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What is the Average Chef Salary?

Tyler MartinezAuthor

Chefs understand what it takes to run a successful restaurant business. They plan menus and manage a chunk of day-to-day restaurant operations. 

They hire, train, and oversee the kitchen staff. Some chefs specialize in specific types of food, such as sauces and soups, meat, or pastries. More particularly, executive chefs and head chefs are the authority in the French brigade kitchen hierarchy. They are creative masters in the kitchen and know various ingredients and cuisines. 

No matter where a Chef falls in terms of specialty or authority, you can gain a general understanding of how much chefs make in the United States. Let’s dive into it!

How much do chefs make on average?

How Much Do Chefs Make? (Average Chef Salary Data 2023)

Chefs make $32,000 - $73,000 on average in the US. That might seem like a wide range. Here’s how we got those numbers: 

  • Salary.com reports on salaries from job advertisements. The average salary for chefs in the US is $50,736. The low end of the range is $43,098 while the high end is $60,740. 
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics averages employment from a wide range of sources. They report that there are 129,810 chefs in the US with average salaries of $56,920. The top 10% of earners make $84,570 annually. 
  • Chron.com reports that the highest-earning chefs make $76,280, which is more than $36 an hour, and that the lowest-earning chefs make $23,630 annually, or $11.36 an hour. 

A great way to determine what you should earn as a chef is to ask others in your area who have similar roles. Having honest conversations about earnings might seem taboo, but it's worth comparing salaries and job descriptions with others. Then, you can get a good idea of how much compensation you should expect for your work, skills, and expertise.

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What Influences a Chef’s Salary?

A chef’s salary is determined by the location, the kind of restaurant they work in, and their skills and experiences. A chef’s salary should be competitive with the cost of living in the area where the restaurant is located. 

One of the biggest determining factors of a chef’s salary will be the profit margins at the restaurant where they work. Many restaurants operate on slim profit margins. Chef’s salaries are often fixed. They work long shifts and have a lot of responsibilities to juggle to meet the requirements of the position. 

A chef’s skills and experiences also influence their earning potential. Chefs with culinary degrees and years of training can land higher-earning positions. Many restaurants require chefs with specialized skills and knowledge of various cuisines. At work, be consistent about showcasing your skillset. Each new experience provides an opportunity to learn and apply that situation in the future. Pro tip: it’s always good to stay up to date with the latest food trends. 

Chefs Earn Steady Salaries 

Chefs typically receive a fixed salary. Salaries are negotiated at the start of employment and during performance reviews. Lots of chefs report annual bonuses based on the volume of sales and profit margins of the restaurant where they work. Restaurants are more profitable when chefs perform their job duties diligently and efficiently. 

That includes managing the kitchen to reduce the costs of ingredients, supplies, and labor. Restaurant owners are likely to reward chefs who help to keep the restaurant profitable with bonuses or raises. 

How to Advance Your Career and Increase Salary as a Chef 

The road to becoming a chef requires patience and persistence. Chefs work their way up through the ranks of kitchens to earn a spot as head chef. Becoming a chef often requires starting as a line cook and working your way up to become a sous chef before being promoted to the lead role in the kitchen. 

Optimizing the organization and operations of the kitchen is a good way to earn a higher salary as a chef. Work patiently and consistently to reduce the restaurant’s costs and increase profits. That will put you in a better position to negotiate a salary increase. 

Once you become a chef, increase your earnings by working in a restaurant with a high volume of sales. Generally, chefs in high-end, fine-dining restaurants earn more than their counterparts in more casual restaurants. However, do note that casual restaurants can have high-profit margins when managed well. 

A handy tip is to be aware of opportunities for advancement within the restaurant or restaurant group. Ask your owner if he is considering opening new restaurants or locations. In addition to showing that you can perform your responsibilities consistently, let owners know that you are ready for more responsibility and that you can handle a higher-paying position.

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How to Negotiate a Higher Chef Salary

A chef’s compensation is determined by their skills, experience, and the restaurant’s profits. When it comes to salary negotiations, be ready to talk to restaurant owners about the experiences and skills listed on your resume. Their job is to be sure you understand the restaurant industry and are capable of performing as a chef. 

Researching salaries for other chefs in your area is a good way to find out the salary range that people with your skills and experience earn. The research will equip you with an idea of where to start negotiations. Some chefs can also earn more by being part owners of a restaurant. Restaurant ownership comes with additional responsibilities, but it can also set you up to earn a higher percentage of the restaurant’s profits. 

Know What Your Culinary Skills are Worth! 

As the highest position in a kitchen’s hierarchy, being a chef takes skills, patience, and leadership. Research to know the worth of your skills to bring confidence and patience into your role every day. 

Your passion for food and creativity in the kitchen will be rewarded with a salary to support your lifestyle!

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