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What is the Average Sous Chef Salary?

Tyler MartinezAuthor

What is a sous chef?

Sous chefs are the second in command in restaurant kitchens. They help to oversee operations, develop recipes and menus, and lead the rest of the restaurant’s staff. Sous chefs are expected to have an array of knowledge about prepping and cooking ingredients.

A sous chef’s earning potential is largely dependent on the environment where they work. And, many sous chefs have to spend years honing their craft and working up through the ranks of the restaurant industry.

How much do sous chefs make?

How Much Do Sous Chefs Make? (Average Sous Chef Salary Data)

Sous chefs earn between $26,500 and $75,000 annually, on average. That might seem like a big range. 

Here’s how we got those numbers:

  • ZipRecruiter.com provides an average annual salary for sous chefs in each state, and they site a range of $23,000-$73,000. The national average earning for sous chefs is $50,274. The highest average earnings for sous chefs are in Washington, New York, Idaho, and California.

  • Salary.com provides a similar range for sous chef salaries, between $35,300 and $68,400.

  • Comparably.com cites the largest range, with an average of $48,700 annually. The top 10% of earners make above $72,000, and 96% of the sous chefs report that they earn annual bonuses.

It might seem taboo to ask other sous chefs what they are paid, but discussions about salary are a great way to determine how much you should be paid. Compare your skills and qualifications to those of your peers and set your expectations and start negotiations in that range (considering your location and the type of restaurant).

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How Much can you Expect to Make as a Sous Chef?

Sous chefs are typically one of the few salaried employees in restaurants. So, their earnings are determined by the salary they negotiate at the start of their employment and during performance reviews.

Having a steady, predictable income is one of the perks of being a sous chef. These positions also sometimes come with benefits packages, including health insurance, that might not be available for hourly employees.

As mentioned above, many sous chefs get annual bonuses based on their performance. For bonuses to be possible, sous chefs should perform their job duties consistently and help the restaurant to stay profitable. Successfully managing inventory and ingredients and supplies costs, and leading teams to work efficiently will keep profits up and make bonuses more likely.

How much you’re offered to begin working as a sous chef depends on your prior experience and the average rates in your area. If you’ve worked as a sous chef before, you can negotiate for a higher-than-average salary. But, if you’re trying to land your first job as a sous chef, you might have to start with a lower salary until you prove your skills in the role.

How to Earn More and Move Up the Kitchen Ranks as a Sous Chef

Since the sous chef is often the second-in-command in French brigade kitchens, advancing from that role can take years. Sous chefs can work toward becoming head chefs or executive chefs of their restaurants with patience and persistence.

According to Chron.com, there are some concrete steps that sous chefs can take to be recognized in the kitchen:

  • Work fast and clean. Efficiency and sanitation are gold standards in restaurant kitchens.

  • Learn every position in the kitchen. Take time and make opportunities to broaden your knowledge of cooking and ingredients.

  • Study other workers and learn their strengths and weaknesses to increase your effectiveness as a leader.

  • Help your head chef or executive chef with some of their management duties, such as imagining ways to improve workflow and efficiency in the kitchen.

  • Be patient and consistent. Turnover is high in the restaurant industry and restaurants value chefs that will stay around through thick and thin. Being promoted to head chef is sometimes about outlasting the competition.

Sous chefs might also look into becoming part owners of a restaurant if they want to set the vision for their own restaurant and assume the risks of ownership. Being part or full owner of a restaurant comes with a lot of creative freedom, but also with a lot more responsibility to make the business profitable.

Negotiating Higher Salary as a Sous Chef

As with all employees, salary is determined largely by an employee’s past experience and skills. Be ready to stage–to work in the role for a trial period–when applying for jobs as a sous chef in order to demonstrate your skills.

When it comes down to salary negotiations, be ready to speak about the qualifications and experiences listed on your resume. Restaurant owners want to be sure that they understand the nuances of the restaurant industry. 

Also, do research on salaries for sous chefs in your area using a job board and talking to local sous chefs. That way, you can arrive at the negotiations with an idea of how much your skills and experience are worth as similar restaurants.

Be aware of opportunities for advancement in the restaurant. Ask about other restaurants within the restaurant group or if the owner is considering opening other locations. Show the owners and head chefs that you have the skills and dedication that it will take to move into a position with more responsibilities and higher pay.

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Know what your sous chef skills are worth!

The sous chef occupies an important role in restaurant hierarchies – be confident in your skills and realistic about the salary you can expect in your area and the kind of restaurant to which you apply. Strive to be a reliable, consistent, and high-performing employee. That way, restaurant owners will work to keep you on your team and make sure you’re happy with your earnings.

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