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.
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 article 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.
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, 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.
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.
They also interview candidates for kitchen employment, create the weekly staff schedule, and approve 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.
Their typical responsibilities 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.
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
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 in 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.
Frequently Asked Questions About Executive Chefs
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. This includes supervising and assisting the different types of chefs, who might hold the title of sous chef, pastry chef, or chef de partie.
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 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.
Are you interested in becoming an executive chef? You need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to start your career path.
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.
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.