Executive Chefs plan and direct the preparation, seasoning, and cooking of salads, soups, fish, meats, vegetables, desserts, or other foods; they also participate in cooking, plan menus, create new dishes, and oversee kitchen staff. They are employed in restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and other healthcare institutions, central food commissaries, clubs and similar establishments, and on ships.
Some Chefs may specialize in a certain type of cuisine (e.g. Asian, Ethnic, Mediterranean, and American) or they might prefer a certain type of specialty (e.g. pastry, meat, poultry, fish, and pasta). However, versatility is certainly an asset in the culinary world.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Executive Chefs are required to complete.
- Planning and directing food preparation and cooking activities of a restaurant, a hospital, a hotel, or any other establishment with food services:
- Planning menus and ensuring the food meets the establishment’s quality standards;
- checking freshness of food and ingredients;
- preparing and cooking food on a regular basis or for special guests or functions, according to the orders given by customers;
- instructing cooks in preparation, cooking, garnishing, and presentation of food;
- ensuring uniform serving sizes and quality of dishes is met before they go out to the customers; and
- operating and using various equipment, including pans, pots, cutlery, ovens, grills, slicers, boilers, grinders, and blenders.
- Analyzing recipes to assign prices to menu items, based on food, labour, and overhead costs:
- Creating new recipes taking into account factors such as seasonal availability of ingredients and the likely number of customers.
- Consulting with customers regarding weddings, banquets, and specialty functions in order to select the food to be served and plan the appropriate service.
- Overseeing all the activities in the kitchen:
- Inspecting the kitchen area and the supplies, as well as all the kitchen equipment in use and storage areas for organization, cleanliness, and to ensure conformance with established standards;
- estimating food costs and requirements;
- ordering the necessary food supplies and kitchen equipment repairs or purchases for the kitchen to run smoothly;
- checking groceries that come in daily;
- maintaining an inventory of food and supplies; and
- ensuring the highest quality of standards are met for service, quality of food, cleanliness, and profitability.
- Supervising kitchen staff:
- Supervising activities of Sous-Chefs, Specialized Chefs, and Cooks, as well as other kitchen staff;
- managing and coordinating the duties of kitchen staff;
- preparing work schedules;
- interviewing candidates for kitchen positions (e.g. dishwasher, cook, and sous chef), as well as training new employees;
- solving any issues that may arise among kitchen staff; and
- promoting teamwork to ensure optimum service and that customers’ needs are met.
- Greeting customers and doing public relations, as needed.
- Being aware of changing culinary trends, being open to new ideas and applying them in the kitchen.
- Managing administrative operations:
- Keeping track of financial statements and records to ensure safe-keeping;
- reviewing food and beverage purchases;
- using scheduling and purchasing software to keep track of administrative tasks;
- managing and submitting periodic reports regarding costs and expenses; and
- balancing books, as needed.
- Developing a business network of vendors:
- Meeting with sales representatives in order to negotiate prices and order supplies.
- Following all of the establishment’s safety, hygiene, and security policies and procedures at all times:
- Maintaining the hygiene of the kitchen according to the health inspector’s standards;
- monitoring sanitation practices to ensure that employees follow standards and regulations;
- reporting any incidents or injuries to the manager; and
- following all safety and sanitation policies when handling food and beverages.
The average Executive Chef salary is $60,325 per year or $31 per hour. This is around 1.8 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $42,000 while most experienced workers make up to $84,000. These results are based on 68 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Passion for food and creativity.
- Interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment in a very noisy and potentially hazardous kitchen, as well as to be able to give clear instructions and directions to kitchen staff;
- displaying strong customer service skills, as well as leadership;
- being driven to achieve goals, as well as motivating the staff to achieve team goals;
- speaking with staff using clear, professional, and respectful language at all times; and
- being able to deal with a diverse group of people in potentially adversarial situations using a calm, polite, tactful, discreet, and effective approach.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Having strong multitasking skills; being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced environment;
- being highly responsible, committed, and driven; and
- being able to work independently with minimal supervision; and
- being organized, detail oriented, and structured.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills:
- Being able to remain calm and make effective decisions in stressful situations; and
- identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner.
- Ability to work cohesively as part of a team and possess good judgment.
- Self-motivated, decisive, and driven to provide the best service.
- Motor coordination and physical strength:
- Having the ability to make fast, simple, repeated movements of the fingers, hands, and wrists;
- being able to stand for long periods of time in rooms with high temperatures; and
- carrying heavy equipment and supplies.
Aside from the skills listed above, to keep up with the fast pace and intensity of working in a kitchen, Chefs must have a high level of stamina and be able to think quickly on their feet. Furthermore, an Executive Chef must be aware of changing culinary trends and innovative techniques. Creativity is also a plus, especially for Chefs who create original recipes and new ways to prepare food.
Although a college education is not usually required to become a Chef, most candidates decide to attend culinary school, community college, or a technical school. Most culinary programs cover all aspects of kitchen work, including menu planning, food sanitation procedures, and purchasing and inventory methods. Some programs even include learning a second language, which is usually French.
Most Executive Chefs and Head Cooks learn their skills through work experience and they usually get to that position by starting out as line cooks, learning cooking skills from the Chefs they work for. Some of them can spend years working in kitchens before learning enough to get promoted to Chef. Since they’re responsible for the complete restaurant package, and often their names are directly associated with the eatery, Chefs must be highly creative, professional, driven, and reliable. Furthermore, the Executive Chef position brings prestige and opens the gates for public recognition for many highly qualified Chefs. However, getting there requires discipline, intensive work, a lot of passion, a thorough preparation at the workplace, and an active mind, always ready to learn and be challenged.
Executive Chefs are required to have a minimum of 2 to 4 years of experience in a culinary management role, as well as experience in fine dining restaurants. Furthermore, extensive knowledge in wine and food is a must, as well as some administrative and management skills.
Finally, Chefs don’t typically work on a nine-to-five schedule, they must be able to work late nights, holidays, and weekends, as well as to stand and walk for an 8 to 12-hour long shift.