Educational Requirements for an Executive Chef

Discover the educational requirements for an executive chef here. Read about the courses that students must take and see the employment outlook and salary statistics for chefs and head cooks.

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Essential Information

Students who want to become executive chefs in restaurants, hotels or other food service establishments can enroll in a bachelor's degree program in culinary arts. This degree program does not have any educational prerequisites besides a high school diploma (or a GED) and satisfactory SAT scores. Students of a bachelor's degree program in culinary arts are not only expected to learn how to cook, but they must also learn how to manage food service-oriented businesses.

The program combines academic study and hands-on training in full-scale food service kitchens. Students are taught by professional chefs and undergo training all aspects of the culinary arts, including nutrition, food safety and production. Chef training includes cooking classes in a number of international cuisines such as French, Italian and Asian. They also take courses in baking, sauces, desserts and restaurant-style cooking.

With regard to restaurant management, students will explore cost management, purchasing, inventory and financial management topics. They are required to complete internships at area restaurants or hotels, and many colleges have student-run restaurants on campus. After completing such a program, graduates can obtain professional certification through the American Culinary Federation. Sufficient experience and passage of a certification examination are required to qualify for this credential.

Program Coursework

Coursework will vary from school to school, but all degree programs in this area of study will cover the fundamentals of the culinary profession, from cooking to restaurant management. This degree program also teaches math skills, which are necessary for following and creating recipes and for managing the financial aspects of hotel and restaurant management. Other courses might include:

  • Gastronomy
  • Pastry arts
  • Food identification
  • Confections
  • Restaurant management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chefs and head cooks held 100,600 jobs in 2010, but this number is expected to grow very little between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). The salary of an executive chef depends on the food service establishment, with upper-scale restaurants paying significantly more than more modest establishments. The median annual salary for chefs and head cooks in 2012 was $42,480.

Continuing Education Information

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers professional certifications in 14 designations, including executive chef. To qualify for this certification, a candidate must have at least 30 hours of culinary training, three years of experience as a chef, a high school diploma and 150 hours of continuing education. Chefs must also pass a written and practical test to obtain executive chef certification.

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    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
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