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Head Chef Salary

How Much Does a Head Chef Make in the United States?

The average base salary for a Head Chef in the United States is a month, or $73,632 per year, according to the most recent data averaged from Indeed, Talent.com, Salary.com and ZipRecruiter.

Average Head Chef Base Salary:
What can I earn as a Head Chef?Your salary is 0 the US national average
$35.4
$35.4
35.4

The average wage for a Head Chef is per hour or $1,416 a week.

Many Head Chefs are exempt from overtime pay and minimum wage regulations, as they are considered “learned professionals.” The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines learned professionals as those with a weekly salary of at least $684 and primary duties that require advanced knowledge.

Annual Mean Wage of Head Chefs by State

The average salaries for Head Chefs vary across different states and districts.

[Calculated using Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Talent.com and Salary.com data]

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

For example, in areas like the District of Columbia and Washington with higher living costs, Head Chefs may receive higher pay to keep up with those costs.

In contrast, Head Chefs in states like Kansas and Oklahoma earn relatively lower salaries in states due to lower costs of living.

Head Chefs are also likely to receive more competitive salaries in states with bustling tourism industries, such as New York and California.

Factors That Affect Average Head Chef Salary

Aside from geographic location and cost of living, other factors that may influence the average Head Chef salary are:

Culinary Experience

Head Chefs with more years of culinary experience may command higher salaries due to their track record.

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

They may also receive higher pay if they have notable experience with specific types of cuisines or food that require more meticulous preparation.

For instance, a Head Chef who has worked in multiple fine-dining restaurants can negotiate higher pay when applying for a job in a similar establishment.

Industry Background

Head Chefs who work or have worked in prestigious establishments typically have higher chances of earning competitive salaries. This is due to the reputation and clientele associated with such establishments.

For example, a Head Chef previously employed in a famous Michelin-starred restaurant might receive a higher offer from prospective employers.

Additionally, Head Chefs who have received awards or won competitions — such as the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition — may have more room for negotiating their salary, given the recognition of their talents and expertise.

Culinary Education & Qualifications

Some employers may be willing to give higher salaries to Head Chefs with formal education or training in culinary arts. The same applies to those who have obtained certifications or completed continuing education courses.
Company Size, Type and Budget

The scale and type of a company or establishment can also affect a Head Chef’s salary.

For instance, a Head Chef working for a restaurant group with multiple stores nationwide is likely to earn more than one who works for a small, single-unit establishment.

head chef salary factors

Moreover, companies or establishments with better financial health often have bigger budgets for salaries of managerial employees like Head Chefs.

Scope of Responsibilities

A Head Chef in charge of a larger kitchen staff may also earn a higher salary.

This is because employers typically place more value on Head Chefs who can effectively manage a heavier workload, particularly in restaurants with more complex menu items.

Negotiation Skills

Those applying to be a Head Chef can secure higher salaries through negotiations during the hiring process, where they can leverage their skills and experience.

Head Chefs can also negotiate with their employers during performance reviews, especially if they have effectively proven their contributions to the kitchen team.

Head Chef Salary in Major US Cities

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

Miami

Annual mean wage

$71,677

New York City

Annual mean wage

$83,631

Chicago

Annual mean wage

$60,135

Los Angeles

Annual mean wage

$81,149

[Calculated using Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Talent.com and Salary.com data]

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

 

High-Paying Cities for Head Chefs

CityAvg SalaryAvg Hourly Wage
Los Angeles, CA81,14939.01
Chicago, IL60,13528.91
NYC, NY83,63140.21
Miami, FL71,67734.46

Average Head Chef Salary by State

Head Chefs working in the District of Columbia, New York, Washington and California have the highest average salaries. Meanwhile, Arkansas and West Virginia have the lowest average Head Chef salaries.

Explore the table below for the average Head Chef salaries in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

StateAvg. Salary
Alabama$ 66,121
Alaska$ 75,491
Arizona$ 71,575
Arkansas$ 63,870
California$ 80,366
Colorado$ 75,229
Connecticut$ 75,214
Delaware$ 73,291
Florida$ 66,914
Georgia$ 68,263
Hawaii$ 74,201
Idaho$ 67,741
Illinois$ 71,018
Indiana$ 66,605
Iowa$ 67,200
Kansas$ 65,388
Kentucky$ 66,523
Louisiana$ 65,822
Maine$ 72,690
Maryland$ 70,679
Massachusetts$ 79,853
Michigan$ 66,919
Minnesota$ 73,225
Mississippi$ 67,102
Missouri$ 67,852
Montana$ 67,201
Nebraska$ 67,278
Nevada$ 73,059
New Hampshire$ 72,787
New Jersey$ 79,075
New Mexico$ 67,158
New York$ 81,503
North Carolina$ 67,821
North Dakota$ 69,275
Ohio$ 68,508
Oklahoma$ 65,795
Oregon$ 72,859
Pennsylvania$ 73,310
Rhode Island$ 73,393
South Carolina$ 67,812
South Dakota$ 67,067
Tennessee$ 67,163
Texas$ 70,347
Utah$ 68,869
Vermont$ 74,575
Virginia$ 70,165
Washington$ 81,295
West Virginia$ 59,076
Wisconsin$ 70,679
Wyoming$ 67,134
District of Columbia$ 83,446

Non-Monetary Benefits and Perks for Head Chefs

Apart from salary, employers and candidates also factor non-monetary benefits and perks into the overall compensation package. Employers give benefits and perks to boost job satisfaction and promote work-life balance and career growth.

The most common non-monetary compensations for full-time employees within the U.S. restaurant industry are healthcare insurance, 401(k) plans, paid time off and employee assistance programs.

However, those in management-level positions like Head Chefs may also be offered these extra benefits and perks:

  • Performance incentives: Employers offer bonus plans and profit sharing to incentivize Head Chefs to perform excellently and contribute to the restaurant’s overall success. Head Chefs typically need to achieve metrics such as food cost percentage, menu profitability and customer satisfaction scores.
  • Employee discounts or free products: Head Chefs may enjoy high discount percentages or free company products and services. For instance, a Head Chef working for a major hotel chain might be offered free accommodation once a year in one of the company’s properties.
  • Travel opportunities: Restaurants participating in culinary competitions, conventions or expos may send their Head Chefs as a representative. Alternatively, Head Chefs working for global restaurant or hotel groups may have the opportunity to travel to the company’s headquarters for further training.
  • Flexible scheduling: Head Chefs may be allowed flexible work hours or customized schedules to accommodate their needs, preferences or personal priorities.
  • Professional development opportunities: Companies or establishments may cover the costs of culinary courses, training programs, workshops or certifications for Head Chefs.
  • Relocation assistance: Some employers may offer this to a newly hired Head Chef originally based elsewhere. Alternatively, employers may also facilitate the relocation of a current Head Chef to a different area.

What is the best tactic to get a pay raise?

Since Head Chefs are often exempt from minimum wage regulations, the benefits and perks they receive might also affect the base salary set by their employer.

Top 5 Skills Needed for Head Chefs

Head Chefs must develop and refine a wide range of skills to thrive in their role.

Here are the top five skills that every Head Chef should have.

1. Culinary Expertise

Culinary expertise is a fundamental skill for every Head Chef, as they are responsible for guiding kitchen staff and fostering a culture of excellence.

Head Chefs must possess advanced culinary skills, which cover mastery of cooking techniques, proficiency in flavor profiles and ingredients and a good eye for food presentation.

2. Menu Development and Innovation

Head Chefs should also be able to create and execute a variety of innovative menu items. This is especially true for those who work in dining establishments, where they have more creative freedom.

From desserts and appetizers to main dishes, a talented Head Chef knows how to create and adjust menu items that cater to diverse preferences and reflect culinary trends.

Additionally, they need to curate dishes that complement each other, ensuring that the entire menu is cohesive and balanced.

3. Leadership Skills

Proper leadership skills are essential for Head Chefs to inspire, motivate and manage their kitchen staff. This skill set includes effective delegation, proactive problem-solving, agile decision making and the ability to navigate unexpected issues.

Head Chefs should also cultivate a work environment that promotes collaboration and accountability, which entails leading by example.

In the video above, the renowned Anthony Bourdain discusses some of the most important leadership insights he gained throughout his extensive Chef career.

4. Organizational Skills

Head Chefs with strong organizational skills are good at time management, multitasking and setting goals.

Moreover, they must have a keen attention to detail, ensuring that each food the restaurant serves is consistently of high standards. This includes overseeing all aspects of kitchen operations, from ingredient sourcing and food preparation to the presentation of menu items.

The video above shows how an NYC-based Chef manages tasks and maintains efficient kitchen operations throughout the day.

5. Financial Management

Head Chefs must balance their culinary expertise and innovation with financial skills, as they also help in managing restaurants’ food-related expenses. Beyond creating top-notch dishes, an excellent Head Chef has a good understanding of budgeting, inventory management and cost-control measures.

Education & Training Requirements for Head Chefs

Head Chefs typically need extensive culinary training and education, given that they hold a management-level position.

The key education and training requirements for Head Chefs include:

  • High school diploma or GED: This is often the minimum level of educational attainment for Head Chef jobs, as it demonstrates fundamental literacy and mathematical and communication skills.
  • Supervisory or managerial experience: Head Chefs hold a high level of responsibility and therefore must have previous experience in a managerial or supervisory role. The minimum requirement ranges between two and five years, depending on the employer.
  • Culinary degree or diploma: Although it is not a strict requirement in some establishments and companies, having a formal culinary education can give Head Chefs a significant advantage in their career development and advancement.
  • Professional certifications or courses: Whether or not they have prior culinary education, a Head Chef can also attend relevant courses or certificate programs to boost their credentials. Moreover, completion of such programs or courses demonstrates a Head Chef’s dedication to ongoing learning and development — which are essential qualities for those in management positions.

Courses and Certifications for Head Chefs

Here are some of the most reputable organizations and institutions that offer courses and certifications for Head Chefs.

Organization/Institution Course/Certification Description
Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) Advanced Culinary Studies A set of multi-day and single-day classes ranging from contemporary cuisine techniques to seasonal fine dining; all held on ICE’s NYC campus
Harvard Online Professional Certificate in The Science of Cooking A three-part certification program focusing on food science principles and their application in everyday cooking
American Culinary Federation Certified Chef de Cuisine® A certification program geared towards food production supervisors (such as Head Chefs) within food service operations; valid for up to five years
Kitchen CUT Financial Management Course for Professional Chefs A seven-part online course covering topics such as food costing, margin analysis and menu engineering
ServSafe ServSafe Manager Food Safety Certification Covers food safety practices and various state-specific regulations; valid for up to five years

How Much Do Similar Careers to a Head Chef Get Paid?

Head Chefs earn less than Executive Chefs, but more than Restaurant Managers and general Chefs on average.

Job TitleAverage Salary
Executive Chef
Restaurant Manager
Chef

Head Chef Career Progression

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

Head Chef

Executive Chef

Avg Salary $ 80,040

Culinary Director

Avg Salary $ 95,106

Director of Restaurant Operations

Avg Salary $ 102,697

Executive Chef

Avg Salary $ 80,040

Restaurant Consultant

Avg Salary $ 81,376

Private Chef

Avg Salary $ 85,447


Labor Laws and Taxes for Head Chefs

As a Head Chef who oversees multiple back-of-house staff members, you need to be aware of the minimum wage, 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.

Head Chef Salary FAQs

Among the four major cities in the United States, NYC has the highest average salary for Head Chefs. Here, a Head Chef can earn approximately $83,631 per year — which is 13.58% higher than the nationwide average of $73,632.

On a state-specific basis, Head Chefs are most likely to earn competitive salaries in the District of Columbia and New York State. The average Head Chef salaries in these areas are $83,446 and $81,503, respectively.

The average base monthly salary for Head Chefs in the U.S. is $6,136.

A Head Chef may be able to secure a higher salary through any or all of the following:

  • Leveraging their culinary expertise and industry experience
  • Obtaining certifications or completing professional courses
  • Negotiating with their current employer
  • Applying for a job in another restaurant or company that pays better

Aside from their salary, a Head Chef could also increase their overall earnings through benefits such as performance bonuses and profit-sharing.

Most Head Chefs work full-time and work early mornings, late evenings, weekends and holidays. Although 40 hours is the standard for many full-time jobs, a Head Chef may need to work longer hours, given their level of responsibility.

Although the average annual salary for Head Chefs is $83,631, some companies or establishments may offer yearly salaries as high as $100,000. That said, we recommend checking out our Head Chef Jobs page to explore high-paying job openings in the U.S.

Since a Head Chef is a managerial-level position, they may only receive tips they get directly from customers, according to the FLSA. Additionally, Head Chefs are prohibited from receiving tips from a tip pool or tip jar.

In most restaurants, the Head Chef directly reports to the Executive Chef. However, in some cases, a Head Chef is the same as or equivalent to an Executive Chef.

Additionally, some companies or establishments may have alternate job titles for a Head Chef, such as:

  • Chef de Cuisine
  • Executive Sous Chef

That said, it’s best to check specific duties and responsibilities to ensure you’re actually applying for a Head Chef position.

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