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Chef Salary in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

The average base salary for a Chef in the United States is a month or $62,640 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Average Chef Base Salary:

What can I earn as a Chef?Your salary is 0 the US national average

How Much Does a Chef Make in the United States?

The average wage for a Chef is $30.12 per hour.

Some Chefs can earn as little as $17.33 (10th percentile) per hour, while others may earn as much as $45.14 (90th percentile) per hour.

[Source: BLS]

This graph is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the graph to see detailed data. 

If you’re in the 90th percentile, you earn more than 90% of all the Chefs in the U.S.

Earning $93,900 puts you in the top 10% of earners among Chefs.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the 10th percentile, you earn less than 90% of the group.

Earning $36,040 then places you in the bottom 10% of earners among Chefs.

This comprehensive guide provides insights into Chef’s salary, covering salaries per state and factors influencing wages.

Annual Mean Wage of Chefs by State

The map below provides insights into the different salaries for Chefs across the United States.

Explore each state to see how they vary and gain a better understanding of the differences in Chef’s earning potential within the restaurant and hospitality industry.

[Source: BLS]

This map is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the map to see detailed data. 

Factors That Affect Average Chef Salary

Many different factors affect a Chef’s salary.

Some of them include the type of industry they’re working in, the tips they receive and their level of experience and educational background.


The type of industry can influence salary levels.

According to the BLS, the “Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods” industry pays Chefs the highest.

One possible reason is that this sector often has dining facilities catering to high-ranking executives, employees and guests. These facilities require skilled Chefs capable of providing personalized dining experiences and catering to the specific tastes and preferences of their clientele.

Here are other industries that offer relatively higher salaries for Chefs.

[Source: BLS]

This graph is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the graph to see detailed data. 


Tipping for Chefs varies widely depending on the restaurant policies where they work. This is because their salaries are structured differently from front-of-house staff who engage directly with customers.

Chefs often receive a fixed salary negotiated during the job offer stage. But in some establishments, Chefs are allowed to participate in non-traditional tip pooling.

Non-traditional tip pooling occurs when back-of-the-house staff such as a Chef can receive tips, only as long as all the employees are earning at least the federal minimum wage.

Given the varied tipping policies, it’s advisable to inquire about the specific practices of the restaurant you intend to work for to maximize your earnings.

Experience and Education

Chefs who have been working longer and have demonstrated their culinary skills and leadership abilities often earn more than those who are new to the job.

Similarly, those who have completed their training or education at reputable culinary schools usually receive higher pay as they are known to have advanced skills in different culinary techniques, knowledge of food safety regulations and excellent work ethic.

Consider taking the following training or certification programs to negotiate a higher salary:

  • Certified Executive Chef: This certification is offered by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). This is designed for professionals who have worked for at least five years as a Chef de Cuisine or Executive Sous Chef. Obtaining this certification helps you enhance your earning potential as it demonstrates advanced culinary skills and leadership abilities.
  • ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification: Provided by the National Restaurant Association, this certification teaches responsible food service measures. Completion of this program highlights your commitment to safe food preparation and serving, which is important for employers and therefore increases your chances of negotiating for a higher salary.
  • Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Certification: This organization offers culinary professionals in-depth knowledge of wines, spirits and beverage pairings which is useful when working for a fine dining restaurant. Their courses are divided into four different types of beverage: beer, Sake, spirits and wines.

Are Chef salaries keeping up with living costs in your area?

Chef Salary in Major US Cities

Among these four major U.S. cities, New York City is the top-paying city for Chefs followed by Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami.


Annual mean wage


New York City

Annual mean wage



Annual mean wage


Los Angeles

Annual mean wage


[Source: BLS]

High-Paying Cities for Chefs

CityAvg SalaryAvg Hourly Wage
Chicago, IL68,62032.99
Los Angeles, CA65,06031.28
Miami, FL63,13030.35
NYC, NY70,06033.68

Average Chef Salary by State

Below is a complete list of Chef salaries across the United States, organized by state.

By understanding their differences, culinary professionals can gain a deeper understanding of how geographical locations and economic variables such as labor market conditions, inflation and government policies impact the compensation levels for Chefs nationwide.

StateAvg. Salary
Rhode Island$81,170
District of Columbia$75,520
New Jersey$71,100
North Dakota$70,920
New York$68,410
New Mexico$66,610
North Carolina$61,300
New Hampshire$58,690
West Virginia$58,260
South Carolina$55,240
South Dakota$47,840

Non-Monetary Benefits and Perks for Chefs

Employee benefits and perks are significantly important, especially for professionals working in a high-pressure environment. As a Chef, it’s important to negotiate non-monetary benefits to help prevent burnout. Below are some of the perks you can enjoy, in addition to your salary.

Paid Time Off

According to Forbes, many professionals in the hospitality industry lack sufficient access to paid time off (PTO).

Unlike employees in the finance (95%) and tech (60%) industries, where the majority enjoy paid vacation time, only 43% of hospitality workers have access to paid time off.

PTO encompasses different types of time off from work, including:

  • Sick leave: Time off taken by employees for health-related reasons
  • Parental leave: Time off taken by employees to care for a newborn, adopted, or foster child
  • Bereavement leave: Time off granted to employees following the death of a close family member or loved one

Working as a Chef, negotiating for additional PTO is crucial for maintaining work-life balance and overall well-being.

With the demanding and fast-paced nature of kitchen work, having access to sufficient time off for rest and personal obligations is essential for preventing burnout.

[Source: Forbes]

This graph is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the graph to see detailed data. 

Flexible Hours

Related to PTO, flexible hours are an employee benefit that contributes to long-term job satisfaction.

A flexible work schedule allows you to tailor your hours to accommodate your personal and family obligations.

By having the flexibility to adjust your hours, you can better manage your time and energy, leading to improved productivity and career satisfaction.

Commuter Assistance

Commuter assistance programs generally provide benefits such as subsidies for public transportation, parking discounts or reimbursement for commuting expenses.

For Chefs who work in locations with limited parking, having access to commuter assistance can help with the financial burden of transportation costs.

Pet Insurance

Millennials represent the largest percentage of current pet owners, accounting for 33% of all pet owners, followed by Gen X at 25% and Baby Boomers at 24%.

[Source: American Pet Products Association/Forbes]

This chart is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the chart to see detailed data. 

As they also comprise a significant portion of the labor force, employers are starting to include pet insurance as part of their non-monetary benefits package to attract and retain top talent.

Pet insurance provides coverage for unexpected veterinary expenses, which helps provide employees peace of mind for their pets without worrying about costs.

Tuition Reimbursement

Tuition reimbursement programs support Chefs in pursuing further education by reimbursing them for expenses related to taking approved courses, degrees or certifications.

Negotiating for tuition reimbursement enables you to invest in your education without incurring significant costs, which ultimately leads to career advancement and personal growth.

Life Insurance Plan

According to BLS, there was a notable increase in fatalities within the Leisure and Hospitality sector between 2021 and 2022.

[Source: BLS]

This graph is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the graph to see detailed data. 

This highlights the importance for Chefs to discuss and arrange a life insurance policy with their employers.

This benefit is crucial for you and your family’s financial security in case an unexpected event happens.

Retirement Plan

Given the physically demanding nature of the Chef’s job, they may need to plan for retirement to ensure financial stability in their later years.

An example of a retirement plan is a 401(k), which is offered by many employers in the United States.

It allows employees to contribute a portion of their pre-tax income into a dedicated retirement account. This contribution will be invested in stocks, bonds and mutual funds depending on the employee’s preference.

Look for employers who offer 401(k) matching, as it can help you grow your retirement savings faster.

Should establishments provide bonuses or shared profits with employees?

Top 5 Skills Needed for Chefs

  • Culinary Expertise: Chefs must have an excellent understanding of culinary techniques, ingredients, flavors and food preparation methods.
  • Time Management: In a fast-paced kitchen environment, Chefs must effectively manage their time to ensure that meals are prepared and served promptly.
  • Creativity: Chefs need creativity to develop unique and enticing dishes that appeal to customers.
  • Leadership: As leaders in the kitchen, Chefs must be able to delegate tasks, motivate and guide the kitchen staff to ensure smooth operations and maintain high-quality standards in every aspect of food preparation and service.
  • Adaptability: Chefs must be able to think quickly on their feet to handle unexpected challenges and changes in the kitchen.

Education Requirements for Chefs

According to a survey conducted by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), 52% indicated that new hires need to have an Associate’s Degree.

[Source: O*NET]

This chart is interactive. Hover your mouse over different parts of the chart to see detailed data. 

Meanwhile, 17% stated that a post-secondary certificate is required, and 10% reported that a Bachelor’s Degree is required.

Aside from formal education, gaining experience through on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs can provide aspiring Chefs with invaluable hands-on experience, practical skills and exposure to professional kitchen settings.

How Much Do Similar Careers to Chefs Get Paid?

On average, Chefs earn more than Sous Chefs, but less than Private Chefs and Executive Chefs.

Job TitleAverage Salary
Sous Chef
Private Chef
Executive Chef

Chef Career Progression

As Chefs gain experience and hone their leadership skills, they can advance to higher positions within the culinary industry.


Kitchen Manager

Avg Salary $ 56,460

Head Chef

Avg Salary $ 73,632

Executive Sous Chef

Avg Salary $ 76,481

Executive Chef

Avg Salary $ 80,040

Executive Sous Chef

Avg Salary $ 76,481

Executive Chef

Avg Salary $ 80,040

Corporate Chef

Avg Salary $ 94,608

Culinary Director

Avg Salary $ 95,106

Labor Laws and Taxes for Chefs

As a Chef, you need to be aware of the minimum wage, tipped wage credit, overtime pay and leave policies in your state.

Check out the guides below or view more labor laws:

To easily calculate federal, state and local taxes in your state, use our free Paycheck Calculator.

Chef Salary FAQs

Chef salaries can range from $36,040 to $93,900, according to BLS.

Salaries for Chefs can vary depending on the type of industry they’re working in, the tips they receive and their level of experience and educational background.

Yes, Chefs working in certain types of establishments or specializing in particular culinary styles may negotiate for higher salaries.

For example, Chefs working in fine dining restaurants and luxury hotels often earn higher salaries due to the prestige and clientele associated with these establishments.

Similarly, Chefs with expertise in niche cuisines like Nikkei cuisine or Peruvian-Japanese fusion may have higher earning potential, as their specialized skills are in high demand.

Location plays a significant role in determining Chef salaries, with wages varying widely across different regions of the United States.

Generally, Chefs working in metropolitan areas tend to earn higher salaries compared to those in smaller cities. For example, Chefs working in New York City typically command higher salaries to reflect the higher cost of living and competitive culinary scene.

Chefs have various opportunities to increase their earning potential and diversify their income streams.

For example, some Chefs choose to pursue opportunities in culinary education or consulting, where they can teach cooking classes, organize culinary workshops or provide expertise to food-related businesses.

Others may explore entrepreneurial ventures, such as running their own restaurants or food trucks.

Lastly, Chefs may leverage their skills and knowledge to pursue careers in food media, including writing cookbooks, hosting cooking shows, or developing culinary content for online platforms, which can offer additional sources of income and professional fulfillment.

Chefs generally do not receive tips. They are provided a fixed salary depending on their level of experience. However, tipping practices can vary depending on the restaurant’s policies.

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