An Executive Chef works as the head and leader of the group of cooks that work inside a restaurant’s kitchen. They are in charge of coordinating the activities of each member of the team, as well as overseeing some of the administrative tasks involved with running a restaurant, regardless of its size, speciality, of level of service; they also participate in cooking, plan menus, create new dishes, and oversee kitchen staff. In many cases, Executive Chefs own the restaurant where they work, although they may also be hired by restaurant chains and hotels.
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.
- Organizing, coordinating, and overseeing cooking processes, tasks, and all activities within the food service establishment:
- Establishing daily menus and specialities;
- ensuring that all food and ingredients meet the pre-established quality and freshness standards;
- preparing daily specialties and other customer orders as requests;
- overseeing the activities and tasks of members of the kitchen staff;
- overseeing that the portions and dish standards are 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.
- Assigning prices to dishes and services based on production costs and cooking processes:
- Creating new recipes based on availability of ingredients depending on seasons and new gourmet trends.
- Planning and coordinating catering services, menus, and dishes for events according to customers’ demands.
- 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 they meet all established standards;
- taking into consideration the costs of ingredients and their storage requirements;
- ordering the necessary food supplies and kitchen equipment repairs or purchases for the kitchen to run smoothly;
- checking groceries that come in daily; and
- ensuring the highest quality of standards are met for service, quality of food, cleanliness, and profitability.
- Supervising 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.
- Managing administrative operations:
- Keeping track of financial statements and records to ensure safe-keeping;
- keeping track of ingredient and beverage stock;
- using specialized software to perform administrative tasks related to running a restaurant;
- managing and submitting periodic reports regarding costs and expenses; and
- balancing books, as needed.
- Developing a business network of suppliers and vendors.
- 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;
- overseeing that sanitation regulations, rules, and procedures are being followed;
- reporting any incidents or injuries to the manager; and
- following all safety and sanitation policies when handling food and beverages.
- Following and adapting to new culinary and gourmet trends, being open to new ideas and applying them in the kitchen.
- Supervising and managing kitchen staff.
- Planning, directing, and sometimes preparing different dishes.
- Building a network of vendors.
- Taking care of food inventory and making respective orders.
- Inspecting supplies, equipment, and work areas for cleanliness and functionality.
- Applying industry appropriate safety and hygiene standards in the kitchen.
The average Executive Chef salary is $49,745 per year or $26 per hour. This is around 1.5 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $35,000 while most experienced workers make up to $70,000. These results are based on 107 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;
- 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, Executive Chefs are required to possess vast levels of stamina in order to cope with the physical demands of their job. Furthermore, an Executive Chef must follow and adapt to the latest trends and innovative techniques of the culinary world. Executive Chefs are also expected to create new recipes and cooking techniques, so creativity and invention are top sought-after qualities.
The education requirements to become an Executive Chef are not standardized. This is a profession that values experience above all things, but a good educational background is always an asset. Given this, many aspirants will go through a specialized culinary school training or attend any other recognized institution. Modern culinary schools cover all the fundamental aspects of running a kitchen, including meal planning, different cooking techniques, supply administration, and sanitary standards. Some programs even include learning a second language, which is usually French.
Additionally, Canadian Executive Chefs may apply for a Red Seal endorsement. This is a certificate that allows the owner to practice their trade throughout the entire country and guaranties that the holder has been trained in quality and sanitary standards that are accepted in all provinces and territories.
As previously stated, experience is the most valued aspect of an Executive or Head Chef. Experience is something that needs to be build up and Executive Chefs usually get to that position by working their way up the professional ladder. Most Executive Chefs start out as cooks and based on a system of merit they will begin to ascend into more prominent positions within the kitchen.
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 is often accompanied with different levels of fame and public recognition. However, this process is not without its sacrifices and tolls. Becoming an Executive Chef takes many years, a lot of hard work, patience, discipline, and passion for the craft.
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.