Chefs can work at restaurants, grocery stores, specialty food stores, residential care facilities, schools, hospitals, private households, or catering companies. They may be employed on ships, or at lodges or resorts. Though their work locations may vary, the work environments of chefs share many characteristics.
While some chefs work conventional hours, many do not. Chefs who work in fine-dining restaurants, as well as head chefs and sous chefs, typically arrive at work before the restaurant opens and leave work well after it closes for the night. Work hours for chefs may include holidays and weekends as well.
In a typical restaurant setting, chefs must prepare food for diners very quickly. Chefs are under constant pressure to cook high-quality food quickly while adhering to safety and sanitation procedures. At particularly busy times, chefs must juggle numerous orders at once and still prepare delicious food for each customer.
Chefs are on their feet for nearly the entire work day. They lift heavy objects routinely and are constantly exposed to hot ovens and grills. There are several hazards involved with being a chef, including cuts, slips, falls, and burns, but injuries incurred in the line of duty are typically minor.
Chefs work in close quarters with the rest of the kitchen staff every day. They must be able to communicate quickly and efficiently with each other. As with any team work environment, tasks runs more smoothly and work is more enjoyable when the members of the team get along with each other. Additionally, chefs working at a fine-dining restaurant may be asked to interact with the diners. Social competence is a natural skill for most chefs.
2016 Salary Information for Chefs and Head Cooks
Chefs and head cooks earned a median annual salary of $43,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, chefs and head cooks earned a 25th percentile salary of $32,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $59,080, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 146,500 people were employed in the U.S. as chefs and head cooks.