dcsimg

In Depth Look at Becoming an Executive Chef

by
CulinaryEd Columnist
May 19, 2011

If you have a passion for creating delicious food, you may be looking for a way to translate your creativity into a culinary career. Becoming an executive chef can be challenging, but the rewards are well worth it.

What is an Executive Chef?

An executive chef is at the top of the food chain in the restaurant kitchen and uses culinary experience to direct the work of the kitchen staff. By coordinating the preparation of meals, the executive chef ensures that the kitchen runs smoothly and that diners receive the best quality food in a timely manner.

A Day in the Life of an Executive Chef

An executive chef is responsible for making sure that the food coming out of the kitchen is consistent in both quality and presentation. Keeping a kitchen in working order is a huge task, and the executive chef is responsible for details like:

  • The Menu. An executive chef not only runs the kitchen, he or she also plans the menu. This requires careful consideration of food availability during different seasons. Menu planning also means determining portion sizes and deciding on daily or weekly specials.
  • Inventory. Once the menu is set, an executive chef must consider all of the supplies that are necessary to create the meals. Doing inventory and placing orders can be time consuming, but is an essential component of the restaurant business.
  • The Kitchen. Before and between meals, an executive chef directs all the necessary prep work and makes sure the kitchen is ready to run as efficiently as possible. When customers start placing orders, the chef oversees the preparing and plating of the food.
  • Safety. A commercial kitchen can be hot and cramped, and an experienced chef knows to be careful of burns, cuts, and falls. An executive chef is responsible for making sure the kitchen staff is working in a safe and sanitary environment.

 

Earning the Job

Working as an executive chef requires experience, both with culinary techniques and business practices. As with most culinary careers, an executive chef usually begins at the bottom by working in a kitchen as a line cook or a prep cook. Many restaurants also seek candidates with a culinary education. Although going to culinary school may not be required, a culinary degree can help you learn the skills used in the position of executive chef.

  • In addition to basic culinary skills, an executive chef needs experience with baking as well as wine and beverage service.
  • Many chefs specialize in a regional cuisine and stay up on hot trends by reading culinary magazines and journals.
  • Executive chefs must also be familiar with management practices and local safety and sanitation requirements.

Because an executive chef is in charge of all kitchen operations, the day is long and may involve early mornings or late nights, holidays, and weekends. Although the work can be difficult, there are many positions to be filled, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of job openings to increase steadily in the future.

An executive chef at a busy restaurant can expect to make between $48,000 and $80,000 a year, depending on experience and location. For many chefs, the ultimate goal is restaurant ownership, in which case the rewards can be much greater.

On the Job

Executive chefs aren't confined to restaurant kitchens, and opportunities are available at hotels and corporate dining establishments. A talented executive chef may also advance to a supervisory position over multiple kitchens of a restaurant or hotel chain.

Executive Chef Profile

Cristeta Comerford is a great example of an executive chef who's using her skills in an unusual place. In 2005,Comerford became the first woman to be named White House Executive Chef.

Comerford started her culinary career with a bachelor's degree in food technology, and she gained experience working at restaurants such as La Ciel in Austria and at the Westin Hotel in Washington D.C. Her hard work and experience gave her the training she needs to design and prepare meals for state dinners, holiday events, and White House luncheons.


Whether you're aiming for the White House or a small restaurant in your hometown, the job of an executive chef may be perfect for you. By combining practical work experience with a culinary education, you can get the skills you need for this rewarding culinary career.

Where do I get more information about culinary education programs?

Take a look at culinary schools located in the states below, and request more information from those to be able to form an informed opinion:

Culinary Art Schools
Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Showing schools in your area

            Matching School Ads
            Culinary Arts
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            Culinary Arts Diploma
            Good for Working Adults
            • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
            • Offers several scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.
            • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 4 Campuses located in Clovis, Modesto, and Redding in California, and Salem, Oregon.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            B.S. in Hospitality Management
            • Ready to earn your business degree? If you identify with at least one of the statements below, GCU could be a good fit for you!
            • I have worked in the business field for a number of years and want to further my education in order to qualify for promotions, leadership positions, and salary increases.
            • I am graduating from high school and am interested in pursuing a career in a business field, but I first need the skills experience.
            • I am interested in a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctoral degree in my specialized business area of focus.
            • I want flexible course offerings, such as the option of 100% online, evening or campus classes.
            • I need a university that provides quality educational offerings through academic excellence and real-world relevance. Does this sound like you? Apply today!
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            MS Hospitality Management
            • Johnson & Wales Online - Learn on your schedule
            • Focus on Your Future - Earn Your Master's Degree 100% Online from JWU!
            • online.jwu.edu
            • Online Courses
            Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management

            Founded in 1869 as a land-grant school, the University is known today for its prolific faculty as well as a record of distinguished research and achievement in aerospace, engineering, technology, science, and math.

            • Online Courses
            AAS in Business Administration - Hospitality Management

            Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Globaldelivers a fully personalized online experience that's tailored to working adults. By opening the doors to adults who need flexibility to fit learning into their busy lives, we make it possible to achieve a high-quality education from a prestigious university system—completely online.

            • Online Courses
            Search Schools Near You
            Subject :
            Degree :
            Zip Code :
            Culinary Articles
            10 Colleges with Delicious Dining Hall Food
            Forget boring college cafeteria dining: campus food can be both healthy and delicious. Here's a look at 10 colleges where you might actually enjoy getting your grub on.
            Four International Cuisines Influencing the American Foodscape
            Ethnic cuisines are an integral part of America's culinary landscape, and none more so than these perennial favorites.
            5 Ethnic Cuisines for Serious Foodies
            Love food? Want to broaden your culinary horizons? These five international cuisines might be an excellent starting place.
            Healthy home cooked meals can improve health, longevity and family social community
            Read how cooking at home rather than eating out can help you live longer, reduce the risk of cancer and improve family dynamics. Not only has cooking at home become the hip choice, it's also become the smart choice.