Cafeteria Chef: Career Information for Becoming a Cafeteria Chef

Nov 18, 2020

Career Definition for a Cafeteria Chef

Cafeteria chefs work in cafeterias in places like schools, hospitals, large corporations and other institutions to prepare a limited number of dishes in large quantities. Typical duties of cafeteria chefs include mixing, measuring and cooking ingredients according to recipes; they use a variety of kitchen equipment, including pots and pans, cutlery, grills, ovens, stoves, slicers and so on. Cafeteria chefs may also be responsible for managing lower-level employees, ensuring the kitchen is clean and ordering food supplies.

Education Varies by place of employment; culinary training from vocational school or technical college is beneficial
Job Skills Knowledgeable of safe food handling and preparation techniques; comfortable in management or supervisory role
Median Wages (2019)* $27,750 per year or $13.34 per hour (for institution and cafeteria cooks)
Job Growth (2019-2029)* 2% (for institution and cafeteria cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

The background required to become a cafeteria chef will vary by the place of employment and the exact demands of the position. While some employers may require formal culinary training, courses from a vocational school or technical college may be adequate for other employers; on-the-job training may also be provided by many employers. Common courses in a one- or two-year culinary certificate program include basic food preparation, sanitation and safety, herbs and spices, stocks and sauces and chef's skills.

Skills Required

To become a cafeteria chef, you must be well versed in safe food handling and preparation techniques. You should also feel comfortable operating in a management role because this position may also require you to direct lower employees, ensure regulatory compliance and supervise food and supply ordering.

Employment and Economic Outlook

The employment outlook for institution and cafeteria cooks, including cafeteria chefs, is about the same as the average for all occupations. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment in this field is expected to grow 2% from 2019 to 2029. Median earnings for this field in 2019 were $27,750, or $13.34 per hour, according to BLS figures.

Alternate Career Options

Career options within related fields include:

Food and Beverage Serving and Related Worker

Even before earning a high school diploma, these workers may secure employment in various drinking and eating establishments, preparing foods, cleaning and fulfilling various customer service functions. Much faster than average employment growth of 10% is expected from 2019 through 2029, and an annual median wage of $23,000, or $11.06 per hour, was reported by the BLS in 2019.

Chef and Head Cook

The BLS forecasts a faster-than-average job growth of 6% for chefs and head cooks during the 2019 to 2029 decade. These workers supervise food preparation and kitchen staff in restaurants and other eateries. Although formal postsecondary training isn't required and skills may be gained through work experience, some individuals attend programs in culinary schools, community colleges or technical schools. According to the BLS, chefs and head cooks earned a median salary of $51,530 per year, or $24.78 per hour, in 2019.

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