Duties & Expectations of Being a Chef

Showcase your culinary and leadership skills as a chef.
i George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Showcase your culinary and leadership skills as a chef.

If you’ve got sensational skills in the kitchen, parlay your culinary expertise into a creative and fast-paced career as a chef. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional chefs often receive training at a technical school, college or culinary arts academy and had an annual median wage of nearly $41,000 in May 2010. Consider the responsibilities that this position entails to determine if you’re up for the challenge.

Devising a Menu

If you’ve got a few signature dishes up your sleeve, you can put them on the menu if you serve as a restaurant’s executive chef. The All Culinary Schools website notes that a chef must be able to use her expert palate to combine ingredients to create enticing new dishes for customers will enjoy. As an establishment’s chef, you might be sprucing up classics on an existing menu or showcasing your creative vision by designing an entirely new menu if the restaurant owner is looking for a change.

Preparing Food

As a chef, you’ll not only be responsible for creating a menu, but ensuring the kitchen staff produces each dish to meet the restaurant’s quality and safety standards. An executive chef must prepare food and train the other chefs to cook each dish consistently, so guests have the same positive dining experience. The Hcareers website states that a chef must also inspect and approve food before the wait staff serves it to guests and she must have the skills to customize existing menu items to meet customer requests.

Running the Kitchen

In some restaurants, the chef is also responsible for training the kitchen staff to not only prepare food properly, but learn how she wants the line organized and run. This ensures the cooking process goes smoothly so guests aren’t waiting too long for their food. Chefs must also work with the “front of the house” staff such as hostesses and waiters, and the kitchen staff so they’ll have accurate descriptions of the menu items and specials of the day. CulinarySchools.org states that chefs must have the leadership skills to solve problems, such as mediating disputes among the kitchen staff or appeasing unsatisfied customers who ask to speak to the chef.

Handling Administrative Tasks

Also known as the “chef manager,” an executive chef might have administrative duties that help the restaurant run efficiently. According to CulinarySchools.org, an executive chef may work directly under the establishment’s owner or general manager and is often responsible for managing food costs to help the restaurant stay on budget. In addition, the chef must work with vendors to order enough ingredients to last until the next shipment arrives, while ensuring that he hasn’t ordered so much that it results in excessive food waste.

2016 Salary Information for Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks earned a median annual salary of $43,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, chefs and head cooks earned a 25th percentile salary of $32,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $59,080, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 146,500 people were employed in the U.S. as chefs and head cooks.

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