Chefs' salaries vary by venue, gender


If you want to make money as a chef, it’s better not to work in a restaurant, according to a salary survey by the American Culinary Federation.

The average salary of restaurant workers who responded to the survey was $51,208, compared with $65,415 for those working in education; $63,994 for those working in health care; $83,753 for those working at private clubs; and $89,263 for the 2 percent of respondents who were self-employed.

A total of 2,711 people responded to the online survey, conducted for the ACF by Industry Insights Inc., an independent research firm based in Dublin, Ohio. Of those, the largest group, 35 percent, consisted of executive chefs. Educators made up the second largest group, at 16 percent, followed by line cooks, who made up 9 percent of those surveyed.

“Some of the encouraging signs from the 2011 ACF Salary Study are that even with the unsteady economic climate, the unemployment rate remains low for culinary professionals,” ACF president Michael Ty said in a press release.

Just 3 percent of those surveyed were unemployed and actively looking for work, well below the national rate of 8.3 percent as of January 2012.

But when it comes to compensation, the survey found that a gender gap remains.

The median annual base salary for male corporate executives or managers was $28,000 higher than that of women in the same position. Taking into account bonuses and other types of compensation, it was $38,500 higher.

Male executive chefs made $17,950 more than female executive chefs, according to the survey.

The survey also found that chefs work long hours.

Eighty percent of all respondents said they worked 41 hours per week or more, and 23 percent of executive chefs work more than 60 hours per week.

When it comes to job title, it’s best to be a corporate executive or manager, which was the position of 5 percent of respondents. They received a median total compensation of $108,000 per year. Research chefs, who made up just 1 percent of those surveyed, had a median total compensation of $100,000. Line cooks earned a median total compensation of $23,000.

Pastry chefs had a median total compensation of $40,000, while bakers earned a median $24,282, the survey found.

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