Chef Job Description

Chefs work in restaurants, where they direct the preparation, seasoning, and cooking of food.

There are many different types of chefs, each with their own area of specialty. Here are a few of the most common types:

Executive chefs are responsible for overseeing all kitchen operations. They direct the sous chefs and other cooks who handle most of the food preparation. Executive chefs often prepare menus, manage inventory, and perform other administrative tasks needed to keep the kitchen running smoothly.

Sous chefs are essentially assistant chefs. They supervise the cooks, help prepare meals, and take over kitchen operations when the chef is away. Working as a sous chef is a great way to learn the skills required to become an executive chef.

Personal chefs are employed by individuals or families to cook in their homes. Some are self-employed, while others work for private cooking companies.

Household chefs are similar to personal chefs, but they work full time for a single client. They are normally hired by people who need to entertain guests on a very regular basis.

Work Environment and Schedule

Chefs work in hotels, restaurants, private residences, and other places where food is served.

Kitchens can be hot, noisy, and filled with potential ways to hurt yourself. Taking safety precautions can reduce the chance of injury, but it’s just about impossible to find a chef who hasn’t suffered at least a few serious burns or cuts. Getting hurt from time to time is just part of the job.

This can be a stressful occupation, especially during lunch or dinner rushes. Maintaining food quality while cooking many meals at once is no small task, and it’s a skill that takes many years to develop.

Chefs are normally required to work long irregular hours. Since most restaurants are busiest during evenings and weekends, chefs can expect to work during those times. Taking time off (especially during busy times) can be difficult.

Executive chefs often work twelve hour days, because they manage so many things in the kitchen. Hours of prep work are required each day, and many administrative tasks can only be performed outside of normal business hours.

How to Become a Chef

Most chefs get their start in a restaurant working as a dishwasher or line cook, and eventually work their way up to the point where they are able to learn cooking skills from a chef. It takes most people many years of practice and dedication to become a chef.

It’s becoming increasingly common for chefs to learn the basics of their trade by attending a culinary school. These programs last anywhere from a few months to four years. Courses normally cover cooking techniques, menu planning, inventory management, and other skills required to run a restaurant.

Most of the time, students must complete an internship or placement program to meet graduation requirements.

Formal cooking programs tend to be expensive — and because chefs rarely make high salaries, it can take many years to pay off tuition. You should consider the financial implications carefully before deciding to attend a school.

An alternative to culinary school is finding an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships last two years, and include both hands on training and classroom training. To learn more about apprenticeships, visit the American Culinary Federation’s website.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 100,600 chefs in the United States, with 1,800 new chef job openings created each year.

Chef jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Chef Salaries

Overall Salaries

Chef salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most chefs make between $31,600 – $56,900 per year, or $15.19 – $27.37 per hour.

Updated: 09/02/2017

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