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What Does a Chef Do? Duties, Salary and How To Become One



What Does a Chef Do? Duties, Salary and How To Become One

What Does a Chef Do? Duties, Salary and How To Become One

If you’re interested in working in the food service industry, consider becoming a chef. These individuals serve as the head of the kitchen and perform duties ranging from managing employees and creating menu items to overseeing the restaurant’s finances. Learning more about the role can help you determine if it’s right for you and develop an appropriate career plan.

In this article, we explain what a chef does, discuss the role’s average salary and requirements, provide steps for pursuing this career and offer an example job description.


What does a chef do?

A chef is the chief cook in a restaurant, serving as a leader for the kitchen staff. Duties a chef may perform include:

  • Creating the weekly staff schedule and managing any staff vacation requests

  • Adhering to the kitchen budget created by the manager

  • Holding staff meetings to review the latest policies, procedures and menu changes

  • Making sure all kitchen staff members follow sanitation and safety practices

  • Staying current on all new industry trends

  • Maintaining relationships with vendors

  • Ordering the restaurant’s weekly food supply

  • Collaborating with the general manager to establish business goals

Here’s a closer look at what a chef does:

Communicate with staff and customers

Chefs communicate their needs to the kitchen staff, so team members follow the correct procedures. A chef also talks to customers who request to speak to them about menu items or food allergy concerns. Additionally, chefs meet with the general manager routinely to discuss the status of the kitchen and its employees. They also communicate with vendors to order the weekly inventory.

Create new menu items

A chef relies on their creativity to develop new menu items. They infuse their own techniques while considering the restaurant’s unique style to different items from those of competitors. Chefs adjust the menu seasonally to account for ingredient availability and evolving consumer preferences.

Manage inventory

Chefs are responsible for the restaurant’s food supply and reorder inventory as necessary. They also determine how much food to keep stocked based on their menu and demand for certain items. Chefs use the restaurant’s established inventory management system to track items and ensure the kitchen’s efficient operation.

Manage employees

A chef uses their leadership skills to provide the kitchen staff with direction. They train new employees, conduct training sessions for current staff to discuss new techniques and answer questions about food preparation. Chefs are often responsible for resolving staff members’ conflicts and offering helpful feedback when necessary.

Oversee the restaurant’s finances

While a chef spends much of their shift in the kitchen, they might also manage the business aspect of their establishment. They can keep the restaurant profitable by setting menu prices, accounting for budget limitations and staffing employees. Other business-related responsibilities include:

  • Tracking revenue and expenses each week

  • Calculating profits

  • Developing marketing strategies to attract new customers

  • Conducting research to create new menu items

Perform physically demanding duties

A chef may spend time sitting while they review menus and order inventory, but most of their job requires them to stand for long periods. They often walk for the duration of their shift to oversee the kitchen and meal preparations. Chefs may also walk back and forth between the kitchen and dining room to greet customers and answer their questions.

Average salary of a chef

The average salary of a chef is $51,955 per year. This amount can vary depending on factors like your industry, experience and location. For instance, a chef working at a prestigious restaurant in a busy city might have a higher-than-average earning potential. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: How To Become a Chef Without Going To Culinary SchoolRequirements to become a chef

Here are the standard requirements to become a chef:


Chefs typically have their high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED). Employers might be more likely to hire you if you pursue postsecondary education. Many culinary programs are available at technical schools, community colleges, universities and culinary arts schools. These programs often require an apprenticeship or internship program in a commercial kitchen to improve. Some employers may require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in culinary arts.


An ideal candidate for a chef position has several years of experience in the food service industry. Many begin as line cooks and spend years learning skills from a head chef. Some employers also prefer a candidate with experience in a supervisory role. Candidates can also participate in mentorship programs where they work closely with a senior chef. Individuals who work in high-end restaurants can spend as many as 10 years working under another prestigious chef. Paid apprenticeship programs are also available, where candidates learn skills on the job for approximately two years.


While certifications aren’t a requirement, they can demonstrate the employee’s general understanding of the field. Examples of relevant certifications include:

  • American Culinary Federation certifications: This organization has various certifications, including Certified Master Chef and Certified Culinary Administrator. Aspiring chefs take these exams in person at a designated testing center.

  • Certified Chef Developer: This certification teaches basic job-related skills like food preparation and developing menu items. You can earn this certification by passing a self-paced online exam.

Chef work environment

Chefs can work in various environments. They may find employment in schools, hotels, private houses, company cafeterias, restaurants and other food service institutions. Chefs may also manage their own catering companies. A chef often works in a busy environment with little time for rest breaks. This position can be physically strenuous, as they are on their feet for most of the shift.

The environment can often pose risks to the chef from sharp objects, slippery floors, hot ovens and stoves. Most chefs work full-time hours and might be available during the day and on holidays and weekends. Some chefs may work overtime to meet demands for special events. On a normal day, they may arrive early to help with prep or stay past the restaurant’s closing to oversee cleaning.

How to become a chef

Some chef positions allow candidates to begin with minimal experience, but having some related experience or education can be useful. Following these steps can help you on your journey of becoming a chef:

  1. Graduate with a high school diploma. Chefs should obtain a high school degree or equivalent. They should also consider getting additional schooling by earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in culinary arts.

  2. Consider your career goals. When you know what position you’d like to eventually obtain, you can pursue the appropriate experience. For instance, you might want to specialize in pastries, vegetables or fish or work in a particular type of restaurant.

  3. Complete an apprenticeship program. Candidates serious about becoming chefs can apply for a mentorship or apprenticeship program. This opportunity helps them obtain experience under a professional chef and allows them to add more expertise to their resume.

  4. Work in the food service industry. Aspiring chefs typically gain experience in the industry before applying to more advanced roles. Consider being a line cook or even a server to learn how the kitchen runs and qualify for promotions within your organization.

  5. Apply for certification. Additional certification can improve a candidate’s chances of getting a job as a chef. The exam demonstrates to employers that the chef has sufficient knowledge for the position.

Chef job description example

Here is a sample job description for a chef:

We’re looking for the appropriate candidate to work as a chef at Teddy’s French Bistro. The ideal candidate is current on all industry trends and displays creativity in designing our seasonal menus. The chef is responsible for training employees, assigning work to employees, creating the staff schedule, overseeing the preparation of meals and ordering inventory. We require a high school diploma and prefer a degree in culinary arts in addition to completing an apprenticeship program. The ideal candidate has at least five years of experience in the food industry working in a kitchen. They must have a flexible schedule, as evening and weekend shifts are often mandatory.

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