Executive Chef Job Description, Salary and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an executive chef. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification options to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Executive chefs supervise other kitchen personnel and are responsible for making the administrative decisions for a restaurant. They often work long hours, with 12-hour days being common. Work experience is the most important requirement for executive chef positions, though a bachelor's degree in culinary arts or a related hospitality field is recommended; associate's degree programs are another option. Voluntary certification is available from the American Culinary Federation.

Required EducationNone specified, though bachelor's degrees are increasingly common; associate's degrees are also available
Other Requirements 7-8 years of work experience for executive positions
CertificationVoluntary
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 5% for all chefs and head cooks*
Median Salary (2014)$54,881**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Executive Chef Job Description

Executive chefs work for restaurants and make most of the administrative decisions. They may review food and beverage purchases, develop and standardize recipes, maintain safety and sanitation in the kitchen, maintain equipment, design food presentation aesthetics, plan and prepare special menu items, choose menu designs and determine menu prices. They may also be in charge of interviewing, hiring and training new kitchen personnel.

Additionally, executive chefs supervise all kitchen workers. They give performance reviews, grant pay increases and take disciplinary action when necessary. Executive chefs may also help prepare meals in the kitchen and delegate work to other chefs and cooks during the restaurant's busy times. At the end of the work day, executive chefs oversee clean up and record the day's sales.

Executive Chef Salary and Career Outlook

According to PayScale.com, as of 2014, executive chefs earned median salaries of $54,881. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest number of chefs and head cooks were employed by restaurants, followed by travel companies and special food services. Jobs were predicted to increase by 5% from 2012-2022, due to the increased use of lower-level employees to do a lot of the work.

Executive Chef Career Information

Since executive chefs hold a high position in the culinary industry, they are usually required to have 7-8 years of previous related experience. Valuable work experiences include managing food and labor costs, developing and pricing menus, leading a culinary team and demonstrating food preparation skills.

Ideally, executive chefs should have a bachelor's degree in the culinary arts or in a related area, such as hospitality. Many chefs have only a 2-year degree and rely on additional work experience to improve their career opportunities. Other chefs get their start through on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs and work their way up without completing any formal education.

Personal characteristics that are important for executive chefs to have include good customer service skills, the ability to lead and manage a diverse group of people. They should also be creative and have a keen sense of smell and taste. All chefs should have good personal hygiene since they must work in sanitary conditions and many states require proof that they are free of communicable diseases.

A Certified Executive Chef (CEC) designation is offered by the American Culinary Federation. Although it is not required, certification can help executive chefs move into advanced positions and can lead to higher paying jobs. Those who have at least three years of experience as a chef and a high school diploma or equivalent qualify to test for CEC certification. An aspiring CEC must pass both a written and practical examination. Continuing education is necessary to maintain certification, and recertification is required every five years.

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