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Average Cook Salary in Major U.S. Cities

Earning his cook salary, a man is adding a liquid substance to a well-arranged meal.

Whether you’re an aspiring chef, line cook or prep cook, a culinary expert can look forward to a career path that offers job stability and financial rewards.

In this blog post, we will break down the average cook salary in the United States (U.S.), including the various factors that affect them.

We’ll cover the responsibilities and qualifications required for the job, as well as common interview questions. Additionally, we’ll take a look at the average salaries for cooks across the country and in major cities such as NY, Miami, Chicago and LA.

The employment of cooks is projected to grow 10% between 2019 and 2029, so, the future is looking bright!

An image featuring stat regarding employment of cooks projection

Let’s dive into the details and learn more about this exciting career path.

What Is the Average Cook Salary in the US?

In the U.S., the average base salary for a line cook is estimated to be around $47,000, while the average salary for a prep cook is approximately $34,000. The average U.S. salary of an executive chef is $64,000, while a pastry chef and sous chef can look forward to $45,000 and $50,000, respectively.

These numbers can fluctuate, however, based on different factors such as the location of the restaurant, the cook’s work experience and individual application.

Additionally, it’s important to note that a cook’s pay can increase with time and experience, as they gain more skills and move up the ranks in a kitchen.

The demand for skilled cooks in major cities like NY, Miami, Chicago and LA can lead to higher salaries due to the competitive nature of the culinary industry in those areas.

Check out the average salary breakdown for cooks in these cities:

What Is the Average Cook Salary in New York City?

From rooftop cafes and speakeasies to high-end restaurants that book up months in advance, a cook has a wide variety of choices and ample opportunity to make a competitive salary.

The average breakdown for cook salaries by expertise is as follows:

  • Executive chef: $77,000
  • Sous chef: $53,000
  • Pastry chef: $54,000
  • Prep cook: $40,000
  • Line cook: $56,000

New York also offers cooks a unique opportunity to work in some of the most renowned restaurants out there. Eleven Madison Park, Per Se and Le Bernardin, are have consistently ranked as one of the best dining experiences in the world. 

What Is the Average Cook Salary in Miami?

Miami is famous for its fresh seafood, a growing number of farm-to-table restaurants and its Carribean-inspired dishes, given its proximity to the islands.

Here is a breakdown of what different specialties in Miami can expect in terms of salary:

  • Executive chef: $65,000
  • Sous chef: $45,000
  • Prep Cook: $34,000
  • Pastry chef: $46,000
  • Line Cook: $48,000

By dedicating themselves to hard work and honing their craft, cooks have the opportunity to secure positions in highly prestigious culinary establishments in Miami, including those with multiple Michelin stars, such as L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Ariete and Boia De.

What Is the Average Cook Salary in Chicago?

Here, culinary experts can expect to earn the following:

  • Executive chef: $72,000
  • Sous chef: $50,000
  • Pastry chef: $51,000
  • Prep cook: $38,000
  • Line cook: $53,000

Chicago is home to several elite restaurants, such as Alinea, Smyth and Oriole. Alinea has been named the best restaurant in the U.S. by Gourmet Magazine, and all three brave multiple Michelin stars.

What Is the Average Cook Salary in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles’ culinary experts can expect to earn these salaries on average:

  • Executive chef: $72,000
  • Sous chef: $51,000
  • Pastry chef: $52,000
  • Prep cook: $38,000
  • Line cook: $53,000

If they work hard and build their craft, cooks can hope to work in some of the most prestigious culinary establishments with multiple Michelin stars such as Providence, The French Laundry or n/naka.

Regardless of the kind of cook we’re talking about, their pay will depend on factors such as location, the type of restaurant/hotel/catering service and their own application.

What Factors Determine a Cook’s Salary?

The salary for working in a restaurant can vary greatly, depending on several key factors. These include:

1. Geographic Location

The location of a restaurant can play a significant role in a cook’s salary.

For instance, working in a fancy restaurant in a major city such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago can mean a higher salary given the high demand and cost of living.

Conversely, a small town or a rural area can mean lower wages.

2. Restaurant Type

The type of restaurant a cook works in can also affect their salary.

High-end restaurants with more expensive menu items can often mean higher pay, compared to a more casual eatery where customers pay less for their meals.

However, high-end restaurants may also have higher standards and require more experience from their cooks.

3. Your Position

The role a cook plays in a restaurant can also determine their salary.

For example, a chef or head cook will often earn more than a line cook or prep cook given their higher level of responsibility and experience.

A sous chef, who assists the head chef in managing the kitchen, may also earn a higher salary than a line cook.

4. Your Experience

Experience is another critical factor that influences a cook salary outcome. Cooks with more experience and skills can command higher wages, as they are more valuable to the restaurant.

A cook who has worked at several high-end restaurants and has a proven track record of success is likely to earn more than someone who is just starting in the culinary industry.

5. Your Performance

Finally, a cook’s performance can also affect their salary. Cooks who consistently produce high-quality dishes and have a positive attitude will likely be rewarded with higher pay and promotions to higher-level cooking positions.

If you are considering developing remarkable skills and thriving in the hospitality industry, find out whether or not working in a restaurant is the career path for you.

Earning her cook salary, a woman is frying ingredients in a frying pan, in full uniform.
Your salary as a cook can vary depending on different factors, such as the geographic area, restaurant type and your performance

Boost Your Cook Salary: Tips for Increasing Your Earnings

The amount of money a cook makes is largely dependent on your skill set. Factors that might help increase the amount you make as a cook include:

  • Gaining relevant work experience
  • Pursuing additional education or training
  • Working in higher-end restaurants
  • Developing a niche skill, such as pastry-making or butchery
  • Being prepared to negotiate a higher salary

5 Top-Paying Companies for Cooks in the US

The highest-paying employers for a cook job in the U.S. include:

  1. The Cheesecake Factory, $14.52 per hour
  2. Texas Roadhouse, $12.98 per hour
  3. Olive Garden, $12.71 per hour
  4. Red Lobster, $12.48 per hour
  5. Cracker Barrel, $11.46 per hour

Find a Cook Position With OysterLink

Looking to build a career as a cook? You’re in the right place. Our hospitality platform, OysterLink, can help connect you with open positions in the restaurant industry.

Whether you’re looking for a job as a line cook, sous chef or executive chef, we can provide valuable insights into job descriptions, salaries and interview questions. We also help equip you to negotiate a fair cook salary and prepare for a follow-up call after an interview.

We offer information on the best-paying jobs in hotels and resorts, and an early membership application will allow you to be among the first to see the latest restaurant job postings in your area.

Let OysterLink help you find your next culinary opportunity and take your cooking career to the next level!

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