What is an executive chef?
An executive chef creates the recipes and menu for restaurants and corporate kitchens. They are knowledgeable of flavors, textures, and cooking methods, and have a wide range of culinary and expertise that allows them to create different menu items and develop restaurant standard operating procedures.
Executive chefs are adept cooks and usually earn their title through many years of culinary education and extensive experience in kitchens. Executive chefs must also understand business operations as they are often responsible for purchasing ingredients and maintaining inventory.
What are an executive chef’s duties and responsibilities?
Executive chefs have many duties and responsibilities as one of the highest-ranking restaurant industry positions. These include:
- Planning menus and overseeing the preparation and execution of processes in the back of house
- Quality control for menu items
- Estimating food and labor costs
- Supervising kitchen staff
- Training new kitchen staff
- Managing equipment purchases and repairs
- Recruiting and hiring kitchen staff
- Overseeing plating on the line
- Administrative duties, such as purchasing
- Understanding and complying with food safety regulations
- Developing strong professional relationships with restaurant staff
- Work with the front of house to ensure they understand elements of the food
- Communicating new menu items to the broader staff
- Taking part in pre-shift education
How much are executive chefs paid?
Executive chefs earn between $48,000 and $61,000 annually on average, depending on the kind of food business they work for. Some executive chefs are part-owners of the restaurants they work in, so their earning potential, and financial risk, are tied to the restaurant’s sales.
What are the qualities that make a good executive chef?
Good executive chefs are patient, have excellent communication skills, and are creative masters in the kitchen. They have the skills and experience to manage a kitchen and resolve any problems that arise. They also have the business savvy required to keep a restaurant’s slim profit margins in the green.
Executive chefs are good leaders. They are responsible for delegating tasks to the kitchen staff, requiring time management and interpersonal skills. Their years of experience and skills make them knowledgeable about best practices for cooking and maintaining a clean, organized kitchen.
Trends and best practices in the restaurant industry are constantly evolving, and strong executive chefs will keep up with cutting-edge technologies and cooking methods. They are creative, developing new recipes from seasonal ingredients. The ability to execute under pressure, a passion for food and cooking, and an in-depth knowledge of flavors, textures, and cooking methods are all qualities of an excellent executive chef.
How to become an executive chef
The title of an executive chef is a prestigious position in any restaurant, and a degree in culinary science is often required. Culinary schools prepare students with the cooking, time management, and leadership skills that are required for the job.
Becoming an executive chef also requires years of experience as a head or lead chef in a restaurant. That might require working one’s way up through the ranks of kitchen staff, starting as a prep cook or line cook. Restaurants want to know that candidates are able to perform the duties required to keep the kitchen running smoothly.
While it’s good to search for executive chef positions on online job boards, it’s more likely to find an opening for an executive chef through networking and personal connections. Restaurant owners aren’t usually willing to take risks with such an important role and want to know what skills and passion candidates will bring to the position.
How to hire an executive chef
When looking to hire an executive chef, think deeply about what the role entails at your restaurant, including all of the responsibilities that you expect them to perform. Search for candidates that match the level of skill and experience required for the position.
Developing a relationship with the local chapter of a professional organization, such as the Association of Professional Chefs or the American Culinary Federation is a good strategy for soliciting applications from highly-qualified candidates. You might also ask local culinary schools about their top graduates. Posting job ads for executive chefs on online job boards might help you to recruit qualified candidates from across the country.
Staging is a common practice in the restaurant industry that lets you get a feel for a chef’s skills and leadership style before offering them a position full-time. Many chefs will expect to work in the restaurant (or corporate kitchen) for a trial period before accepting the job.
The executive chef is the creative mastermind behind the menu that makes a restaurant great. The work can require long hours and be challenging, but to a budding or seasoned executive chef, this lights their fire.
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