The head cook runs the show
The executive chef, sometimes called the head cook or the "chef de cuisine", is the one responsible for running the food preparation in a kitchen. He or she takes on much more of a management role than anyone else on the kitchen staff. Executive chefs are usually employed by large restaurants, hotels, private country clubs and even cruise lines. Most manage a staff of at least ten employees.
The executive chef is primarily responsible for assigning responsibilities among the kitchen staff to ensure that food preparation is efficient. In addition to overseeing all food production, the duties of the executive chef usually include the following:
- Manage food preparation and cooking. Ensure that food quality standards are met.
- Cook food, either on a regular basis or for special functions only.
- Plan the menu and create new recipes.
- Prepare the budget, including projections of annual food and labor costs.
- Train the kitchen staff to ensure the food is prepared according to budget and standards.
- Perform a regular inventory of food supplies and equipment. Project future needs and place orders to ensure that they are met.
- Ensure that the kitchen adheres to sanitation and safety laws.
It’s not uncommon for the executive chef to perform a minimal amount of cooking. However, this doesn’t mean that an executive chef must give up his or her love for food. Rather than filling dinner orders, he or she is involved more in the artistic, creative side of cooking. This is where your culinary arts education comes in handy. The executive chef must be on top of trends in the food-service industry and keep his or her menu fresh and appealing to the restaurant’s clientele.
The following skills, traits and other requirements are necessary for success as an executive chef:
- An education in the culinary arts.
- Experience in a kitchen environment.
- Human resource management skills, including the ability to recruit and train employees.
- Financial management skills, such as accounting.
- Time management skills
- Communication skills
- Leadership skills
The sky’s the limit for executive chefs in terms of the salary they can earn. On average, they earn between $40,000 and $60,000 per year. The average hourly wage falls somewhere between $14.00 and $19.00. However, these figures depend on a number of factors including the location, reputation, type and capacity of the restaurant.
For executive chefs who also own and operate a restaurant, their salary can exponentially increase, depending on the success and reputation of their restaurant.