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Cook Salary

Cook Salary in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

The average base salary for a Cook in the United States is a month or $36,060 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The average hourly wage for a Cook is $17.34.

Average Cook Base Salary:
What can I earn as a Cook?Your salary is 0 the US national average
$17.34
$17.34
17.34

How Much Does a Cook Make in the United States?

Some Cooks may earn as little as $26,980 annually, placing them at the 10th percentile, while others might earn as much as $46,420 per year, positioning them at the 90th percentile of all Cook earners.

[Source: BLS]

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

In simpler terms, if you find yourself in the 90th percentile, you earn more than 90% of all the Cooks in the United States. A salary of $46,420 would classify you among the top 10% of earners in this profession.

Conversely, being in the 10th percentile implies that you earn less than 90% of all Cooks. Therefore, with an income of $26,980, you would fall within the bottom 10% of earners among Cooks.

Annual Mean Wage of Cooks by State

The map below offers insights into the varying salaries of Cooks throughout the U.S.

Explore each state to understand the differences and gain a deeper understanding of the disparities in earning potential among Cooks within the hospitality sector.

[Source: BLS]

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

Factors That Affect Average Cook Salary

Several factors influence the average salary of Cooks, including:

Experience and Skill Level

Cooks who have spent years perfecting their craft and mastering various culinary techniques tend to command higher salaries than those who are just starting in the profession or have less expertise.

Furthermore, highly skilled Cooks often specialize in specific cuisines, cooking methods or dietary preferences, such as vegan or gluten-free cooking. This expertise can make them sought-after professionals in the industry, leading to increased demand and higher salaries.

Location

Salaries can vary significantly based on geographic location, with Cooks in urban areas or regions with a high cost of living generally earning more than those in rural or less developed areas.

Type of Industry

Cooks working in industries such as fine dining, hospitality, or catering often earn higher salaries compared to those in fast food chains, institutional kitchens or casual dining establishments.

Browse the chart below to discover the top-paying industries for Cooks in the U.S.

[Source: BLS]

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

Education and Training

Formal culinary education or specialized training can positively affect a Cook’s earning potential.

Engaging in structured educational programs, such as culinary schools or apprenticeships, equips Cooks with a comprehensive understanding of culinary principles, techniques and industry standards.

Moreover, specialized training in niche areas of the culinary arts, such as pastry making or international cuisine, can distinguish a Cook in a competitive job market.

Certification or accreditation from culinary associations can put a higher value on Cooks’ earnings.

Some of the industry-recognized certifications for Cooks include:

The Scope of Responsibilities

The level of responsibility can also impact a Cook’s salary. Head Chefs or Sous Chefs, who oversee kitchen operations and manage staff, typically earn more than Line Cooks or Prep Cooks.

Cook Salary in Major US Cities

Among the following four major U.S. cities, Los Angeles is the top-paying one for Cooks followed by New York, Chicago and Miami.

Miami

Annual mean wage

$36,380

# of employees

35,210

New York City

Annual mean wage

$42,460

# of employees

67,980

Chicago

Annual mean wage

$38,030

# of employees

41,870

Los Angeles

Annual mean wage

$42,900

# of employees

51,320

[Source: BLS]

 

High-Paying Cities for Cooks

CityAvg SalaryAvg Hourly Wage
NYC, NY42,46020.41
Los Angeles, CA42,90020.63
Chicago, IL38,03018.28
Miami, FL36,38017.49

Average Cook Salary by State

Below is a comprehensive list of Cook salaries across the United States, categorized by state.

By examining these variations, culinary professionals can develop a better understanding of how geographic locations and economic factors, such as labor market conditions, inflation and government policies, influence the compensation levels for Cooks nationwide.

StateAvg. Salary
Hawaii$45,060
Washington$44,410
Massachusetts$43,420
California$42,650
Vermont$42,390
New York$41,950
District of Columbia$41,570
Maine$41,060
Colorado$40,760
Alaska$39,940
New Jersey$39,600
Rhode Island$39,350
New Hampshire$39,310
Arizona$39,070
Nevada$38,930
Connecticut$38,540
Oregon$38,000
Minnesota$37,890
Maryland$37,190
Illinois$36,900
Utah$36,440
Wisconsin$35,240
Florida$35,190
Montana$35,010
North Dakota$34,920
Nebraska$34,720
Michigan$34,660
Virginia$34,600
Wyoming$34,340
Missouri$34,000
Delaware$33,990
North Carolina$33,550
South Dakota$33,420
Tennessee$33,290
South Carolina$32,770
Pennsylvania$32,560
Iowa$32,470
Kansas$32,280
Indiana$32,070
Ohio$32,070
Idaho$31,790
New Mexico$31,790
Texas$31,510
Georgia$30,990
Kentucky$30,880
Oklahoma$30,820
Alabama$30,060
Arkansas$30,000
Louisiana$29,270
Mississippi$29,010
West Virginia$28,090

 

Non-Monetary Benefits and Perks for Cooks

Non-monetary benefits and perks for Cooks can play a significant role in job satisfaction and overall well-being. Here are several examples:

Flexible Scheduling

Having flexible work hours or being able to adjust your schedule to fit your needs can be a game-changer.

Whether you’re balancing family responsibilities or pursuing further education, having flexibility can make your life a lot easier. It allows you to better manage your time and achieve a healthier work-life balance.

Professional Development Opportunities

If the establishment you work for provides you with additional certification opportunities or skills enhancement workshops, you can continue to sharpen your skills and advance in your career.

This will help you feel appreciated and valued as you will be supported on your career journey.

Health and Wellness Benefits

Access to health, dental and life insurance, wellness programs or gym memberships can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and take care of yourself both physically and mentally.

It ensures that you can perform at your best and avoid burnout in a demanding hospitality industry.

Paid Time Off

According to Forbes, only 43% of hospitality workers have access to paid time off. Having paid vacation days, sick leave or personal days ensures you have time to recharge, relax and come back to work feeling refreshed and motivated.

[Source: Forbes]

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

It’s essential for preventing burnout and maintaining long-term job satisfaction.

Team Building Activities

Team-building events, staff outings or social gatherings outside of work hours foster a sense of belonging and strengthen team unity.

It promotes collaboration, communication and mutual support within the kitchen environment.

Top 5 Skills Needed for Cooks

Here are the top five skills to have as a Cook:

  • Culinary expertise: Cooks should have a strong foundation in culinary techniques, food preparation methods and recipe execution to produce high-quality dishes consistently.
  • Time management: Cooks must be adept at managing their time efficiently, especially in fast-paced kitchen environments where multiple orders need to be prepared simultaneously.
  • Attention to detail: Precision and attention to detail are crucial for ensuring that dishes are prepared correctly, with the right ingredients, proportions and presentation.
  • Adaptability: Cooks should be able to adapt to changing circumstances, such as fluctuating customer demands or menu changes as it is a common occurrence in the restaurant kitchen settings.
  • Teamwork: Collaboration and effective communication with other kitchen staff are vital for ensuring smooth kitchen operations and timely delivery of orders.

Education Requirements for Cooks

According to a survey conducted by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), 44% of respondents indicated that Cooks need to have a Bachelor’s degree to perform a job. Find out how much education you need to perform a Cook job by exploring the pie chart below.

[Source: O*NET]

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

How Much Do Similar Careers to a Cook Get Paid?

Cooks earn more than Food Runners but less than Sous Chefs and Waiters/Waitresses.

Job TitleAverage Salary
Food Runner
Waiter/Waitress
Sous Chef

Cook Career Progression

As you gain more cooking experience and demonstrate proficiency in your culinary skills, you can advance to positions of greater responsibility in the kitchen. This could include roles such as Sous Chef, Head Chef, Kitchen Manager and beyond.

Cook

Cook

Junior Chef

Avg Salary $ 35,120

Sous Chef

Avg Salary $ 45,000

Head Chef

Avg Salary $ 61,500

Executive Chef

Avg Salary $ 85,000

Head Cook

Avg Salary $ 40,000

Souse Chef

Avg Salary $ 50,000

Kitchen Manager

Avg Salary $ 60,000

Restaurant General Manager

Avg Salary $ 75,000


Labor Laws and Taxes for Cooks

As a Cook, it could be beneficial to know your state’s minimum wage, overtime pay and leave policies.

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.

Cook Salary FAQs

Whether or not Cooks receive largely depends on the establishment and location. In settings like open kitchens or upscale restaurants, it’s typical for Cooks to get a portion of the tips.

However, how tips are distributed for Cooks is notably different from Servers or Bartenders. While Servers and Bartenders usually get direct tips from customers, Cooks might be part of a pooled tip system where tips are divided among staff.

Alternatively, they might receive a percentage of the total tips based on factors such as hours worked or kitchen performance.

To potentially earn a higher salary as a Cook, consider the following strategies:

  • Gain experience: Building a solid foundation of experience in various culinary settings can make you more valuable to employers. Seek opportunities to work in different types of kitchens and cuisines to expand your skill set.
  • Specialize: Developing expertise in a specific culinary field, such as pastry, seafood or regional cuisine, can set you apart from other Cooks and justify a higher salary due to your specialized knowledge.
  • Continue education: Pursuing additional culinary education or certifications can demonstrate your commitment to advancing your skills and may lead to higher-paying job opportunities.
  • Seek leadership roles: Pursue positions with increased responsibilities, such as Sous Chef or Head Chef, where you can oversee kitchen operations and lead a team. These roles often come with higher salaries.
  • Research market rates: Stay informed about salary trends in the culinary industry by researching average pay rates for Cooks in your area. Use this information to negotiate for a higher salary during job interviews or performance evaluations.
  • Network: Build connections within the culinary community by attending industry events, joining professional organizations and connecting with Chefs and restaurant owners. Networking can lead to job opportunities and potential salary advancements.
  • Demonstrate value: Showcase your skills, reliability and creativity in the kitchen to demonstrate your value to employers. Consistently producing high-quality dishes and contributing to the overall success of the restaurant can position you for salary increases and promotions.
  • Consider location: Explore job opportunities in areas with a high demand for Cooks or a higher cost of living, as these locations may offer higher salaries to attract talent.

Whether Cooks are paid for overtime depends on various factors, including their employment status, the labor laws in their jurisdiction, and the employer policies.

Here are the overtime policies based on the employment type:

  • Hourly employees: Cooks who are classified as hourly employees are typically entitled to overtime pay for hours worked beyond a certain threshold set by labor laws (40 hours per week). Overtime pay is typically set at one and a half times the regular hourly rate, although it varies from state to state.
  • Salaried employees: Most salaried Cooks are entitled to overtime pay, unless they are exempt by meeting certain criteria, such as performing managerial duties or earning above a certain salary threshold.
  • Unionized employees: Cooks who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by a labor union may have specific provisions regarding overtime pay outlined in their contract. These provisions may include higher overtime rates or additional protections for overtime work.
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