Executive Chefs

At the top, these chefs are far from occupying a cookie-cutter job

Culinary Arts

Ever wanted to advocate for more organic food or depart from the traditional dining experience for a sophisticated, modern twist? Within the hierarchy of chefs in a kitchen, getting to this position is what motivated cooks strive for.

As the top dog of the kitchen, new executive chefs can gain name recognition, assume control over the creative direction of a restaurant, and manage a number of other responsibilities. Getting to this top post and excelling at it are not for the faint of heart.

So what is the job like for an executive chef? Just as restaurants differ in their size and offerings, the roles, responsibilities, and set of people executive chefs work with and preside over are never the same. Here are some situations showing what executive chefs can do and achieve.

Situation one: executive chef of restaurant

Spearheading the menu direction and managing a kitchen is a big deal. For that reason, it is not uncommon for food- and restaurant-related publications to report on emerging and established executive chefs. Skilled executive chefs have been known to turn lackluster establishments into star categories and transform good restaurants into classics.

A typical day in the shoes of an executive chef starts early. Before the customers even arrive, usual activities might include refining menu offerings to suit seasonal ingredients, concocting the specials of the day with sous chefs or line cooks, and consulting with the restaurant’s sommeliers and pastry chefs to perfect the complete gustatory experience from start to finish. They also may talk over inventory issues and menu pricing with the restaurant manager. When the customers arrive, executive chefs kick into high gear, problem-solving to smooth over issues in the kitchen and making sure that the small components of each dish consistently hit quality standards.  

Overall, there’s no slacking off when it comes to work schedules. Regardless of their command position, executive chefs put in long hours and commonly leave late at night.

Situation two: executive chef and restaurateur

In some instances, executive chefs with ample experience advance to the next step: opening their own restaurant and acquiring the title of restaurateur.

Many restaurateurs are not necessarily chefs. But executive chefs with business acumen are prime candidates for starting new restaurants. Oftentimes executive chefs-turned-restaurateurs worked as executive chefs or chefs de cuisine at other establishments, gaining many years of experience working for others before taking the helm of a brand-new ship. This experience is important. No longer is the job just about directing the food: they design the experience from the ground-up.

Being successful isn’t easy. A restaurant, essentially a hospitality business, encompasses the service delivering the meal, the space around the customer, and the business behind the establishment, too. Regardless of the size of the envisioned establishment, restaurateurs need to have a good grasp on kitchen organization, restaurant location, service and floor management, décor and business operations. 

To start, restaurateurs must secure the funding needed to start the business, sometimes involving making a pitch to potential investors. Also important is finding a suitable space for the establishment, since the number of seats in one space accommodating paying customers is a large part of the fundamental business plan. Branding, which is coming up with the personality of the restaurant and advertising it to the public, is also important when establishing a unique presence in the community. With the interior design, features such as lamp fixtures, carpeting, tabletops, chairs and barstools all flavor the customer experience. There’s also buying kitchen equipment, finding the food suppliers and hiring the right sous chefs and line chefs that fit in with the restaurant’s mission. Assembling the right people into a team also includes the hiring of kitchen workers, management heads, and wait staff. Service is considered by many to be the “face” of the restaurant.

Executive chefs who open new restaurants often feel imbued with a sense of purpose, excitement, and nerve-wracking jitters. It’s easy to see why: for some, opening a restaurant is a life-long dream.

Situation three: executive chef, restaurateur, owner of restaurant group

It takes hard work and talent to become an executive chef, and only some executive chefs have the chops to become successful restaurateurs. Rarer still are executive chefs-turned-restaurateurs who, once tasting the success of their first own enterprise, go on to establish multiple buzz-worthy restaurants.

What makes this any different? There’s a lot of work involved with restaurant pre-opening operations, including the investor pitch, restaurant design and hiring stint. This time, however, the operation gets bigger: insert more business people to help make the money work and, as a milestone of sorts, an even larger kitchen staff, including a new set of head chefs. After all, executive chefs can’t cook in two kitchens at once.

Once executive chefs open a restaurant, or even several, the task of establishing a unique image is never complete. Great chefs and restaurateurs always ensure that the experience they provide is fresh, high-quality and relevant, from the aprons worn by staff to the desserts on the menu. The bottom line of any restaurant’s success is making the customer happy.

Featured Culinary Schools

Refine School Matches
Hide filters

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            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.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
            • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
            • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
            • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 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.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • 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.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Le Cordon Bleu provides hands-on training from professional chef instructors.
            • Offer Flexible schedules and online programs to fit busy lives, Certificate, Associates, Bachelors and online programs available. Programs vary by location.
            • Le Cordon Bleu provides a pathway from essential foundational training to advanced culinary degrees.
            • Building on 100 years, Le Cordon Bleu is a leader in the culinary arts with a well-known name and quality reputation in the culinary and hospitality industry.
            • While attending, you’ll spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            3 Program(s) Found
            • 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.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • 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 11:1, 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.
            Show more [+]