Job Title and Median Salary

Chefs and Head Cooks
2019 Median Pay$53,380 per year
$25.66 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationHigh school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation5 years or more
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 2019148,700
Job Outlook, 2019-296% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-299,500

Table 1. This table from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expresses various quick facts based on research and statistics gathered by the BLS. IAHA does not claim any of this information, and it is expected that this data will change in the upcoming years and reports given by the BLS.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for chefs and head cooks in 2020 was $53,380. At the time that this report was published, careers for chefs and head cooks was projected to grow by 6% between 2019 and 2029, which is above average for other careers. The BLS suggests that these job opportunities and growth results from the need to replace workers who leave their occupation in the food industry.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chefs and Head Cooks, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm (visited August 8, 2021).

Chef and Head Cook Responsibilities

Ensure the freshness of all food and ingredients

Coordinate and supervise other cooks and food prep workers

Create recipes and determine how to present them

Develop menus and ensure meal quality

Perform inspections of equipment and work areas for cleanliness and serviceability

Hire, train, and direct cooks and food prep employees

Order and maintain the establishment’s inventory of food and supplies

Oversee sanitation practices and ensure staff is adhering to the safety standards of the kitchen

Important Qualities of Chefs and Head Cooks

Business skills — Chefs who run their own restaurants must have a solid understanding of the industry and restaurant business. This knowledge includes budgeting for supplies, pricing, and managing workers to ensure profitability within the restaurant.

Communication skills — This skill is essential to ensure that chefs can effectively supervise staff so that orders are prepared correctly.

Creativity — To develop innovative new recipes, a level of creativity for a chef is a must-have. The ability to use various ingredients to create outstanding meals for customers is very important in this position.

Dexterity — While things can get busy within the restaurant, it’s important for chefs to maintain dexterity and composure, especially while utilizing proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing ingredients.

Strong leadership skills — With chefs and head cooks in charge of the kitchen, it is imperative that they can communicate and cooperative effectively with their team.

Physical stamina — Chefs and head cooks sometimes can work long hours, often spending entire evenings on their feet.

Time-management skills — People working in these positions must effectively manage their time as well as the time of their staff. Especially during busy hours, chefs and head cooks must ensure that meals are coming out on time without the cost of reduced quality.

Chef and Head Cook Environments

Restaurants and other eating places45%
Special food services10%
Self-employed workers10%
Traveler accommodation10%
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries6%

Table 2. This table from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expresses various work environments associated with this profession. These categories are made up of the largest employers of chefs and head cooks. The remaining 19% is reserved as an “Other” category. IAHA does not claim any of this information, and it is expected that this data will change in the upcoming years and reports given by the BLS.

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