Chef Wages and Income

Culinary career salaries for chefs or head cooks vary widely, depending on a variety of factors. Your work environment is one of them. Fine dining restaurants usually pay some of the highest wages.

Other high-paying employers include hotels, resorts, and individuals who hire private chefs. Institutional cafeterias, casual or fast-food restaurants, and cruise ships tend to be among the lowest-paying employers.

Aside from your work environment, your education level, previous work experience, and geographic location will also determine your earning potential.

Culinary Graduate Salaries

Your degree or diploma will certainly give you an advantage over non-culinary school graduates. Across all fields, bachelor’s degree holders earn almost twice as much as those with only a high school diploma, according to the US Census Bureau.

Average Pay Ranges

The table below shows the average annual earnings of the middle 50% of restaurant and hospitality employees.

Job TitleAnnual Earnings of Middle 50%
Cooking Assistant$23,096 – 28,862
Executive Chef$55,976 – 85,328
Executive Pastry Chef$45,610 – 68,326
Food Scientist$48,289 – 73,410
Hotel Manager$64,926 – 119,094
Line Cook$19,280 – 25,229
Restaurant Manager$36,778 – 53,916
Sous Chef$31,977 – 49,745

Use the Salary Wizard at to find out how much chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers currently earn in your city.

U.S. Labor Department Wage Information

Earnings of Chefs, Cooks, and Food Preparation Workers: Earnings vary depending on where and in what type of establishment one works.

The median annual wages of chefs and head cooks were $34,370 in May of 2006, while the median earnings of restaurant cooks were $20,340. Food preparation workers earned a median annual salary of $17,410.

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program unless otherwise noted.

Check the list of 150 culinary jobs.

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