How to Become an Executive Chef: Education, Salary & Responsibilities

Get to know the work done by an executive chef and the skills you'll need to pursue this career. Find out more about the education requirements, median salary, and projected job growth for this industry. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Executive chefs are responsible for overseeing the production of food service in a restaurant. They also manage a variety of administrative tasks in order to ensure that all kitchen production is efficient and meets health and safety regulations. In the table below, you'll find more details for executive chefs.

Typical Education High school diploma; culinary arts degrees may offer advancement
Certification Not required; available through the American Culinary Federation (ACF)
Required Skills Cooking skills, creativity, physical stamina, business skills, sense of taste & smell
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 11% (chefs and head cooks)*
Median Income (2018) $48,460 (chefs and head cooks)*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is the Role of an Executive Chef?

Executive chefs, also referred to as head chefs, oversee all preparation, cooking, and production processes of a kitchen that serves food to guests. Executive chefs may work in restaurants or for catering companies. They are responsible for creating and designing what will be offered on a menu and for ordering and maintaining a supply of the necessary ingredients. They are also responsible for ensuring that all food is fresh, prepared safely, and stored properly to meet all health code regulations. They often hire, train, and supervise all other kitchen staff, from sous chefs to dishwashers.

What Type of Training is Required of Executive Chefs?

Postsecondary education is not typically required of executive chefs. It is more common to gain on-the-job training by starting as a prep cook or a line cook and learning the fundamentals of working in a kitchen. However, attending a culinary arts school or completing a vocational cooking program allows an individual to gain experience in technical procedures such as food sanitation and inventory maintenance. These programs also allow students to explore different specializations, such as butchery, baked goods, or cooking for specific cuisines. Advanced training and extensive experience may be necessary to land executive chef jobs in upscale eating establishments. There are more than 200 postsecondary cooking programs across the US that are accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

What Certification is Available for Executive Chefs?

There are no mandatory certifications that an executive chef needs to acquire. However, there is a variety of certifications available through the American Culinary Federation (ACF). These are used to exemplify that a chef has an advanced understanding of both culinary practice and kitchen management. Each level of certification generally requires a certain number of years' experience and requires that candidates pass written and practical exams. These exams test one's knowledge of culinary fundamentals, craftsmanship skills, and sanitation understanding. The ACF requires that these types of certifications are renewed every 3-5 years.

What Type of Skills Should An Executive Chef Have?

The day-to-day work of an executive chef requires a variety of different skill sets. Executive chefs must be skilled in the fundamentals of cooking; they must draw upon their knowledge of how certain foods must be prepared and cooked properly. They must have a refined sense of taste and smell to know what foods pair well and how to satisfy different flavor palates. Creativity allows an executive chef to design unique and interesting meals for customers in a visually pleasing way. Physical stamina is essential for executive chefs, as well, because most of the work requires standing for long periods of time. Because of the administrative tasks required of executive chefs, business skills are essential in order to budget for ingredients and manage workers to ensure that a restaurant or business is profitable.

How Much Do Chefs Earn?

Chefs and head cooks, including executive chefs, earned a median income of $48,460 annually as of May 2018, says the BLS. Employment for chefs and head cooks is expected to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028. As incomes are projected to grow, the demand for high-quality meals and dining experiences is expected to grow as well. Most are employed full time; the work often consists of long hours, and their schedules commonly include early mornings, late nights, and weekend hours. Working in a kitchen can be unpredictable and fast-paced.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Valdosta
  • West Virginia Northern Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • West Virginia: Wheeling
  • West Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Waco
  • Waukesha County Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Wisconsin: Pewaukee
  • Washburn Institute of Technology

    Campus Locations:

    • Kansas: Topeka
  • Vincennes University

    Campus Locations:

    • Indiana: Vincennes
  • Spartanburg Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • South Carolina: Spartanburg
  • Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Virginia: Fishersville
  • Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

    Campus Locations:

    • New Mexico: Albuquerque