Head Chef: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
A head chef is a highly skilled professional cook who oversees the operations of a restaurant or dining facility. Head chefs are responsible for the products that come out of a kitchen from conception to execution. They also have a hand in many of the food service business affairs of their restaurant.
Job Description of a Head Chef
A head chef, also sometimes known as a head cook, oversees many diverse aspects of a restaurant or eatery. They are employed at a number of food service establishments or facilities, including universities, hospitals, residential care centers and catering companies. They may also work as personal chefs. They manage and work closely with other cooks, create menu items and determine food inventory needs.
A head chef is often involved in staffing of the kitchen, developing menu offerings, forecasting supply needs and estimating costs. They are expected to make sure the restaurant meets all regulations, including sanitary and safety guidelines.
Head chefs mostly work in the back-of-house. They take part in the creation of recipes and the preparation of advanced items, while assigning less complicated tasks to sous chefs and cooks. A primary duty is the continued efficiency of the kitchen and production of consistent, quality food. But duties also extend to front-of-house and operational issues, including accounting and scheduling. Head chefs may also be called to weigh in on patron complaints.
Because they are held accountable for the success and failure of a restaurant, head chefs need to work long hours to ensure that the restaurant is functioning properly at all times. They work nights, weekends and holidays.
Education and Training Requirements
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), most head chefs begin their careers as line cooks or food preparation workers and advance to higher positions with time and experience. On-the-job training is a major component of most kitchens.
Formal training in culinary arts is available through vocational schools, community colleges, culinary schools and university degree programs in hospitality. O*Net reports that 41% of chefs and head cooks have a high school diploma or some college, while 44% hold an associate's degree (www.online.onetcenter.org). Many programs include an apprenticeship or internship to accompany coursework.
The American Culinary Federation (ACF) accredits training programs throughout the country. It also offers a number certification programs that allow chefs to demonstrate abilities and knowledge in culinary arts. Certification can help head chefs gain advancement and salary increases.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2012, chefs and head cooks earned an annual median salary of $42,480. In 2010, the BLS predicted very little job growth in this profession through 2020. Competition will be strong, and creative chefs and head cooks with experience and business skills will have the best employment prospects, the BLS noted.
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