What's the Salary of a Gourmet Chef?

Gourmet or head chefs have salaries that can vary by location, experience and industry. Read on to learn more about salaries and the job outlook for this career. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

The gourmet chef position is generally synonymous with that of head or executive chef. Working in this position, you'd oversee the kitchen in a restaurant. Your duties might include supervising wait staff every night, completing orders sent in by customers and directing the kitchen's other cooks in food preparation. Ordering supplies and assigning work schedules could also be part of your job. Before becoming an executive or gourmet chef and maximizing your earning potential, you'll probably need many years of training and possibly formal education.

Important Facts About Chefs and Head Cooks

Median Salary (2014) $41,610 per year
Entry-level Education High school diploma or equivalent
On-the-Job Training Training and mentorship programs available
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5%
Work Environment Restaurants, hotels, private homes, food service facilities

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chefs and head cooks had a mean hourly wage of $22.06 as of May 2014, which equaled an annual mean wage of $45,880 (www.bls.gov). Your salary could be higher or lower; chefs in the bottom tenth earnings percentile made $23,140 or lower, while those in the top tenth percentile made $73,720 or more a year.

Salaries by Industry

The industry in which you work could affect your salary. The BLS shows that the federal executive branch paid the highest in May 2014, with chefs and head cooks earning an annual mean wage of $65,770. Other industries with high average wages included management, scientific, and technical consulting services ($66,420), activities related to real estate ($61,680), technical and trade schools ($58,200) and scientific research and development ($57,260).

The BLS reported that chefs and head cooks working for restaurants and other eating places made average wages of $42,570. Those working for travel accommodation companies made average wages of $53,040, while those working for special food services made $47,840.

Salaries by Location

Area also plays a role in gourmet chefs' salaries. In May 2014, District of Columbia was the highest paying state for this occupation, with an annual mean wage of $62,850. The BLS reports that New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut and the Massachusetts were also in the list of the top five paying states for chefs and head cooks.

As of May 2014, the lowest annual average salary range by state was $27,460-$38,990. States with this lower pay included Montana, South Dakota, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico.

The BLS also reported that states with high employment levels in May 2014 included California, New York, Texas Florida, and Pennsylvania. Average salaries in these states ranged from $43,620-$55,080.

Salaries by Experience

According to PayScale.com, head chefs possessing 1-4 years of experience made annual salaries ranging from $26,196-$55,100 as of September 2015. Salaries for those possessing 5-9 years of experience increased to $29,499-$60,422. Those with 10-19 years of experience made $32,490-$63,945.

Job Outlook

The BLS reported that employment of chefs and head cooks was expected to increase by 9% from 2014 to 2024. This results in little or no change in employment for this occupation. Even though employment growth could be slow, job opportunities will be good; this industry experiences a high turnover rate due to its demanding nature. For the high paying, upscale restaurant jobs, however, you'll probably face heavy competition from other gourmet chefs.

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