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The Job Description of a Chef

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A chef is responsible for many tasks inside a restaurant's kitchen, from managing and training kitchen staff to developing and preparing new recipes and dishes. Because of this wide range of responsibilities, a chef must have an equally wide array of skills. This can make obtaining a chef's position a daunting task but one that can also be very rewarding. Most aspiring chefs will have find good opportunities when searching for a job, but those looking at upscale restaurants will face more competition.


A chef plays several roles in their daily work in a kitchen. They are usually responsible for overseeing other cooks. This may include hiring, training, and supervising kitchen staff as well as directing them on a daily basis. A chef also provides specific training and directions to staff in regard to cooking and preparing each menu item. A chef’s job duties are more specific as the focus of their position narrows; personal chefs cook meals according to their employer’s tastes and may also be responsible for ordering groceries and supplies; a chef who works in a nursing home may have to cater to that specific population.


While gaining an education in culinary arts is one way to begin employment as a chef--through classes at a technical or community college or attending a culinary arts school--experience may also be used as leverage to gain a chef’s position. The best way for an aspiring chef to reach an upscale restaurant or become an executive chef is to combine years of training and experience. Other than education, a chef must have excellent leadership skills and be able to demonstrate that they can delegate tasks and manage others effectively.


As of May 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook said the average salary for chefs and head cooks was $38,770 per year. But a chef’s salary will vary depending on the specific industry they are employed in, as well as the size of the restaurant or facility. The Occupational Outlook Handbook reported that chefs employed in amusement and recreation industries earned an average of $45,650 per year; those in full-service restaurants earned $36,700 per year, and those in limited-service eating places earned an average of $30,060 per year.

Work Environment

Generally, chefs work in clean and sanitary environments, and upscale or even casual restaurants may have pleasant dining areas. But the kitchen can often be crowded and filled with potential hazards such as hot ovens and stoves, and slippery floors. Chefs must also be able to work under extreme pressure, while ensuring all food is prepared to sanitation guidelines as well as customer satisfaction. Chefs may work early in the mornings, late into the evening and on holidays and weekends. Chefs employed in cafeterias or offices will work more regular hours, while those employed in more traditional restaurants will work longer days and have more irregular schedules.

Employment Outlook

Job prospects for chefs are expected to be good from 2008 to 2018, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Employment of chefs and head cooks is projected to increase by 6 percent from 2008 to 2018. But applicants will face higher competition for job openings at higher-paying, upscale restaurants. Most open positions will be created by workers leaving the field.


Alexandra Schmidt has been writing professionally since 2006, contributing to several online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and is pursuing her doctorate in counseling psychology at the University of Missouri.