Is a Chef Different Than a Caterer?

Chefs and caterers seem to have similar jobs; however, there are important differences between them. Read on to learn about chefs, caterers and the differences in their positions. Schools offering Hotel & Restaurant Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Notable Differences Between Chefs and Caterers

Caterers are often chefs, but the majority of chefs are not caterers. This is probably the most notable difference between the two careers. For example, a caterer might be a trained chef who has entered mobile food service, but a chef is not a caterer because he or she prepares food within the same restaurant or food establishment on a daily basis.

Depending on whether you'd like to be a chef or a caterer, there are sometimes different regulations you'll need to meet. As a chef in a restaurant or similar setting, you'd have to meet state laws and regulations concerning food safety and healthcare. As a caterer, you might have to meet additional state licensing requirements before you may perform catering duties. Find out the specific job duties for each career below.

Important Facts About These Occupations

Chef Caterer
Similar Occupations Baker, Cook, Food Preparation Worker Lodging Manager, Sales Manager, Server
Work Environment In restaurant, hotel or other service kitchens full time, early morning, late evening Full time in different locations, such as fine-dining restaurants, schools, offices, and/or private events
On-the-Job Training Apprenticeship/mentorship programs are available Relevant internships are available
Median Salary $41,610 (2014)* $44,851 (2015)**

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com

Chef Defined

Chefs direct cooking activities and fulfill leadership roles for food establishments. They create recipes, collect food supplies, prepare food and help cook incoming orders. Depending on which position they're hired for, chefs could have additional, specific job duties. For example, if you worked as an executive chef, you might play a large role in the coordination of the kitchen staff. As a sous chef, you could work in a supportive role and fill in when the head chef isn't around or is otherwise occupied.

You could start your own restaurant as a chef. If this is your goal, you'll need to handle the business aspects of running a restaurant, as well as the cooking duties. For example, you may need to oversee and manage the servers and greeters who work for you. You'll probably also have to perform accounting and bookkeeping duties.

Caterer Defined

Caterers provide food service in a variety of locations and either on a one-time or repeating basis. The events they work can include weddings, funerals, banquets, conventions and parties. You might even work an event in an individual's home. Catering duties can range from dropping off prepackaged lunches to cooking meals on the spot to working with the tastes and requests of customers. At some events, you might only serve appetizers and drinks, while at others you might serve a buffet or dinner with multiple courses.

Caterers normally work alongside other event workers, such as wait staff, and help set up sites by arranging chairs, tables and decorative items. Some events are designed with a specific theme in mind. In these cases, you'll have to create decorations and food that match the theme in order to please your client.

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