All You Need To Know About A Chef Career
You consider becoming a chef but are not entirely sure whether this is a good career path for you or not?
Great! Stick with me since I will show you all you need to know about being a chef in the following chapters.
Not only will I show you the career prospects of chefs, but we will also talk about salaries, job satisfaction, working hours, educational requirements and much more.
At the end of this article, you will also find an FAQ section where you can find answers to all questions you might have about working as a chef.
Hence, after reading this article, you will have a much better idea of whether you still want to pursue a career as a chef or rather want to make a living with a different job instead.
What does a Chef do?
Chefs prepare delicious meals in restaurants, fast food chains or various other places where you can get food.
They also make sure that hygienic requirements are met and that guests get high-quality food so that they are happy and come back in the long run.
Responsibilities & Duties of a Chef
- Preparation of food
- Cleaning up
- Making sure that hygienic requirements are met
- Listening to the feedback of guests
- Creation of new dishes
- Leading the kitchen team
- Making sure that the working atmosphere is good
- Solving conflicts between kitchen helpers
- Guiding new colleagues
- Managing food inventory
- Making sure that resources are used as efficiently as possible
- Disposing of old foods that are no longer suitable for consumption
- Compliance with health codes and legal requirements
- Creation of weekly or daily menu plans
What a Typical Day of a Chef looks like?
If you work in a normal restaurant, there are two main shifts.
Most of the time, you will either start your workday between 9 and 11 a.m. to manage clients who want to eat out during lunchtime or you will start your workday between 3 and 5 p.m. to manage customers who want to come to your restaurant for dinner.
Hence, working hours can vary quite a lot and you should therefore be quite flexible regarding when you have to work as a chef.
After getting to work, you will often have a short meeting with your kitchen helpers and will explain to them what tasks they will be responsible for that day.
After everyone knows what to do, you will do your actual work and will create many delicious dishes throughout the day or the evening.
You will also help to prepare many things so that guests don’t have to wait for long until they get the dishes they order.
After 7 to 10 hours of work and after cleaning the kitchen, your shift will be over and you can go home without having to be available anymore until the next workday.
Chef Salary 2021
Chef salary brackets 2021
|Salary Brackets||Salary (per year)||Salary (per hour)|
|Top 10 %||> $79,000||> $39.29|
|Top 25 %||$57,000 – $68,000||$28.31 – $33.79|
|Bottom 25 %||$31,000 – $37,000||$15.36 – $18.27|
|Bottom 10 %||$21,000 – $26,000||$10.32 – $12.83|
|Range||$21,000 – $86,000||$10.32 – $42.85|
Chef salary 2021 by expert level
|Level of Experience||Salary (per year)||Salary (per hour)|
|Entry level||$21,000 – $28,000||$10.32 – $13.84|
|Junior||$26,000 – $34,000||$12.83 – $16.73|
|Professional||$32,000 – $41,000||$15.87 – $20.29|
|Senior Professional||$38,000 – $49,000||$18.92 – $24.31|
|Expert||$47,000 – $63,000||$23.36 – $31.42|
|Top Expert||$61,000 – $86,000||$30.38 – $42.33|
Chef salary by state 2021 (average)
|State||Salary (per year)||Salary (per hour)|
|District of Columbia||$51,800||$25.76|
Job Security for Chefs
Chefs have pretty decent job security. However, this also greatly depends on the qualifications and your reputation as a chef.
Chefs who can cook on a high level will always find a new job while chefs who have just basic skills may have a harder time in this regard.
Future Job Prospects of Chefs
If you are really good at what you are doing, you will have pretty good future job prospects as a chef.
Since not many people want to become chefs anymore but rather want to work in an office job, chefs will be in high demand while there will be a shortage of qualified chefs at the same time in the near future.
Working Hours of Chefs
As a chef, you will often have to work during the evening.
It’s just the nature of the game.
Quite often, you will start your shift between 3 and 5 p.m. and will leave your workplace between 9 and 11 p.m.
Hence, working as a chef means accepting exotic working hours and if you are not ready for that, you should rather go for a different career instead.
Job Satisfaction of Chefs
Many chefs are not happy with what they are doing for a living since working conditions are often pretty poor, working as a chef can be exhausting and the salary of most chefs is not that great.
Consequently, many chefs think about quitting their jobs and doing something else.
Promotion Opportunities of Chefs
Promotion opportunities for chefs are pretty decent.
If you are willing to work hard, you can climb the ladder early in your life and can get lots of responsibility at a rather young age.
While you might start as a kitchen helper, you can soon get to a stage where you will lead a whole kitchen crew.
Career Levels of Chefs
- Chef intern
- Kitchen helper
- Assistant chef
- Chef de partie
- Sous chef
- Executive chef who leads the whole kitchen team
- Chef-owner of a restaurant
Fields and Types of Chefs
- Chefs for restaurants
- Chefs for fast food chains
- Chefs for cafeterias
- Vegan chefs
- Vegetarian chefs
- Fish chef
- Meat chef
- Grill chef
- Fry chef
- Butcher chef
- Sauce chef
- Pastry chef
- Dessert chef
Educational Requirements for Chefs
You don’t need a fancy degree for working as a chef.
Instead, you can apply for an apprenticeship in this field right after finishing high school and will learn everything you need to know from your colleagues and on the job.
How to become a Chef
- Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a chef
- Cook dishes at home
- Apply for an internship in a local restaurant
- Get some experience and make a good impression
- Get decent grades
- Get your high school diploma
- Apply at various restaurants
- Make a good impression at job interviews
- Sign your working contract
- Give your best every day
- Become a real expert in your field
- Become a leading chef
- Open your own restaurant (optional)
Character Traits you need for Working as a Chef
- You should have a high level of confidence
- You should know how to handle stress
- Willingness to accept critical feedback from guests
- Ability to always reinvent yourself
- Creativity helps to create new dishes
- You should be a perfectionist if you want to get to a high level
- Willingness to give your best for your guests every day
- Motivation to be better than the competition
- Ability to deal with lots of pressure
- Ability to handle many things at the same time
Hard Skills for Chefs
- Excellent knowledge of cooking in general
- You should know what foods harmonize with each other
- You should be aware of the health aspects of eating certain foods
- Ability to market and sell your work to your guests
- You need to know how to bond clients
- You need to figure out what people want
- Ability to adjust to new trends
- Knowledge of hygienic requirements
- Knowledge of rules and regulations of regulatory authorities
Soft Skills for Chefs
- Ability to deal with pressure in a proper manner
- Excellent coordination skills
- Multitasking skills help you do many things at the same time
- Good people skills help you lead your kitchen team
- Time management skills are crucial for chefs
- Ability to always improve your skills
- Willingness to listen to critical feedback
- Staying calm under stress
- Ability to deal with drawbacks in an emotionally healthy manner
- You should be a true leader so that your kitchen team has faith in you
Exit Options for Chefs
Since chefs don’t learn many skills apart from cooking and making sure that guests get delicious food, they also have pretty poor exit options.
Instead, many chefs get trapped in this industry and will have a pretty hard time getting out of this field, at least if they are not willing to get many years of education in a different field.
Chef – Similar Careers
- Kitchen helper
- Restaurant manager
- Food preparation worker
- Food processing worker
- Pastry chef
- Counter attendant
Chef Career FAQs
Is working as a chef physically demanding?
Working as a chef can be hard from a physical perspective.
In fact, chefs have to work with their hands all day long and will also have to work in a stressful environment where they have to do many things at the same time.
Consequently, many chefs come home tired from work on a regular basis.
Is working as a chef mentally demanding?
Being a chef can also be mentally and emotionally demanding.
You will just have so many different things to do and to coordinate and in case something goes wrong, you need the emotional strengths to carry on and to finally make your guests happy.
Is it dangerous to work as a chef?
While working as a chef is not as dangerous as working as a police officer or firefighter, you will still work with sharp knives and with hot oil quite often and in case something goes wrong and you are unlucky, you may get injured in a serious manner and may even have to quit your chef career early in your life.
How long do chefs stay in their jobs?
Chefs often stay in their jobs for quite a long time.
While many chefs like what they doing and are really passionate about making their guests happy, some other are just not able to get out of this industry since they simply lack the hard skills to work in a different field.
Is it easy for chefs to find a new job?
If you live in an urban area where there are many different restaurants within walking distance, chances are that you will find a new job as a chef soon in case you get fired.
However, things may be different if you live in a rural region where there are not that many restaurants and it may be hard to find someone who is willing to employ you.
Is it hard to switch from being a chef to another field of work?
It is pretty hard for chefs to switch to another field of work since they often just don’t have the skills to work in a different field.
Hence, many cooks have to work in the kitchen for quite a long time without having any prospects of doing something else, even though they might not like what they have to do for a living at all.
Do chefs have a high social status?
Chefs don’t have a high social status.
While they might have a higher social status than garbage collectors, they still don’t have the same high social status as lawyers or doctors who are often admired by the general public.
Can you help out your family and friends as a chef?
You can help out your family and friends as a chef by just cooking delicious meals for them.
Not only will you be able to cook for your loved ones on special occasions, but you can also teach your family and friends how to cook certain dishes in a perfect manner and you can therefore hand over some of your knowledge to other people you like.
Can chefs work remotely?
Chefs are not able to work remotely.
Instead, chefs always have to be present at their workplace in person and this means that you will be less flexible regarding how to manage your private and professional life compared to someone who works in a classical office job and can work from home quite often.
You will also have to spend more money and time commuting to work and may also get stuck in traffic jams on a regular basis.
Is it easy to find a partner as a chef?
Since chefs have a rather low social standing and also don’t make good money, they often also have a pretty hard time in the dating market.
Chefs also have to work during rather exotic hours and this may destroy your relationships in the long run.
Do chefs have to work on weekends?
Chefs often have to work on weekends.
In fact, Saturdays and Sundays are often the busiest times of the week in restaurants since many people want to eat out during these times.
Consequently, you will have to work as a chef on weekends quite often and if you are not willing to do so, you should just go for a different career path instead.
Do chefs have to work on holidays?
Chefs often also have to work on holidays.
This doesn’t mean that you will have to work on every national holiday.
However, chances are that you will have to work most of them and if you rather want to spend time with your family during those days, you should definitely not become a chef.
Do chefs have to work at nighttime?
Chefs often have to work during the evening and sometimes even at nighttime.
Hence, you should also not become a chef if you want to work in a classical 9 to 5 routine since you will have to work exotic hours quite often.
Do you have to travel as a chef?
There is no need to travel as a chef.
Most of the time, you will just get to work at the restaurant you are employed and while many other people who work in office jobs have to make business trips quite often, you as a chef will be able to stay home and to spend more time with your family instead.
Are chef pensions good?
The average pension of chefs is rather poor.
In fact, most chefs don’t make great money and are also not able to save and invest enough for retirement.
Consequently, many chefs get into financial trouble once they get older since they are no longer able to pay their bills.
Are chef salaries going up?
Salaries for chefs have been going up over the past years and this trend will likely continue in the future since the demand for good chefs is high while there are no longer many people who are willing to work in this demanding and exhausting environment.
Can you have a positive effect on society as a chef?
Your positive effect on society will be rather limited as a chef.
In fact, you will just prepare meals in your kitchen all day long without having that much social interaction with your guests.
In turn, you will also not get the opportunity to make the world that much better through working as a chef.
How long does it take to become a chef?
Since you don’t need a fancy degree for becoming a chef most of the time, you can start working in the kitchen right after finishing high school.
Your apprenticeship will usually last for a couple of years and the longer you stay in your job, the more you will learn.
After 5 to 8 years, you can get a leading role in the kitchen and may be able to lead your own kitchen crew.
In general, the harder you are willing to work and the more talent you have for cooking, the more likely it will be that you will get a high level of responsibility soon.
Is it difficult to become a chef?
Becoming a chef is not extremely difficult.
You only need to find a restaurant where you can work as an apprentice and after a few years, you will have learned a lot and will be able to work as a chef in many different restaurants.
Do you need to be smart to work as a chef?
You don’t need a high IQ for working as a chef.
What’s much more important is that you have good communication and people skills so that you get along with your kitchen crew and that you also have the motivation to always improve your skills further to finally become outstanding at what you are doing.
Do chefs have a good work-life balance?
Chefs don’t have a good work-life balance at all.
In fact, most chefs have to work during weekends, holidays and also in the evening and all this will make it hard to spend enough time with your family.
In fact, you will also often sleep during the day since you are exhausted from work and will just not be able to enjoy your leisure that much anymore.
Do chefs have to work many extra hours?
While you will often have to work fixed shifts as a chef, it may happen sometimes that a colleague gets sick and in such a case, you may have a pretty high workload and may also have to work two shifts to keep the restaurant running.
How to maximize your chances of becoming a chef?
The sooner you get experience in this field, the more likely it will become that someone is willing to employ you.
Hence, make sure to cook a lot at home so that you can impress the chefs of restaurants when it comes to trial work.
Moreover, also make sure to work as an intern at a local restaurant for a few weeks and stay in touch with your colleagues until you finish high school to get a head start over the competition.
Can chefs work part-time?
Some chefs also work part-time.
However, since the hourly wage of chefs is rather low, you may just not be able to make a living if you only work part-time and most chefs therefore have to work full-time to pay their bills.
Do chefs work indoors or outdoors?
Chefs mainly work indoors.
Hence, compared to other people like construction workers, roofers or welders who have to work outdoors on a regular basis during times of extreme heat or freezing cold, you don’t have to care about the weather outdoors as a chef that much.
What does the workplace of a chef look like?
Chefs mainly work in the kitchen where they handle many pans and pots at the same time.
It will also be quite smelly in the kitchen and air quality will be rather poor.
It will also be pretty hot and it can therefore be pretty exhausting to work in a kitchen in the long run.
Do you have to look good for working as a chef?
Your looks don’t matter at all for working as a chef.
What matters is that you are able to create delicious meals for guests so that they are happy and come back in the long run.
However, you should still look groomed to meet hygienic requirements and to make a good impression to your boss.
Is a chef career beneficial for your private life?
Since you will have to work at nighttime, during the weekends and sometimes even on national holidays, your job as a chef will not be beneficial for your private life at all since it will always interfere with your private plans and sooner or later, your partner may just search for a better deal and leave you.
Do you need a college degree for becoming a chef?
You often don’t need a college degree for becoming a chef.
Instead, you will apply for an apprenticeship at local restaurants and will learn many things on the job.
Consequently, you can also save lots of money on college expenses and can even make money right after finishing school.
Do you need to be certified to work as a chef?
While you don’t urgently need to be certified as a chef, it can still help to get additional qualifications on paper, especially if you aspire to a demanding career in this field and want to cook at the highest levels.
How much does it cost to become a chef?
Since you don’t need a fancy degree for working as a chef, you will also not have to spend lots of money on education.
Instead, you can become a chef at rather low costs and can even make money through your apprenticeship pretty early in your life.
Is being a chef a good career?
Many chefs are not happy with what they are doing due to the rather exotic working hours.
In fact, once chefs get older and want to have a family, many of them think about quitting their jobs since their work just takes away lots of time and flexibility from them.
Is it easy to start your own business as a chef?
It is not easy to start your own business as a chef.
If you want to have your own restaurant, you will have to spend lots of money on equipment and it can also take quite long until you get to a stage where it will be really profitable.
Hence, before you consider opening your own restaurant, make sure that you are willing to make a huge financial commitment that may get you into lots of trouble in case your plans don’t work out.
Can chefs teach themselves?
While you can learn many cooking skills yourself, it will still be helpful to have experienced colleagues on your side who can show you secret tips and tricks on how you can improve the quality of the meals you create even further.
Do chefs make good money?
Most chefs don’t make good money.
In fact, some chefs even need to make additional money on the side to pay their bills.
This is especially true if you live in a region where living costs are quite high and your job as a chef will not be enough to afford any luxury.
Is it ever too late to become a chef?
While you can become a chef at all ages in theory, it will just be hard to find someone who wants to employ you as a chef in your 40s, 50s or even 60s.
Moreover, the job of chefs is pretty exhausting and the older you get, the harder it will be for you to work in such an environment.
Consequently, if you want to become a chef, make sure to start your career as early as possible in your life.
Do chefs have to quit their careers early?
Many chefs also have to quit their careers early due to the physical nature of working in this field.
In fact, many chefs are just no longer able to work in a hard physical manner once they get older and will have to search for a different job that is not as physically demanding as working in the kitchen.
What is the most challenging thing about working as a chef?
The most challenging part of working as a chef is that you will have to create many different dishes at the same time and that you always have to stay focused to avoid mistakes that could confuse your kitchen crew and let the whole system collapse.
Can you provide for your family by working as a chef?
Many chefs are barely able to provide for their families.
In fact, the average salary of chefs is rather low and may not even be enough to pay your own bills, let alone the bills of your spouse and your kids.
Hence, if you want to have a big family, you may rather want to go for a job that pays significantly more.
Will chefs suffer from old-age poverty?
Since pensions of chefs are rather low and they are often also not able to save enough money for retirement, many chefs have to deal with old-age poverty and may even lose their homes since they are no longer able to pay rent.
Can chefs retire early?
Most chefs are not able to retire early since they just don’t make enough money from what they are doing.
Hence, instead of retiring early, many chefs have to work during their 60s and even 70s to make some additional money since their pension will just not be enough to pay their bills.
Do chefs get a fixed or variable salary?
Chefs often get a fixed salary.
In fact, the variable fraction of a chef’s salary will be pretty small and often non-existent and this means that your performance in the kitchen will not be directly rewarded in your salary compared to a salesperson who mainly makes his money through commissions.
Can you get rich as a chef?
It is pretty hard to get wealthy or even rich as a chef since you will just not make good money.
If you really want to get rich, your could try to become a famous TV cook or open your own restaurant chain.
Do chefs need a second job?
While some chefs are able to make a living from what they are doing, others even need a second job to pay their bills.
This greatly depends on the living costs of the region you live in.
For instance, if you live in a region where rents are quite high, you will be more likely to need a second job compared to a region that is still affordable.
Do you get continuous training as a chef?
You don’t need continuous training as a chef.
While you will get trained quite a lot during your first years, you will learn a lot directly on the job later and you will also grow as a chef from those experiences and will just become better by doing things over and over again.
Are chefs organized in unions?
Restaurant workers and chefs are not organized in unions.
Instead, every chef has to make sure that working conditions and salaries are acceptable without having any third party that could support him or her in this regard.
Do you get paid when you are sick as a chef?
Sick pay is not common in many restaurants.
Hence, you should not expect to get paid when you are sick but may rather get into financial problems since you may not get any wage in case you are not able to work.
Do chefs have a high level of responsibility?
Chefs have a high level of responsibility since they have to make sure that they only use ingredients that are eatable and also make sure that those ingredients are still good for consumption purposes.
Otherwise, guests may suffer from diarrhea or more serious health issues.
Can chefs work abroad?
Since chefs are needed in all parts of the world, it will also be pretty easy for you to work as a chef in a foreign country.
However, you should still learn the local language and also figure out if there are additional qualifications you have to get before making this big step.
Is it stressful to work as a chef?
Working as a chef can be pretty stressful.
In fact, you will have to handle many things at the same time and only few mistakes can lead to a state where all subsequent processes will no longer work out.
Thus, you will always have to stay focused and also calm under pressure.
Is it boring to work as a chef?
Working as a chef will never become boring.
There is just far too much to do and you will also have to do many things at the same time on a regular basis.
Hence, instead of getting bored, chances are that you will rather get stressed as a chef.
Is being a chef hard?
Being a chef can be really hard, both from a mental but also from a physical perspective.
In fact, you will have to work with your hands all day long while you still have to stress your brain quite a lot to get everything done in time to make your guests happy.
Are chefs at risk of burnout?
Since chefs have to focus on their work and have to do many things at the same time, they are also at great risk of burnout.
In fact, many chefs complain about hard working conditions and many of them report that they are no longer able to withstand the pressure anymore and feel empty and burned out.
Is there a dress code for chefs?
There is often also a dress code for chefs.
Quite often, you will just get a chef’s apron and some other clothing so that your own clothes are protected and that you will also look professional to the guests of the restaurant you work for.
What kind of chefs are paid the most?
The more responsibility you get as a chef, the more you can make.
In fact, once you get personnel responsibility and have control over the whole kitchen, you will make significantly more compared to someone who just starts out his or her career.
Hence, if you want to make good money as a chef, make sure to work hard and to climb the ladder soon.
What percentage of chefs are women?
Less than 10% of chefs are women right now.
Hence, the cooking industry is still dominated by men.
However, if you are willing to work hard, you should not be discouraged as a woman to get into this field.
You just need to outwork your colleagues and you will see results soon, independent of your gender.
Do I need a mentor to succeed as a chef?
While you don’t urgently need a mentor for succeeding as a chef, it can still help to have someone on your side who can support you during difficult periods when you seem to be stuck and see no progress in your career.
Will you be personally liable for mistakes as a chef?
Most cooks are not personally liable for mistakes.
However, if you are not sure about this, you should inform yourself and you may also want to get proper insurance in this regard so that you are covered in case of emergency.
Do chefs have a high life expectancy?
Chefs don’t have a high life expectancy.
In fact, since they have stress at work quite often and also have to work during exotic times, chefs often suffer from health issues sooner or later.
Many chefs also suffer from overweight which makes it even more likely that serious diseases will manifest sooner or later.
Do chefs suffer from sleeping problems?
Since chefs often have to work in the evening or even at nighttime, many chefs suffer from sleeping problems since their natural sleeping rhythm gets destroyed.
Consequently, chefs are often in a pretty bad mood since a lack of sleep affects human brain capacity and also makes our lives more stressful in general.
What states are best for working as a chef?
You should work as a chef in a state or a region where living costs are rather low while there are many restaurants around where you can work.
Only then will you be able to afford a decent lifestyle from your salary as a cook while you will barely be able to afford nice things if you live in regions where rents and overall living costs are high.
Who do chefs work with?
Chefs usually mainly work with their kitchen crew.
Hence, it is crucial for chefs to have good people skills since only if your crew accepts you, you will be successful as a chef in the long run.
Is working as a chef cool?
Working as a chef is not considered cool by most people.
However, you should still not make your career decision on whether a job is cool or not but you should rather ask yourself whether working as a chef would be fun for you or not.
Can you start a side hustle as a chef?
You can start many side hustles as a chef.
In fact, you can just start a YouTube channel where you show people how they can cook certain dishes and if you are really good at explaining those things, chances are that you will be able to build a large audience which you can monetize in the long run.
Do you have to be creative as a chef?
It definitely helps to be creative as a chef since the more creative you are, the easier it will be for you to come up with new dishes and recipes.
This is crucial since only if you are able to reinvent yourself on a regular basis, you will stay trendy and your guests will come back to you in the long run.
How employable are chefs?
Chefs are in high demand right now while there is a shortage of good chefs out there.
Consequently, job prospects for chefs are pretty decent and since not many people want to do this exhausting job anymore, you will likely also have good job prospects in this field in the future.
Are chefs happy with their jobs?
While some chefs are happy with their jobs, many others are just fed up by the exotic working hours and the high level of stress in the kitchen.
Consequently, many chefs secretly think about quitting their careers and doing something else instead.
Is working as a chef exciting?
Working as a chef can be pretty exciting.
Especially if you work on a high level, you will always have to challenge yourself to give it all to stand out from the crowd and if you really love what you are doing, you may be able to go to work with plenty of excitement every day.
What are the pros and cons of working as a chef?
If you are still interested in a career as a chef, you may also want to have a look at additional pros and cons of becoming a chef.
Interviews and own research.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.
This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.
Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.
I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.
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