Head chefs oversee the preparation of food in restaurant kitchens. They direct the activities of other cooks and food-preparation workers. They also prepare food. In some establishments, the head chef is responsible for developing new dishes, and in some cases a restaurant's entire menu is largely the creation of the head chef. Many chefs have post-secondary culinary training, and usually have several years of restaurant experience before being hired to head a restaurant kitchen.
National Wage Statistics
As of 2011, head chefs and head cooks earned an average of $22.40 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This represents an annual income of approximately $46,600. The bureau also reports that the highest-paid 10 percent of chefs made $35.61 or more per hour.
Regional Wage Statistics
In general, chefs in the Midwest reported the lowest average hourly wages, and chefs employed in the Northeast reported the highest. The very lowest average wage, $14.71, was reported by Idaho. At an average of $32.67 per hour, New York was the highest-paying state, followed by New Jersey at $29.07 per hour and Hawaii at $25.34 per hour. The very highest-paying metropolitan area was that comprising New York City, White Plains and Wayne, where chefs averaged $38.46 per hour.
Pay by Place of Employment
As of 2011, chefs employed by full-service restaurants earned an average wage of $21.57 per hour. Those employed by restaurants connected with hotels reported substantially higher average wages, $25.39 per hour. Chefs working at restaurants connected to amusement or recreational facilities reported a similar average wage, $25.50 per hour. Chefs employed directly by the federal government reported one of the highest average wages for the profession, $31.45 an hour.
As of 2010, an estimated 100,600 chefs were employed in the United States. The BLS expects that the number of chef positions in the country will decline by about 1 percent between 2010 and 2020. Most openings over the decade will be as a result of the need to replace former workers. Aspiring head chefs should expect strong competition for employment, and can best prepare by attending a culinary institute.
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