Chef: Average Salary of a Chef

Published Aug 30, 2009

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Everyone likes a well-cooked meal, so there will always be a need for trained Chefs. A Chef can find work almost anywhere food is prepared, including restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores and even private residences, with some of the highest average salaries going to chefs in amusement parks. While some Chefs have built careers based on personal experience, it is helpful to have a certificate or degree from a college program or culinary school when looking for work.

Chef Career Summary

Chefs use a variety of equipment to prepare and cook food. Some may supervise the overall work of a kitchen staff. They are also responsible for maintaining stock and ordering new supplies. Higher-level Chefs create recipes and design menus while overseeing cooking operations, sometimes for several kitchens. Duties, job requirements and pay for Chefs will vary depending on where they work.

Paid internships are available from some food service, hotel and restaurant companies. These can later lead to in-house Chef training programs or apprenticeships. However, businesses tend to prefer hiring people who have completed a culinary education program at a college or cooking school. Training certificates can be earned in as little as a few months, with associate's and bachelor's degrees also available. Students in these programs learn about sanitation, public health laws and proper food preparation and storage. Students are also taught how to operate kitchen equipment.

Chef Career Outlook and Salary Information

As population and demand for convenient prepared food increases, so will employment opportunities for Chefs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,, jobs for Chefs and cooks will grow by 11% between 2006 and 2016, which is as fast as average for all jobs. The BLS predicts faster than average growth for Chef positions at grocery and specialty food stores, which are beginning to directly compete with restaurants in offering pre-made meals.

The mean annual wage for head cooks and Chefs in May 2008 was $42,410, as reported by the BLS. The two largest industries employing Chefs are full-service restaurants, which offer an annual mean (average) salary of $39,930, and traveler accommodation locations such as hotels, where Chefs earn an annual average of $49,000. Higher average salaries went to Chefs working in arcades or amusement parks, at $64,240. Executive Chef positions usually command the highest salaries, and they typically require years of experience.

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