Chefs oversee and may take part in the daily food preparation at restaurants, private homes, hotels and other food establishments. They check the freshness of food and cleanliness of the kitchen work areas. Chefs plan menus and develop recipes and dish presentation ideas. They also direct and monitor the activities of cooks and other food preparation staff.
Duties and responsibilities
- Check the freshness, quality and quantity of food and ingredients received
- Assure raw and cooked foods meet safety and quality standards
- Develop recipes and creative ideas for food presentation
- Analyse recipes for food, preparation and overhead costs for budgeting and menu pricing
- Inspect equipment, supplies and work areas to assure compliance with cleanliness and other standards
- Prepare and cook foods of all types for daily menus or special occasions as needed
- Plan and supervise activities of cooks and other food preparation staff
- Recruit and hire staff
- Demonstrate cooking techniques and recipe instructions to cooks and other kitchen workers
- Keep inventory and order necessary food, supplies and equipment
- Collaborate with restaurant owners, individual clients and staff on developing recipes and menus
- Maintain records of operations as required
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally
Chefs work in restaurants, private homes, corporate kitchens, hotels and other food service establishments. Those who are restaurant owners and self-employed catering chefs may also spend time in an office managing budgets, salaries and other operational duties.
Chefs typically work full time, with schedules that can include early mornings, late evenings, weekends and holidays. You may work more than 40 hours a week.
Kitchens are fast-paced and often stressful environments, and chefs spend a lot of time standing. Injuries like burns, cuts and falls are possible but usually minor. Wearing long sleeves and non-slip shoes can help minimise risk.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Culinary degree optional
Chef positions typically only require a high school diploma, though many candidates pursue some form of postsecondary education. Culinary schools, community colleges and technical schools typically offer associate's degrees, with four-year bachelor's degrees available from some institutions. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) accredits academic training programmes as well as offers apprenticeship opportunities.
Many chefs train on the job, starting as line cooks or other kitchen staff and working their way up. Particularly in upscale restaurants and hotels, it can take several years of experience before you will be promoted to a head chef position.
Certification is also possible and particularly useful for corporate and personal chefs. Also offered by the ACF, certification may require work experience of up to five years, depending upon the level of certificate.
A combination of quality work and experience will assist your progression from assistant roles like sous chef up to the head chef position. Certification also helps you stand out from other candidates when applying for more lucrative roles in larger and more prestigious kitchens.
Some chefs go on to own their own business, as a personal or corporate chef, catering service or restaurant owner. Coursework in business administration is helpful in achieving this goal.