What is the difference between a chef and a cook?
While both handle cooking and plating food, there are key differences between a restaurant chef and a cook. Typically, a chef creates the recipes, establishes the cooking techniques, and takes on a managerial role in the kitchen.
Restaurant cooks are trained to prepare these established recipes. In many establishments, cooks will take on some overlapping functions and administrative tasks of the chef as they work their way up the kitchen hierarchy.
What is the education needed for a chef?
There are two main paths that you can take to become a chef: a formal education at a college or culinary school or learning through experience working in a kitchen.
Using a database of 30 million profiles, Zippia states that the most common degree for chefs is associate degree with 38% of chefs holding this degree and 27% hold a bachelor’s degree.
Do I need a college degree to be a chef?
While a degree may be helpful, it is not necessarily a requirement. The restaurant industry is one that allows people learn on the job and be respected for their hard work and experience.
Zippia’s database shows that 21% of chefs hold a high school diploma and have most likely worked their way up the kitchen hierarchy without the need for a formal education.
What is a chef’s salary per year?
The average chef salary in the United States is $50,499. The range varies between based on education, experience, and the state of employment. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, below is a sampling of employment wages for chefs and head cooks.
- California $60,670
- Florida $58,850
- Texas $46,260
- New York $64,190
Chef job description
There are many varieties of chef jobs, each with varying responsibilities. Chef-owner, executive chef, managerial chefs will need to understand how to manage labor, food costing, menu engineering, and more while a grill chef or pastry chef are typically more focused on their specific field.
Hard skills of a restaurant chef
Below are a few of the basic hard skills a chef needs to master and useful articles on the topics:
- Learn the difference between recipe costing vs. food costing
- Food inventory management: same ingredients, more profit
- Learn how to reduce your food cost percentage
- Learn how to calculate food cost percentage
- Learn how to master menu engineering to make your menu a moneymaker
- Learn how to calculate recipe costs for your restaurant business (plus free calculator)
Soft skills of a restaurant chef
Just like the hard skills, the key traits of a restaurant chef will also vary depending on the type of chef. Chefs are leaders, and to really succeed as leaders they need to have the kind of soft skills that facilitate communication and keep a kitchen full of hard-working individuals operating together harmoniously.
Below are some of the key traits and soft skills that successful chefs possess:
A chef must be able to accept criticism. Whether it’s a patron who wants to complain or offer you their opinion, management trying to find a cheaper way to make the same dish, a chef must analyze the feedback and take appropriate action on it.
The life of a chef is demanding and even lonely when they are forced to miss special times with family or friends. Some of the busiest working days are often those when other people are out celebrating. A strong desire to be the person who makes other people’s dining experiences special on special days such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. helps a chef maintain their passion.
There are many elements involved to make up a complete dish. A skilled chef needs to be able to think about everything at once. They understand what each section of the kitchen is working on, anticipate what the front of house team is needing, and know what the customers are experiencing at any point during service.
Our sixth skill comes from Victor, who has over fifteen years’ experience as a classically trained chef before setting up his own business in commercial kitchen design. Victor highlights the importance of time management; he says this skill has been additionally beneficial to him outside the kitchen.
In addition to creating the menu and ensuring the preparation of quality dishes, it’s a chef’s responsibility to ensure the profitability of a kitchen. This means that they need basic accounting skills, including the ability to plan and create budgets and control labor and food costs. An important aspect of staying within a budget is purchasing quality products at the right cost, which involves choosing the correct suppliers.
Repeatedly creating the same dishes and ensuring that the quality and presentation of the food remain constant, involves precision and consistency. A chef needs to pay attention to detail to ensure that labor and inventory are on par, food is properly prepped in advance, and that all service stations are kept clean to produce quality dishes quickly while under pressure.
This should go without saying, but great need to know how to keep the kitchen sanitary. This is very important in a restaurant, where unhygienic conditions can affect the quality of the food and can even force a restaurant to shut down.
Working in a kitchen can be very physically and mentally demanding. Chefs need to maintain an excellent level of physical and mental stamina to stay on their feet for hours on end in hot temperatures without many breaks.
The role of a restaurant chef requires both hard skills and soft skills. That’s where Restaurant365 can help. We’ve been in your shoes. We know what it takes to run a successful restaurant and are here to make your job easier. The ability to gather and leverage business data to gain the insights needed to make informed decisions will help evolve your chef skills.
Our restaurant specific software shows you which recipes are most profitable. You can optimize food usage and reduce waste. Our integrated back-office management solutions cover accounting, payroll, scheduling, inventory, manager logbook, and more to give you the insights and intelligence to identify what’s working and what’s not.