While executive chefs are the highest-paid class of chef in the culinary world, they also tend to be the hardest-working: according to a survey conducted by industry website StarChefs.com in 2010, executive chefs work an average of 11 hours per workday and 61 hours per week. In addition to helping out in the kitchen, executive chefs design meals and plan menus and train and oversee kitchen workers.
Average National Pay
According to StarChefs.com, executive chefs earned an average salary of $84,154 per year in 2012, the highest pay of any type of chef. This was up from $83,086 in 2011 and from $74,891 in 2010. In 2010, the last survey in which executive chef pay was broken down by experience, StarChefs.com found that experience has relatively little correlation to the expected salaries of executive chefs. For example, average starting pay for executive chefs was $82,000, those with between 9 and 12 years of experience averaged $63,911 and those with between 21 and 25 years of experience averaged $83,842 per year.
Pay by Location
As of 2010, executive chefs working in New Jersey reported a higher average salary than any other state surveyed, at $86,714 per year. By comparison, executive chefs employed in Texas averaged $82,706, while those in New York, Florida and California averaged between $76,000 and $79,000 per year. The highest-paying city listed for executive chefs was Miami, where they averaged $87,538 per year. Those in Boston averaged $85,235 per year, and those in New York averaged $82,834. The lowest-paying city polled was Houston, where executive chefs brought home an average of $61,125 per year.
Pay by Employer
The expected pay of executive chefs also tends to vary by the type of establishment that employs them. As of 2012, StarChefs.com found that executive chefs working for restaurants earned an average salary of $76,054 per year, slightly less than those working for catering companies, who averaged $76,786 per year. Executive chefs employed by hotels averaged $78,750 per year, but the big winners were those employed by country clubs and other private clubs, who earned an average salary of $97,805 per year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for chefs and head cooks is expected to decrease by about 800 between 2010 and 2020, seriously limiting the number of people who will be able to enter the field. Candidates who have obvious culinary talent and years of culinary experience will have the best prospects for employment; formal education at a culinary institute may also help a candidate stand out from other applicants.