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How Much Is the National Annual Salary of an Executive Chef?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

An executive chef salary is determined by years of experience, the chef's prestige and reputation, and the restaurant where the chef works. Executive chef earnings for someone with a famous name or good reputation are higher than for someone with less experience or who works in a restaurant that's not in a popular destination.

Job Overview

An executive or head chef is the person who runs the kitchen in a restaurant or other food preparation venue. Executive chefs make sure that all meals leaving the kitchen are up to standards and that all food is fresh and of good quality. They also oversee all kitchen staff including cleanup staff and make sure every item in the kitchen meets health department requirements.

Executive chefs hire and promote kitchen staff and work with them to develop recipes and plan menus. Additionally, they handle administrative tasks that include ordering supplies and dealing with any accompanying paperwork.

Education Requirements

Though a college education isn't required for cooking, it's helpful. Most aspiring executive chefs earn a bachelor's degree in culinary arts. Programs vary according to the different culinary schools but most teach cooking and recipe development as well as food preparation and presentation. Students also learn administrative skills such as managing staff and food stores, plus finance and restaurant management. Science and mathematics courses may also be required.

After aspiring chefs earn their degrees, they can apprentice at a restaurant to gain experience. Most new chefs start out as junior chefs who help to prepare food and handle other tasks to assist in the kitchen.


Chefs work wherever food is prepared and served, which is primarily in restaurants, for caterers, and in private homes. Most chefs work full time, and they often work early mornings, late into the evening, and on weekends and holidays. The work can be fast-paced and frenetic. Chefs spend most of their time standing. Because kitchens are filled with sharp utensils and hot ovens, chefs have a high rate of injury on the job.

Years of Experience and Salary

There's a hierarchy in restaurant kitchens, and most executive chefs work their way up the ladder to achieve their title and status. The chef pay scale depends on experience, title and location.

On the lower end, a chef can earn about $24,000 annually. As they gain experience and rise through the ranks, they earn more. In the U.S., the median salary for chefs, including executive chefs, is about $45,000. An executive chef salary on the higher end is about $78,000 annually.

Job Growth Trend

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the culinary industry is experiencing growth. It's expected that the employment of both chefs and executive chefs will grow 10 percent in the years between 2016 and 2026. These projected job opportunities are due to the industry's high turnover rate and the number of chefs who are leaving the industry for other careers.