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A chef is the creative mastermind behind the foods served in a restaurant or dining establishment. The role of a chef can vary by employment setting, but it generally includes a mix of menu planning, kitchen maintenance, inventory management, supervision and customer interaction. A culinary arts degree combined with several years of cooking experience can lead to head chef positions.
Top chefs typically succeed because of their creative talents. Restaurants rely on distinct menu creations to different themselves from other restaurants with similar food ingredients. In planning menus, head chefs not only come up with new recipes, but they must also create seasonal menus, combine foods into meal offerings and help in setting prices that provide good profit opportunities for the business.
The kitchen is the chef's domain and taking care of the kitchen and equipment are common duties. Proper cleaning and sanitation is required in kitchens to ensure the restaurant meets OSHA requirements upon inspection. The head chef typically arranges the kitchen, sets cleaning procedures and trains kitchen staff on properly following procedures.
A chef is also responsible for monitoring supply inventories and ordering when necessary. Restaurants suffer when the kitchen can't provide the items offered on the menu because of low inventory. Along with ordering necessary ingredients for food, the head chef also orders cooking supplies and other materials used in preparing food and maintaining the kitchen.
The head chef is also the kitchen manager. He oversees the work of other cooks who help prepare the food. Hiring and firing kitchen staff, training new employees and motivating staff to prepare food effectively and efficiently are common requirements in this role. A kitchen is normally a fast-paced environment and a chef must stay on top of the entire food preparation operation.
The importance of customer interaction in a chef's job varies greatly. At a minimum, the head chef needs to watch for or listen for customer feedback on the dining experience, menu and food. In fancy restaurants where the chef is central to the restaurants' reputation, the head chef may spend time out on the restaurant floor conversing directly with patrons.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.