search
Loading
|  home | feedback | help          
StarChefs
Features 2008 StarChefs.com Salary Survey results
 
2010 · 2009 · 2008 · 2007 · 2006 · 2005
2008 StarChefs.com Salary Survey April 2009

Chefs might be the new pop culture superstars, but this doesn’t exactly translate to more money for the average culinary professional. In fact, our 2008 Salary Survey indicates that chef salaries were early victims of the economic recession. After four years of steady increase, executive chef salaries headed south compared to our 2007 Salary Survey and pastry chef salaries took a veritable nosedive. 

The nearly 1000 people who responded to our Fourth Annual Salary Survey this year hail from all over the US. We heard from people of various ages, culinary professions, backgrounds, and ethnicities; of those who took this year’s salary survey, 78% were men—predictably, the culinary world is as much of a boys’ club as ever.

We also found that, regardless of shifts in salary, chefs are still working their notoriously long hours. Across the board, half of the culinary professionals surveyed work at least 9 to 11 hours a day, with most working an average of 53 hours per week.

Despite long work weeks and (in some cases) lowered pay, those in the culinary profession who have steady, full-time work after this economic slump should count themselves lucky. People are getting laid off and taking pay cuts in every industry. And according to the US Census Bureau, the median household income is $50,740. To keep it in perspective, most chefs who we surveyed make at least that; many are making much more.

Salaries
The recession has hit some worse than others. In 2008, executive chefs reported making on average $74,869, which is down 3.5% from our 2007 Salary Survey results. Pastry chefs were even worse hit; respondents’ salaries in 2008 were $46,228, a 13% decrease from their reported 2007 average salary of $53,017. As consumers tightened their wallets and their belts this year, pastry chefs ended up taking the biggest hit. Restaurants of all calibers are cutting their pastry budgets, which means pastry chef salaries have gone notably down hill.

Pastry chef salaries had been continuing on a steady incline from 2004 to 2007, with a spike in 2005 when there was a significant dearth of qualified pastry chefs, so the job came at a higher premium. The following year the market was flooded with pastry chefs and the salaries evened out. This is the first year that our survey results have shown such a remarkable drop in pastry salaries.

Job Title

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

% Change from 2007

Chef/Owner

-

-

-

$94,288

$85,179

down 9.7%

Executive Chef

$74,696

$75,596

$73,260

$77,611

$74,869

down 3.5%

Chef de Cuisine

-

$57,890

$60,993

$59,896

$56,367

down 5.9%

Sous Chef

$39,275

$39,305

$40,375

$42,104

$44,205

up 4.8%

Line Cook (hourly)

$11.2

$12.64

$12.40

$13.07

$12.90

down 1.3%

Pastry Chef*

$47,865

$50,581

$48,818

$53,017

$46,228

down 12.8%

* Includes “Pastry Chef” and “Executive Pastry Chef”

Sous chef salaries, however, are continuing their steady increase. In 2008, our results indicate that they made a 5% gain from the previous year, going from $42,104 to $44,205. This slight increase may be due to the fact that restaurants are leaning more on their sous chefs as those at the helm scramble to keep their businesses afloat. Owners and executive chefs are also often first to take pay cuts as they have more of a stake in the business.  

Average Salary by Restaurant Type
According to our survey respondents, for executive chefs and chef de cuisines fine dining pays more than upscale casual restaurants. Sous chefs actually reported making slightly more in upscale casual establishments. Since jobs at fine dining establishments are more scarce but the name recognition is higher, often sous chefs take a lower pay to work somewhere with more esteem. As they move up, the salary jumps at a much higher rate. In upscale casual restaurants, our survey shows that there is much less discrepancy between salaries (about a $20,000 difference between executive chef and sous chef salaries) as opposed to fine dining, where there is over a $36,000 difference.

Salaries at hotel restaurants offer the highest salaries across the board. As they are often associated with large corporations, they can afford to pay more.

Independent Fine Dining

Executive Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

$74,620

$54,767

$38,115

Executive Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

$62,896

$45,433

$40,605


Executive Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

$84,443

$54,917

$52,625

Executive Chef

$81,328


Salary Averages by Location
Location, as always, plays a key role in salary averages. According to our survey results, New York is the highest paying state for executive chefs, with an average salary of $81,600. California and Florida aren’t too far behind, paying in the mid-to-high 70Ks. Sous chefs are evenly paid across state lines, averaging in the mid-40s. If you’re a pastry chef, rush over to California where our 2008 Salary Survey indicates that the average salary is almost 15% more than in New York and 20% more than Florida.  

 

California

Florida

New York

Executive Chefs

$77,552

$74,841

$81,600

Sous Chefs

$43,889

$47,083

$47,084

Pastry Chefs*

$55,750

$44,125

$47,615

* Includes “Pastry Chef” and “Executive Pastry Chef”

The pay tends to be higher in major cities than the rest of the country. Glamorous as it sounds, this also goes hand-in-hand with a higher cost of living—escalated rents, utilities, and food and labor costs. Although New York is the highest paying state, Miami is the city leading the pack in terms of salary for executive chefs, offering an average of $90,333.

We were surprised to see Miami with the highest pay, but it makes sense in such a seasonal climate. Many chefs in Florida only work six months out of the year, so while $90,000 may be their average annualized salary, in practice they may actually be making half that. Running a restaurant in Miami also comes with a unique set of challenges, as chefs have to staff up and down each season, essentially starting from scratch every fall.

Boston

Chicago

LA

Miami

NYC

SF

$87,600

$79,353

$79,955

$90,333

$82,291

$84,292

At the end of the year, people in many industries hope for a bonus to pad out their salary. But don’t hold your breath—last year 48% of respondents received no bonus whatsoever. A lucky 14%, though, got an extra $5,000 or more in their wallets.

Graphs: What amount did you receive last year
This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.

Education and Experience
One of the biggest questions for those interested in pursuing a job in this industry is whether to go to culinary school. Based on our conversations with chefs around the country, there are mixed opinions about whether they give more weight to people with culinary school backgrounds. Many chefs do not, preferring instead cooks with solid kitchen experience, or even “blank slates” whom they can train from the ground up.

This is reflected in salaries based on education and experience. Those who staged or had an unpaid externship in the industry reported making slightly more than those who did not. Culinary professionals who have spent time working outside the US made about 20% more than those who did not. So, especially if you’re just starting out or are unemployed, take it as an opportunity to learn the art of pasta-making in Italy or the secrets of a great demi-glace in France. It may end up being a better investment than culinary school.   

Salaries Based on Education and Experience

Graphs: What amount did you receive last year
This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.

Young culinary professionals, listen up: you’ve got a long road ahead of you. We know they probably told you this in culinary school or at your stage, but prepare to put in nearly 20 years before reaching executive chef or chef/owner status. Even the sous chefs we surveyed had an average of 11 years under their belts.

Average Years of Experience by Position

 

Chef/
Owner

Executive
Chef

Chef de
Cuisine

Sous
Chef

Line
Cook

Pastry
Chef*

Years of Experience

19.5

19

15

11

6

12

* Includes “Pastry Chef” and “Executive Pastry Chef”

As expected, with increased experience goes increased pay. So, while executive chefs with five to eight years of experience reported making approximately $52,579 in 2008, those who have been working for 26 to 30 years made an average of $90,313.

Years of Experience

5 to 8

9 to 12

13 to 15

16 to 20

21 to 25

26 to 30

31 to 40

Executive Chef

$52,579

$62,841

$74,459

$77,439

$74,188

$90,313

$77,818

Gender and Ethnicity
Here’s another finding that is, unfortunately, not surprising at all: the culinary profession is still dominated by men, with white men representing a bigger percentage at the top. Of those who took our survey, 78% were men. Male and female sous chefs made nearly the same amount (with women actually ahead here), but keep in mind that 87% of those respondents were men. Male executive chefs (who made up 90% of the pool) make about $15,000 more than female chefs. Clearly, women still have that glass ceiling to break through.

Job Title

Salary - Men

Salary - Women

Average

$67,639

$52,647

Executive Chef

$76,305

$62,379

Sous Chef

$44,160

$44,500

The women who took our survey were evenly distributed between culinary occupations. Of those who responded, 17% reported being chef/owners and 18% reported being executive chefs. Despite the stereotype that women stick with the sweet side of cooking, only 22% of our female respondents are pastry chefs or cooks.

Owner/ CEO /
President

Chef / Owner

Executive Chef/ Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

Line Cook

Executive Pastry Chef /
Pastry Chef

Pastry Cook

3%

17%

18%

3%

6%

7%

16%

7%

There are few women in the industry, and even fewer minority women. Of the female executive chefs who took our survey, 88% are Caucasian, and 80% of female chef de cuisines are Caucasian.

 

Owner/CEO/
President

Chef/Owner

Executive Chef/Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

Line Cook

Executive Pastry Chef/Pastry Chef

Pastry Cook

African American

17%

3%

6%

0%

18%

8%

0%

0%

American Indian or Alaskan Native

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

4%

0%

Asian

0%

0%

6%

0%

9%

31%

7%

25%

Caucasian

67%

83%

88%

80%

55%

46%

79%

58%

Hispanic or Latino

0%

7%

0%

0%

9%

8%

4%

17%

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

0%

0%

0%

20%

0%

0%

0%

0%

Race not specified

17%

7%

0%

0%

9%

8%

7%

0%

Regardless of gender, our Salary Survey indicates that 70% to 80% of the top kitchen positions are held by Caucasians.

 

Owner/CEO/
President

Chef/Owner

Executive Chef/Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

Line Cook

Executive Pastry Chef/Pastry Chef

Pastry Cook

African American

15%

2%

3%

2%

6%

6%

4%

5%

American Indian or Alaskan Native

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

2%

0%

Asian

0%

2%

6%

5%

6%

19%

6%

16%

Caucasian

77%

80%

81%

80%

72%

62%

72%

63%

Hispanic or Latino

0%

12%

8%

8%

12%

6%

4%

16%

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

0%

0%

0%

2%

0%

3%

2%

0%

Race not specified

8%

4%

3%

5%

4%

3%

10%

0%

Although our survey results indicate that the majority of leading kitchen positions are held by Caucasians, at least there wasn’t that much variance in salary by race lines. The average executive chef salary, regardless of color or background, hovers in the 70k range, with Hispanic/Latino executive chefs actually making the most.

African American

Asian

Caucasian

Hispanic or Latino

$72,611

$73,316

$74,566

$78,563

Time Spent at Work
As always, chefs work hard for their money. If you are an executive chef or chef/owner, expect to work 9 to 14 hours a day. According to our findings, most culinary professionals work at least 9 to 11 hours per day.

Average Number of Hours Worked per Day, by Position

 

 


 

 

 

Total

Chef/Owner

Executive Chef/Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

Line Cook

Pastry Chef*

0 to 4

1.0%

1.0%

0.3%

1.5%

0.0%

0.0%

2.9%

5 to 8

13.0%

10.4%

5.9%

4.5%

9.6%

36.5%

24.6%

9 to 11

51.7%

41.7%

53.4%

42.4%

51.8%

54.0%

49.3%

12 to 14

31.4%

36.5%

38.4%

47.0%

36.1%

9.5%

20.3%

15 to 17

2.9%

10.4%

1.9%

3.0%

2.4%

0.0%

2.9%

Over 18

0.1%

0.0%

0.0%

1.5%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Includes “Pastry Chef” and “Executive Pastry Chef”

 

 

 

And those hours add up—quickly. Only about 10% of culinary professionals surveyed work 40 hours per week or less. Everyone else is putting in long weeks; 16.5% of respondents reported working over 65 hours per week.

Average Number of Hours Worked per Week, by Position

 

 

 

 

 

Hours per Week

Total

Chef/Owner

Executive Chef/Chef

Chef de Cuisine

Sous Chef

Line Cook

Pastry Chef

Under 20

1.4%

1.0%

0.0%

3.0%

0.0%

3.2%

4.3%

21 - 24

0.8%

1.0%

0.6%

0.0%

0.0%

3.2%

2.9%

25 - 29

0.5%

2.1%

0.3%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

1.4%

30 - 34

2.2%

3.1%

0.6%

1.5%

2.4%

6.3%

2.9%

35 - 40

7.5%

4.2%

2.2%

3.0%

6.0%

28.6%

15.9%

41 - 45

10.6%

6.3%

6.3%

6.1%

4.8%

23.8%

17.4%

46 - 50

14.7%

8.3%

17.2%

9.1%

19.3%

15.9%

5.8%

51 - 55

16.8%

12.5%

16.6%

21.2%

21.7%

11.1%

17.4%

56 - 59

13.3%

10.4%

18.1%

15.2%

15.7%

1.6%

7.2%

60 - 65

15.7%

17.7%

18.8%

21.2%

14.5%

0.0%

18.8%

Over 65

16.5%

33.3%

19.4%

19.7%

15.7%

6.3%

5.6%

Executive Chef Profiles
Who’s running kitchens across the country? Of those who responded to our survey, 38% were executive chefs. Here are snapshots of executive chefs by age groups—where they are, what kind of restaurant they’re running, how much experience they have under their belt, and more. 

20 to 29 (11% of executive chefs)
Gender: 11.4% female
Where Most of You Are: California, Colorado, and Massachusetts
Type of Restaurant: independent fine dining followed by independent casual
Experience: 54% have 9 to 12 years experience
Pay/year: 20% make $40,000 to $44,000 and 14% make $55,000 to $59,000
Hard Labor Time: over half work at least 56 hours a week
Health Insurance: well over half have 75% or the entire plan paid for by employer

30 to 39 (48% of executive chefs)
Gender: 9.7% female
Where Most of You Are: California, Florida, Illinois, and New York
Type of Restaurant: independent upscale casual followed by private or country club
Experience: 40% have 16 to 20 years experience
Pay/year: 15% make $100,000 to $149,000 and 10% make $80,000 to $84,000
Hard Labor Time: 60% work at least 56 hours per week
Health Insurance: well over half have 75% or the entire plan paid for by employer


40 to 49 (31% of executive chefs)
Gender: 8.2% female
Where Most of You Are: California, Florida, and New York
Type of Restaurant: Private or country club followed by Independent fine dining and upscale casual
Experience: 27% have 21 to 25 years experience
Pay/year: 13% make $100,000 to $149,000 and 13% make $80,000 to $84,000
Hard Labor Time: nearly 60% work over 56 hours per week
Health Insurance: just over half have 75% or the entire plan paid for by employer


50 to 59 (9% of executive chefs)
Gender: 20.7% female
Where Most of You Are: California, Florida, and Georgia
Type of Restaurant: Private or country club followed by independent casual
Experience: 41% have 31 to 40 years experience
Pay/year: 15% make $65,000 to $69,000 and 15% make $70,000 to $74,000
Hard Labor Time: about half work 51 hours a week or more
Health Insurance: over half have 75% or the entire plan paid for by employer

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

 
 
hotlinks_general_narrow
  • 2007 Salary Survey
  • 2008 Summer Economy Survey
  • Dining and the Economy
  • 10 Ways to Beat the Recession

  •  Sign up for our newsletters!|Print this page|Email this page to a friend
     QuickMeals   Chefs   Rising Stars   Hospitality Jobs   Find a School   Wine   Community   Features   Food Events   News   Ask the Experts   Tickets   Cookbooks
    About Us | Career Opportunities | Media Kit | StarChefs in the News | Site Map
    Please help keep StarChefs a free service by displaying our button on your website. Click here for details.
      Copyright © 1995-2014 StarChefs. All rights reserved.  | Privacy Policy