it is not mandatory for prospective chefs to graduate from a culinary institute, it is highly recommended. Formal training gives candidates a strong foundation, which can help them get essential entry-level positions that could eventually help them become head chefs. In culinary school, students learn about food presentation, preparation, sanitation, service, and they also learn about the different types of chef positions. Students can choose to specialize in specific areas and become pastry or pantry chefs.
After (or in some cases in lieu of) culinary school, prospective head chefs can apply for an apprenticeship under an experienced chef. Apprenticeships often include classwork and practical training. The next steps for prospective head chefs are to gain as much experience as possible, and to obtain certification from the American Culinary Foundation, which offers different levels of certification for chefs. Head chefs typically have at least ten years of relevant work experience.

Getting the Job

While specific job application processes and qualifications vary by industry, there are numerous employment referral websites for chefs. Chefs often become head chefs through internal promotions. Networking is arguably the best way for a chef to find a position as a head chef. It is important to maintain good relationships with others in the restaurant industry. Personal recommendations are key to getting a job as a head chef.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

The job outlook for head chefs is fair. While the restaurant industry is booming, most of the job growth is contained to entry-level positions. Competition for head chef positions is expected to become increasingly intense.

Working Conditions and Environment

Working conditions tend to vary greatly depending on the industry, but head chefs generally describe the position as highly stressful. During peak times, the job is very fast-paced and requires a great deal of multitasking. Head chefs also usually need to work irregular hours that include nights, weekends, and holidays.

Salary and Benefits

The average annual salary for head chefs varies widely by industry, and salary averages range from $55,976 to $85,328. Personal chefs and chefs at fine dining restaurants tend to be paid more. Casual restaurants, cruise ships, and cafeterias tend to offer significantly lower salaries. Lower paying industries can pay as low as $25,000 annually, while higher-paying industries can pay more than $200,000 annually. Compensation for head chefs also varies by location. In the United States, head chefs in New York City receive the highest average compensation for head chefs in metropolitan areas.

Where to Go for More Information:

American Culinary Federation
180 Center Place Way
St. Augustine, FL 32095
(800) 624-9458

International Association of Culinary Professionals
1100 Johnson Ferry Rd., Ste. 300
Atlanta, GA 30342
(800) 928-4227

Professional Chef’s Association
1207 Hawkeye Court
Fort Collins, CO 80525
(720) 379-8759

World Association of Chefs Societies
52 avenue Victor Hugo
75116 Paris
+ 33 (0)1 44 17 32 94

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