Kitchen managers -- also known as head cooks or chefs – oversee every aspect of the running of a professional kitchen. Using culinary arts training and leadership skills, these workers manage by delegating duties to kitchen aides and other chefs, purchasing food and overseeing the preparation of meals for customers. They prepare for this role through formal culinary education, on-the-job training or apprenticeships.
Kitchen managers oversee the preparation and creation of food in restaurants, hotels, catering and recreational facilities. These management professionals monitor sanitation practices and supervise other kitchen workers, including chefs and kitchen aides. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, kitchen managers and head chefs held more than 115,400 jobs in 2012, and 46 percent of them worked in restaurants and other eating establishments. Kitchen managers typically work full-time, but the hours may be long. They are exposed to potential dangers because of crowded kitchens, hot stoves and falls on wet floors.
Within the kitchen, managers plan menus, ensure the quality and quantity of food before it goes to patrons, and stock food pantries. They order food and supplies, ensuring that the food is fresh and of high quality. They plan budgets, determine production schedules, inspect equipment, and decide how food should be displayed or presented to customers. These culinary masters also hire and train staff, as well as participate in meetings. Other duties may include creating new and enticing recipes and kitchen cleaning.
To run and manage a kitchen, kitchen managers need savvy business skills and knowledge of accounting and personnel management. Communication skills are necessary to oversee cooks, kitchen aides and other staff. Leadership skills and time management are necessary to motivate workers and ensure that meals are served on time. These administrative wizards must have knowledge of food production, including food quality, handling and storage, and processing and production of hot and cold foods. Employers want kitchen managers who can gauge customer satisfaction and create appealing meals.
Education and Training
You may become a kitchen manager through an apprenticeship or by working your way up through the positions in a kitchen. Some kitchen managers start as kitchen assistants, trainee chefs or mentors under an experienced chef, which can take two or more years depending on your drive and ambition. Others may complete an apprenticeship program that lasts about two years and includes both kitchen training and classroom instruction. Formal education, such as a one-year certificate or two-year associate degree in culinary arts or kitchen management, is another option. These formal programs typically include an internship, which allows students to gains hands-on training.
Certification and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chefs and head cooks, which includes kitchen managers, are projected to see a relatively low 5 percent increase in job opportunities from 2012 to 2022. The prospects are best for those with several years of training, and certification may be helpful. Voluntary certification is available through the American Culinary Federation. According to ONet Online, these workers earned a median annual wage of $42,490 in May 2013; however, salaries can be much higher in higher-end restaurants.