Every kitchen needs a good leader who can also prepare a wide variety of dishes. An executive chef is in charge of all kitchen operations, including preparing dishes, hiring and managing kitchen staff, and inventory management. They look after the kitchen to keep everything running smoothly.
An executive chef also cooperates with the restaurant manager and banquet manager to prepare special menus for casual and fine dining events. This includes the preparation of a full course meal with appetizers, main courses, and items from the dessert menu for small and large groups.
This BinWise blog gives the job description, responsibilities, salary, and other vital information about the role of an executive chef. A kitchen needs the expertise and leadership of an executive chef to run efficiently. That expertise, paired with a hard-working staff all around, makes for a great kitchen and restaurant.
What Is an Executive Chef?
An executive chef, also known as a head chef or chef manager, is the person who is responsible for the successful management of a professional kitchen. They are the commander of the kitchen. They’re responsible for managing the preparation and production of meals and overseeing the other types of chefs in the kitchen.
Executive chefs work in restaurants, hotels, resorts, country clubs, and other types of culinary establishments. Some have embraced recent trends and opened a virtual restaurant or found work in a ghost kitchen. Their expertise and mastery over the work of a kitchen means they can excel in any restaurant or bar model as the head or executive chef.
An executive chef's job description includes creating menus for the daily operation of the restaurant in addition to menus for special events. If an executive chef works for a hotel, banquet hall, or resort, it could include birthday parties, weddings, and graduation ceremonies.
The executive chef also interviews candidates for kitchen employment, creates the weekly staff schedule, and approves staff vacation requests. They hold meetings with their back-of-house staff to review new policies and procedures and ensure that their staff is following proper safety and sanitation practices.
Their duties include recipe costing, monitoring overall food cost, and maintaining inventory. They interact with customers and participate in meetings with other management staff of the restaurant or hotel. Overall, they work to make sure the work of the kitchen is running well and contributing fully to the success of the business as a whole.
The typical responsibilities under the executive chef job description may include:
- Define menu concepts and update dishes.
- Choosing the key ingredients for dishes on various menu types.
- Staff hiring, management, and problem-solving.
- Performing administrative duties, including meeting with vendors and ordering supplies.
- Overseeing kitchen equipment purchases, repairs, and ordering restaurant kitchen cleaning supplies.
Of course, these are just a few examples of what an executive chef may be responsible for in their work. Ultimately, their work encompasses everything involved in making sure the kitchen supports the restaurant business.
Creativity and Collaboration
The executive chef might offer suggestions for the design of the restaurant, including the type of cuisine offered and item pricing. They work with their kitchen staff to craft dishes that will satisfy customers and attract interest from the community. They play a role in ensuring the restaurant operations run without any issues.
Executive chefs use the highest quality ingredients and purchase food from vendors that will create tasty cuisine.
Additional duties include:
- Monitoring customer satisfaction.
- Supervising a hygienic and organized working space.
- Hiring and scheduling dishwashers.
A restaurant or hotel will host banquets and parties that need specific menus. They will create them with assistance from the restaurant manager, banquet manager, and sales managers. These special occasions need additional time and planning for a successful event. If there is an issue in the restaurant or hotel, they work to resolve the problem.
An executive chef will:
- Maintain and track inventory.
- Order supplies and tools for the staff.
- Work within their allotted budget.
- Meet face-to-face with vendors.
They create purchase orders to keep their dry storage, refrigerators, and freezers stocked. If items are missing from an order or food quality is poor, they will contact the vendor to address the issue. Executive chefs handle the arrangement of any repairs on equipment or machinery in the kitchen to ensure smooth processes of cooking, food preservation, and storage.
Executive Chefs Worldwide
Executive chefs work in all manner of restaurants, bars, and club settings. The prestige of the title and related experience, however, means executive chefs can find work in many unique places. These upcoming places are a few examples of the locations executive chefs can find work in through their experience.
The White House
Did you know that the White House hires a chef to manage the kitchens? This includes planning and preparation of meals for the President of the United States and First Family. Additionally, they oversee private meals and official state functions at the White House.
Cristeta Comerford, 58, has worked at the White House since 2005. She was born in the Philippines but is now a naturalized United States citizen. Comerford became the first woman and person of Asian descent to hold the position since First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created the role in 1961.
Luxury Hotels and Resorts
Luxury hotels and resorts also employ executive chefs. Michael Santoro works at the prestigious Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Christophe de Lillis runs the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
The island resort of Bali is famous for its array of fine executive chefs, including Agung Ardiawan, culinary director of St. Regis Bali Resort, and Degan Septoadji Suprijadi, judge of Masterchef Indonesia and owner of Café Degan.
Some very successful ones become restaurateurs, including Alain Ducasse. He currently holds 16 Michelin stars and owns a global empire with almost 40 restaurants. Pierre Gagnaire currently holds 14 Michelin stars and oversees 18 restaurants worldwide, including Sketch in London.
Executive Chef Salary
Most executive chefs do not become wealthy and famous, but it is possible to earn a good salary working at many restaurants and hotels. According to Indeed, the average salary for an executive or head chef in the United States is $65,958.
But in some locations, the average salary increases significantly, such as in New York ($91,957) and Los Angeles ($82,640). They are also important to restaurants located in and around the ski resorts in places like Colorado and Maine.
An executive chef can earn a Food Handler Certification, which will further increase their salary. After 10 years of experience, their average salary may further increase to $72,507. This position is usually a good increase in income from a sous chef salary.
Some look to work abroad and can increase their earnings. Australia pays an average annual salary of $78,104. Switzerland ranks second at $72,904, and Iceland is third at $70,000 per year.
There are plenty of opportunities to supervise a kitchen in the United States, but many restaurants, hotels, and resorts worldwide are always looking to hire an executive chef to run their culinary operations.
"Key Takeaway: An executive chef is in charge of all kitchen operations, including preparing dishes, hiring and managing kitchen staff, and inventory management."
Frequently Asked Questions About Executive Chefs
The executive chef job description and all the responsibilities under that description are extensive. It’s a dynamic role with a lot of personal responsibility and customer experience responsibility as well. From school experience to on-the-job hiring training and food preparation practice, there’s so much to learn.
Our answers to these frequently asked questions will help you learn even more about the executive chef job description and duties. It’s a vital role for the kitchen and the entire restaurant. From country club dining to the hotel industry to golf course food services, the executive chef job title is a role you shouldn’t overlook.
What Is the Difference Between a Chef and an Executive Chef?
A chef specializes in preparing food and performing a wide range of duties in the kitchen. An executive chef is the manager of the kitchen who oversees all kitchen activities. In some cases, they are also called the chef de cuisine. This includes supervising and assisting the different types of chefs, who might hold the title of sous chef, pastry chef, or chef de partie.
Overall, a chef can be any type of chef in the kitchen. An executive chef is a specific type of chef who manages the kitchen and other chefs. The executive chef will have different training, from how to manage a hotel kitchen to calculating how to maximize profits through menu engineering.
Is Executive Chef Higher Than Head Chef?
An executive chef and a head chef are essentially the same roles. Some establishments hire an executive chef, while others hire a head chef. They may also be a chef de cuisine. They manage and supervise all employees and activities in a commercial kitchen operation.
What Qualifies You as an Executive Chef?
An executive chef should have a bachelor's degree in the culinary arts as well as at least five years of experience in a commercial kitchen. An executive chef must manage the kitchen staff, create different menu types, and meet with vendors and suppliers.
The schooling in culinary arts is the starting point for most, if not all chefs. It’s a place for the official experience to start. Beyond the degree, hands-on experience comes together as a chef finds work and dives into their strengths and weaknesses, to find what they need to become an executive chef.
Is Executive Chef the Highest Position?
Though the highest position in a kitchen may have a different name across locations, the executive chef job description and duties are the highest position. Even by another name, this job of managing all aspects of the kitchen is the highest position within the kitchen ecosystem.
Executive Chef Career Path
Are you interested in becoming an executive chef? You need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to start your career path. You’ll also need at least five years of work experience as a chef in different capacities. It’s a long but worthwhile journey.
Many choose to earn a culinary arts degree or diploma, while others will find work as an apprentice in a quality kitchen. Here, they can learn the basics of cooking, menu planning, health standards, and a bit of kitchen slang while gaining valuable experience.
It usually takes several years of experience as a line cook or chef de partie to earn a promotion to sous chef. Afterward, you can earn a promotion to the top position in the kitchen. As you go along through these different positions, you’ll gain skills that will help you excel in the executive chef position.
There are many opportunities to have a successful career, whether you choose to work in your hometown or abroad. But it requires dedication, knowledge, and many years of hard work to get there. Along the way, keep visiting the BinWise blog for advice and solutions for restaurant kitchens.