When you think of a chef you might think of the celebrity chefs who flood our TV screens and who operate some of the country's top restaurants. Although celebrity chefs can command six-figure and seven-figure salaries, most chefs earn much more down-to-earth wages. If you're contemplating a new career as a chef, understand how much you can expect to earn before taking the leap.
The average hourly pay for chefs in the United States was $22.40 in 2011. The Bureau of Labor Statistics wage survey assumes that a chef will work 2,080 hours per year -- the equivalent of working full-time, year-round. At $22.40 per hour, this works out to an average annual salary of $46,600.
The median pay for chefs was $20.36 per hour as of 2011, which works out to $42,350 per year. The top 25 percent of earners made more than $27.37 per hour or $56,940 per year, while those in the top 10 percent made $35.61 per hour or $74,060 per year. Some chefs, however, earn less. The bottom 25 percent made $15.19 per hour or $31,600, and the bottom 10 percent made $11.91 per hour or $24,770 per year.
Top Paying States
As of 2011, New York was the best paying state for chefs. New York chefs earned an hourly wage of $32.67, which translates to $67,950 per year. Neighboring New Jersey was the second best state, paying chefs an average of $29.07 per hour or $60,460 per year. Hawaii rounded out the top three. Chefs there enjoyed a wage of $25.34 per hour or $52,700 per year.
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas
The best paying metropolitan area for chefs is the New York-White Plains-Wayne area, which straddles New York and New Jersey. As of 2011, chefs there earned an average hourly wage of $38.46 per hour or $80,000 per year. The Birmingham-Hoover area of Alabama is the second best paying area, offering chefs an average hourly wage of $31.63 or $65,800 per year. The third best paying area is Nassau-Suffolk in New York, where chefs made $30.85 per hour or $64,180 per year.