A head chef oversees the kitchen staff in various types of restaurants and catering businesses. This role is a blend of creative recipe development, people management and administrative tasks. To get into this career, you typically need an associate degree in culinary arts, hands-on training and experience and key qualities.
On the food side, the head chef is often the inspiration for a restaurant's menu. In some fine-dining establishments, the chefs become synonymous with the business. In this role, you help develop the menu, create recipes, prepare food and train staff in food preparation. Ensuring the kitchen has the right equipment and tools, ingredients and cleaning supplies to keep a sanitary environment are closely related responsibilities.
Leadership and Administrative Tasks
As a manager, you must motivate staff in one of the most intense work environments in retail. Restaurant kitchens can get overwhelming orders during meal rushes. Keeping employees relaxed but also working at efficient levels takes a delicate mix of relational and task-oriented leadership skills. On the administrative side, you have to ensure the kitchen meets OSHA safety requirements, maintain contacts with vendors and suppliers and coordinate with other restaurant leaders in the overall planning of the business.
About half of all head chefs work in traditional restaurant environments, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hotels and food service businesses constitute the bulk of the remaining head chef jobs. In this career, you spend much of your day on your feet. Days can get long too. Head chefs often work 10- to 12-hour days consistently. Job risks includes stress, slips and falls and burns and cuts from knives and other culinary tools.
Though they don't make academic credentials a requirement for all jobs, many employers expect you to have a two-year or four-year degree in culinary arts or hospitality management to become a head chef. In lieu of or in addition to the educational requirements, you normally spend several years as an apprentice or training with an accomplished chef. Creativity, physical energy and stamina, a customer service mentality and leadership skills are core traits of successful head chefs.
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