Chef Employment -Training and Jobs for Chef Work

If you have a passion for food and cooking, try your hand with a degree in the culinary arts. Not only could you get a job as a restaurant manager, but you could create dishes as a chef. See below for what your everyday responsibilities could be like and what the growth potential is.

Read for more information on the types of degrees and certifications you can get and what your coursework will be like in a culinary arts program.

The Nature of Chef Work

Chefs and cooks prepare and cook a wide array of food, including soups, snacks and salads, entrees, side dishes and desserts. Chefs and cooks create recipes and prepare meals rather than chop or prepare ingredients, which food prep workers do.

Specifically, chefs and cooks measure, mix and cook ingredients according to recipes, using a variety of equipment and tools. Chefs and head cooks also are responsible for directing the work of other kitchen workers, estimating food requirements and ordering food supplies.

Executive chefs and head cooks coordinate the work of the entire kitchen staff and direct the meals. They determine serving sizes, plan menus, order food supplies and oversee kitchen operations.  A chef de cuisine reports to an executive chef and is responsible for the daily operations of a single kitchen. A sous chef acts as second-in-command and manages the kitchen in the absence of the chef.

Work hours in restaurants may include early mornings, late evenings, holidays and weekends. Work schedules in fine-dining restaurants tend to be long because of the time required to prepare ingredients. Many executive chefs routinely work 12-hour days because they oversee the delivery of ingredients, plan menus and prepare menu items.

Training and Education Requirements for Chef Careers

When hiring chefs, employers usually prefer those who have training after high school. Vocational programs typically offer basic training in food handling and sanitation procedures, nutrition and slicing, dicing and basic cooking methods. Longer programs leading to a certificate or a 2- or 4-year degree train chefs for upscale restaurants.

Students in culinary training programs typically spend most of their time in kitchens learning how to prepare meals by practicing cooking skills. Training programs can also include courses in nutrition, menu planning, portion control, purchasing and inventory methods and proper food storage procedures. Most formal training programs require students to get experience in a commercial kitchen through an internship.

Chefs must be efficient, quick and work well as part of a team. Workers also must possess creativity and a keen sense of taste and smell. Knowledge of a foreign language can be helpful because it can improve communication with restaurant staff and vendors.

Chef Employment and Chef Jobs Outlook

Chefs and cooks held roughly 2.2 million jobs in 2006.  Two-thirds of all chefs, cooks and food preparation workers were employed in restaurants and other food services and drinking places. About 15% worked in institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals and nursing care facilities. Grocery stores, hotels and convenience stores employed most of the remainder.

The number of higher-skilled chefs and cooks working in full-service restaurants is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations

Chef Salary Outlook

Median annual salary earnings of chefs and head cooks were $34,370 in May 2006. The middle 50% earned between $25,910 and $46,040. The lowest 10% earned less than $20,160, and the highest 10% earned more than $60,730.


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