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How to Become an Executive Chef

An executive chef, also known as chef de cuisine or head chef, is the top supervisor in a private or corporate food environment, overseeing all kitchen operations, including personnel, food production, and budgeting. In catering and restaurant venues, the executive chef also coordinates the standard flow of food with front-of-the-house managers to ensure the best possible service for guests.

Culinary Arts

Executive chef job description

An executive chef is responsible for nearly all the day-to-day functions of a kitchen, including:

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Ordering and purchasing supplies, food, and equipment
  • Developing menus
  • Researching industry trends
  • Budgeting and financial planning
  • Food safety systems in the establishment

Depending on the venue, an executive chef can be very hands-on, preparing dishes or finishing the plates to ensure quality standards. Their role may also be more business oriented, with the majority of their time spent outside of the kitchen. When food service begins, the executive chef oversees and orchestrates the entire operation, ensuring everything runs smoothly by motivating staff and taking care of questions and issues that may arise.

Executive chef training and education requirements

Chef training certification and degree programs can be found all over the world, with traditional classroom learning, hands-on kitchen training, and online classes available at accredited colleges and universities, trade and technical schools, and continuing education facilities.

Culinary certifications and degree programs offer a broad education, preparing students for entry-level positions. Culinary externships and internships offer students the opportunity to experience a range of kitchen positions under the supervision of an executive chef. Earning a certificate or degree in culinary provides you with the foundation needed to advance in the industry. This specialized training, along with on-the-job experience in the culinary field, can help develop the skills needed to become an executive chef such as:

  • Knowledge of food safety and sanitation in the kitchen
  • Financial management and budgeting
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Performance management skills
  • Time management skills
  • Analytical skills

Executive chef salary and career information

Because the executive chef is ultimately in charge of the kitchen operations, there will always be a need for this role in some capacity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for chefs and head cooks are expected to grow by 9%, which is slightly better than the average growth of 7% for all jobs nationwide. The salary for executive chefs varies widely based on location, type of employer, and years of experience. According to BLS data, here are the states that paid the best average salaries for chefs and head cooks in 2014

  • District of Columbia: $62,850
  • New Jersey: $56,200
  • Florida: $55,080
  • Connecticut: $54,950
  • Massachusetts: $53,890

The BLS reported a nationwide average salary of $45,880 for chefs and head cooks in 2014, with a total employment of 118,130. Landing a job in a top-paying city can net you significantly more. Chefs working in the top paying metropolitan statistical area of New York-White Plains-Wayne NY/NJ had an annual mean wage of $80,940.

Most chefs enter the field based on a love of cooking rather than the promise of a high salary, but those who rise through the ranks to take on the responsibility of an executive chef generally enjoy higher pay and greater job stability than those working as line cooks or even sous chefs. If you want to combine your passion for food with a business role, executive chef degree programs can teach you what you need to know.

Sources:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Chefs and Head Cooks, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm 
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            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
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            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
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            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
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            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
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            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
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            Virginia College , Fort Pierce
            • Instructors are typically real-world professionals with many years of experience in their career fields.
            • Ranked #3 in Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2014 by Military Times.
            • Presents the full tuition cost up front. In most cases, even textbooks are included in the total price.
            • Provides career services associates to help students review their resume, provide career counseling, help with job searches, and more.
            • Has 27 campus locations across the southern United States, plus offers online degree programs.
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