2010 StarChefs.com Chef Salary Report

by Francoise Villeneuve and Laura Curtis
May 2011

Restaurants haven’t escaped the effects of the sloth-like economic recovery. Industry salaries slumped in 2010. After a great year in 2009, when chefs were reaching for the wagyu beef and Alba truffles with (cautious) abandon, 2010 saw them tightening their belts. The industry’s back where we started in 2008 in terms of fiscal health—and it’s showing in industry salaries. Will this translate into more fast casual joints to bolster a flagging economy? Only time will tell.

More than 1,000 industry professionals completed our survey—872 were men and 251 women. The salary decline around the country shook up the usually slow-to-change statistics. Our survey suggests that in 2010 the overwhelmingly Caucasian foundation of kitchens past gave way to a more diverse makeup. Minority chefs not only gained percentage points in numbers, Latino and Asian executive chefs also made more money on average than Caucasian chefs. While salaries dropped around the country, Miami emerged ahead of New York as the highest paying city for executive chefs—they’re making more money and they’re warm! And if you are bemoaning your backlog of student loans, take comfort. The 2010 survey showed that career-related degrees are beginning to draw higher salaries in the hospitality industry. Unfortunately, women chefs haven’t gained ground, but we have hope for 2011—be sure to take next year’s survey and tell us how you’re doing, ladies!


The restaurant industry has navigated the waters of economic recovery with cautious optimism, but when a heavy object falls it’s bound to cause waves. The ripples from the economic dropout showed immediately in our 2008 survey. Salaries dipped sharply for nearly every position. The 2009 Salary Report showed tentative recovery, with executive chef and pastry chef salaries rising by 6 percent. However, the 2010 Salary Survey shows us in another trough with salaries falling across the board, in some areas lower than their 2008 levels.


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


Job Title 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 % Change from 2009 % Change from 2008
Chef/Owner/CEO - - - - $85,179 $85,685 $79,222 -7.5% -7.5%
Executive Chef $74,696 $75,596 $73,260 $77,611 $74,869 $79,402 $74,891 -5.7% 0.0%
Chef de Cuisine - - - - $56,367 $57,417 $55,120 -4.0% -2.2%
Sous Chef $39,275 $39,305 $40,375 $42,104 $44,205 $42,266 $41,135 -2.7% -6.9%
Line Cook $11.20 (hourly) $12.64 (hourly) $12.40 (hourly) $13.07 (hourly) $30,460 $29,662 $28,485 -4.0% -6.5%
Pastry Chef* $47,865 $50,581 $48,818 $53,017 $46,228 $48,861 $47,024 -3.8% -6.5%

The salary of those at the top, restaurant owners and executive chefs, fell the hardest, suffering cuts of 7.5 percent and 5.7 percent to 2009 salary levels respectively. Chef de cuisine, line cook, and pastry chef salaries dropped by 4 percent, while sous chef salaries lost the least ground, falling by a less disconcerting 2.7 percent. At least those on the line can be assured that their bosses are feeling the pinch as much, if not more, than they are.

Average Salary by Restaurant Type

Executive chef salaries for independent restaurants fell from $71,063 to $65,983 while hotel executive chef salaries dropped from $87,713 to $81,039. Private clubs offered a harbor from the battering salary cuts. Not to say that club salaries were immune to the dip, but club chef salaries fell at a lower rate and remained well above the average restaurant and hotel salaries for executive chefs, chefs de cuisine, and pastry chefs. Club pastry chefs even saw a slight salary increase (from $61,167 to $61,611)!


Job Title Restaurant (stand alone) Hotel Restaurant/
Catering/ Banquet
Private or Country Club
Executive Chef $65,983 $81,039 $86,883
Chef de Cuisine $51,114 $55,405 $69,646
Sous Chef $39,478 $42,906 $40,846
Pastry Chef* $43,123 $46,547 $61,611

Salary Averages by Location

In the hospitality industry, as with real estate, three things determine your bottom line—location, location, location. And you can bet that’s the case when it comes to your paycheck too. But the trends we saw last year—New York state executive chefs making nearly $4,000 more than Florida executive chefs—aren’t so apparent this year. While chef-owners in New York state are still earning more than their counterparts in the Lone Star state, Jersey, or California, Florida chef-owners are inching ahead, earning a little more than $1,000 on average than New York state chef-owners. And this is the first year we’ve seen average executive chef salaries in New York state topped by those in New Jersey, Florida and Texas—only California executive chefs made less.

Salary Averages by State and Position


Average Annual Salary California Florida New Jersey New York Texas
Chef de Cuisine $52,230 $65,100 $44,250 $57,725 $48,000
Chef-owner $97,833 $102,350 $67,143 $101,100 $99,333
Executive Chef $76,389 $78,724 $86,714 $78,000 $82,706
Pastry Chef $58,000 $48,929 $32,500 $52,816 $42,050
Sous Chef $45,250 $43,071 $50,333 $52,667 $44,200

If you live in New York state, don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get that promotion from sous chef to executive chef—even if you’re missing out on a raise, as a sous chef you’re earning nearly $10,000 more a year on average than your peers in California. But when it comes to pastry chef salaries, New York state and California remain safe bets.

Average Salaries for Executive Chefs by City


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


Maybe because of Gotham’s relentless restaurant scene, executive chef salaries here are healthy compared to the rest of the state. Last year Boston executive chef salaries ranked egregiously lower than New York City salaries. 2010 was a good year for Beantown, though—it now ranks barely below New York. The Big Apple and Miami are now the alphas of the salary world, at least when it comes to executive chefs. As development continued in the Windy City in 2010 we expected to see executive chef salaries there rising to healthier levels. Unfortunately that just didn’t happen, and executive chefs’ salaries lag behind Miami, New York, and Boston by over $10,000. You might be safer heading to Philadelphia than Chicago if salary is a priority.

Education and Experience

This year has been one of economic recovery. But should culinary school be a priority for those looking to break into the hospitality industry? Average salaries for college grads are significantly higher than those without. But if salary trumps professional development for any of you aspiring chefs, pastry chefs (and even more markedly mixologists and sommeliers), weigh your options before heading to culinary school or studying for that master’s certification, because the salary gap—while increasing—isn’t as big as you might think.

Salaries Based on Education and Experience


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


Experience and education do seem to be weighed equally—one without the other doesn’t impart value. In other words, if you’re headed to your nearest three-star restaurant with a culinary degree in hand, but only a year’s experience, you might not be named the next executive chef just yet! But there’s no denying that statistically, the culinary arts degree doesn’t hurt. It might even help. Study-happy mixologists and pastry chefs might be better off weighing their options before getting a certification though—salaries don’t appreciably rise for pastry chefs and mixologists with degrees. Relevant work experience and stages are never a waste when it comes to the investment in your salary though.

Average Years of Experience by Position


Executive Chef/Chef Chef de Cuisine Sous Chef Line Cook Executive Pastry Chef/
Pastry Chef
Pastry Cook
Average Years of Experience 20 20 16 11 8 12 7


If you’re lusting after a chef-owner or executive chef position, you might be waiting a while—expect to work for about 20 years on average. Sous chef and chef de cuisine respondents all had over an average of 10 years of experience under their belts, so aspiring chefs going the experience route should be in it for the long-term rewards. Pastry chefs have a sweeter deal though—on average they have less experience than line cooks.

Average Salary Based on Years of Experience

Yrs Exp Chef de Cuisine Chef-owner Executive Chef Pastry Chef Sous Chef
1 $25,000 $25,000 $82,000 $28,333 $25,000
2 - 4 $27,667 $27,857 $29,250 $33,500 $34,600
5 - 8 $47,000 $46,083 $53,656 $37,466 $37,115
9 - 12 $53,516 $53,056 $63,911 $47,452 $44,510
13 - 15 $60,405 $57,667 $63,790 $54,962 $40,000
16 - 20 $50,741 $76,088 $71,307 $53,167 $40,056
21 - 25 $55,875 $75,654 $83,842 $68,000 $52,000
26 - 30 $125,000 $96,810 $89,744 $64,750 $55,333
31 - 40 $70,500 $75,955 $81,640 $125,000 $125,000
More than 40 $42,000 $266,900 $89,200 - -


The chef de cuisine’s salary falls to $40,000 after over 40 years of experience—less than one with five to eight years of experience! And if sous chefs can endure a dip in salary between their 13th and 21st year, they’ll see their rewards when they become seasoned vets—after 30 years in the industry—to the tune of $125,000.

Gender and Ethnicity

The hospitality industry is still off-kilter when it comes to fiscal equality between the sexes and races. The gaps in some cases are jarring—an average pastry chef salary for women of $38,000 is a far cry from that for men of $52,713. This seems counterintuitive—after all, the customer doesn’t know whether that food they love so much comes from an old white guy or a young African American woman. But even with Obama in the Oval Office, race and gender still divide the industry when it comes to salaries.

Salaries by Gender

This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


Of our executive chef respondents, 89.5 percent were male and a mere 10.5 percent were female. Like last year, this leaves us wondering whether female executive chefs have less time on their hands to contribute data, or whether the truth we fear is more likely: the “fairer” sex isn’t seeing a fair shake when it comes to high ranking positions. A male executive chef makes $16,936 more than his female counterpart on average, and the industry average reaches nearly $15,000.

When it comes to sous chefs the gap closes a little—there’s only a $2,160 difference between salaries on average. This is cold comfort for women who are in it for the long haul though—they have a bigger pay gap in store as they advance up through the ranks. As for pastry chefs, men are still paid 27 percent more than women.

Women in the Industry: Job Profile


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


Of the women surveyed, 18 percent are pastry chefs, 16 percent are executive chefs, and a healthy 11 percent are chef-owners. This is the first bit of good news for women this year—nearly as many women are running their own restaurants as are running restaurant kitchens. Women are slightly more inclined to pursue pastry over savory careers—adhering to the industry stereotype.

Men in the Industry: Job Profile


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


Of the men surveyed, 4 percent are pastry chefs, 38 percent are executive chefs, and 8 percent are chef-owners. It’s interesting that while a far higher percentage of men can be found in the ranks of executive chefs, the percentage of chef-owners is actually quite a few points lower for men than for women—in other words, there’s hope yet for women who dream of owning their own restaurants.


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


Women respondents for 2010 were mostly Caucasian—74 percent. While Asian women made up 7 percent of our respondents and Latina or Hispanic women ranked at 7 percent too, 5 percent were African American and 6 percent described themselves as “other” or opted not to answer. Being a minority within a minority, women of color aren’t heavily represented in the industry, but as women’s salaries slowly come into balance in general, we can expect more diversity … and hopefully more acceptance.


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


For male respondents, the Caucasian proportion was even higher than for females—75 percent. Minorities are even less represented when it comes to men. Asian men made up 6 percent of our respondents and Latino or Hispanic men ranked at 6 percent as well; 4 percent were African American and 8 percent described themselves as “other” or opted not to answer.

Race Breakdown by Position


  Chef/Owner/CEO Executive Chef/Chef Chef de Cuisine Sous Chef Line Cook Private Chef Executive Pastry Chef/Pastry Chef/ Pastry Cook Chef Instructor
African American 3% 4% 4% 3% 6% 0% 5% 8%
American Indian or Alaskan Native 1% 1% 1% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Asian 3% 4% 7% 11% 11% 5% 12% 0%
Caucasian 75% 82% 67% 71% 60% 74% 65% 84%
Hispanic or Latino 7% 4% 13% 8% 9% 11% 7% 8%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander   0% 0% 1% 1% 0% 1% 0%
Other 7% 4% 3% 6% 9% 0% 6% 0%
I prefer not to answer 4% 1% 5% 0% 3% 10% 4% 0%


As consumers develop an appetite for bulgogi and learn to appreciate the texture of a homemade tortilla, kitchen diversity is on the rise. Caucasians still represent the majority of culinary labor in the 2010 survey, but they ceded percentage points in all fields except that of executive chef (holding steady at 82 percent). Asian respondents made up over 10 percent of sous chef, line cook, and pastry chef positions. More Latino respondents took on the role of chef de cuisine (from 9 percent to 13 percent) and became private chefs (from 3 percent to 11 percent). African American chefs gained a few percentage points in the executive chef and chef instructor categories (from 2 percent to 4 percent and from 4 percent to 8 percent respectively).

Executive Chef Salary by Race


This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash.


For the first time, Asian respondents reported the highest average executive chef salary. Both Asian and Latino chefs (the second highest earning group) earned more money on average in 2010 than in 2009 (from $77K to $80K and from $75K to $77K, respectively). Caucasian chefs slipped in rank (third) and in average salary (from $80K to $75K). African Americans earned more money on average in 2010 (from $55K to $61K), but remained at the bottom of the salary pyramid.

Time Spent at Work

Average Number of Hours Worked per Day 


Position Executive Chef/Chef/CEO Chef de Cuisine Sous Chef Line Cook Private Chef Pastry Chef General Manager/ F&B Manager Chef Instructor
Average Number of Hours Per Day 11 11 11 9 9 10 11 8


Chefs de cuisine and line cooks reported spending slightly less time in the kitchen daily. While that might signal a more relaxed lifestyle for those on salary, for most line cooks it can mean less precious over-time hours.

Average Number of Hours Worked per Week


Position Executive Chef/Chef/CEO Chef de Cuisine Sous Chef Line Cook Private Chef Pastry Chef General Manager/ F&B Manager Chef Instructor
Average Number of Hours Per Week 61 60 58 47 50 55 59 44


Through the best and worst of times, chefs maintain a vigorous workweek. Weekly rates saw little change in 2010. Private chefs picked up more work, and chef/owners put in an extra hour while chefs de cuisine relaxed their schedule a bit. As usual, chef instructors enjoyed a relatively normal 44 hour workweek. Overall, the restaurant industry seemed to bunker down and weather the storm in 2010, watching the horizon for a break in the clouds.