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Chef Salary

If you’re thinking about becoming a chef, it’s a good idea to think about how much money you could earn over the course of your career. Chefs are highly trained professional cooks who are masters of taste, smell, and dish creation. There are various types of chefs, and you could be paid more or less depending on skill level, education, location, and experience.

Average Salary

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual wage for chefs and head cooks is around $46,620. This number incorporates all kinds of chefs, because the Bureau of Labor statistics doesn’t have separate categories for sous chefs or station cooks. The median salary for executive cooks nationally is around $55,000. 

Average Starting Salary

It’s important to remember that reports on the national average or median salary for any industry don’t take experience level or education into consideration. This means that the average salary is not necessarily your starting salary. The average starting salary for chefs is around $35,000 depending on how you start out as a chef. Starting salary for assistant chefs or sous chefs is around $35,000, and salaries for executive chefs start around $50,000.

Experience Level

Your pay scale is likely to increase with your level of experience. Executive chefs may start at a salary of around $50,000, but they may work up to $85,000 over the course of their career. Many chefs also end up becoming restaurant owners or managers, so their pay is likely to change based on what they do within the restaurant.


The location of where a chef works is an important consideration for how much money they will make. Generally speaking, working in a restaurant or hotel in a big city is likely to mean more pay. The states that pay chefs the most money are Washington D.C, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. The states with the highest employment level of chefs are California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Keep in mind that metropolitan areas tend to pay more across all industries because of the property value in these areas. In other words, you may get paid more to work in a big city, but that’s also because it’s more expensive to live in a city.


The amount of money you make also depends on where you work. Chefs work in restaurants and eating places, traveler accommodations, special food services, amusement and recreational industries, and grocery stores. Although most chefs work in restaurants or other eating places, the industry with the highest paying chefs are actually cruise lines and other water travel forms of transportation.