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Chef: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a chef. Learn about job duties, training requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Chef?

Chefs plan, manage and execute the preparation of recipes and meals. They ensure the quality of the meals that they plan by working with the freshest ingredients possible and planning their menus accordingly. They may also inspect supplies and equipment to ensure cleanliness and compliance with health codes. Minimal formal education is needed in order to enter this field.

Chefs must be able to keep inventory and track their supply of food and equipment. They often are responsible for hiring and training other cooks and food preparation workers, and they may oversee and coordinate these individuals in the kitchen. Learn more about how to become a chef by reading the table below.

Training Required On-the-job training
Key Skills Communication, time management, creativity, attention to detail
Certification Optional
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 11%* (for chefs and head cooks)
Average Salary (2018) $52,160* (for chefs and head cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Job Duties Be?

As a chef, you may be involved in menu planning, dish design, recipe research and experimentation. Aside from cooking meals, you'll manage and train employees. You'll be in charge of all stages of food preparation. This means you'll check to make sure that there's sufficient quantities of food for the day or week, order more when necessary and ensure that you're receiving quality ingredients. Additionally, you'll have to inspect kitchen equipment and supplies to ensure that they comply with regulatory standards.

Sanitation is important in the food industry; you must make sure that your sous chefs and kitchen workers are wearing proper attire and handling food in a safe and sanitary manner. You have the final say in a dish before it is taken out to the customer. In high-end restaurants, you'll check that all ingredients are on the plate and that the presentation is aesthetically pleasing.

What Is the Occupational Outlook for this Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for chefs and head cooks are expected to increase by eleven percent between 2018 and 2028. According to the BLS, the average annual income for chefs and head cooks was $52,160 as of May 2018.

What Training Will I Need?

Many chefs start out working in entry-level positions within the restaurant industry and eventually rise through the ranks by gaining knowledge and honing cooking skills through hands-on experience. You may want to pursue a culinary arts and baking degree offered by technical colleges, community colleges or culinary academies.

You might also consider earning a professional certification. The American Culinary Federation offers certifications for chefs. Seven different types of certifications are offered for private chefs and restaurant chefs.

Where Do Chefs Work?

Because chefs are in demand in any setting where meals are to be enjoyed, chefs have a wide variety of employment opportunities. They may be found working in restaurants, hotels, banquet halls, cafeterias, private residences, grocery stores, gourmet boutiques and catering companies.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers that require no formal education, but train professionals on-the-job. Food preparation workers are included in these careers, and they perform many routine tasks under chefs. Food service managers focus on the daily operations of the establishment providing the food. One could also pursue a career as a baker. Bakers follow recipes to create a variety of baked goods.