Chefs, head chefs and professional cooks work in restaurants, eateries, cafes, hotel kitchens and other establishments whose primary purpose is to prepare and serve food to customers.
There are over 940,000 head chefs and supervising food professionals employed in the US, and over 3 million cooks and non-supervising kitchen staff members. The largest employers of cooks and head chefs are full-service restaurants, short-order food businesses, fast food restaurants and take-out places, though many are employed in culinary settings such as hotels, amusement parks, catering companies and others.
Cooks and Chefs
Cooks and non-supervising chefs are responsible for food handling work such as preparing meats, vegetables, soups, sauces and other ingredients, creating dishes, and cleaning and maintaining the kitchen equipment they use. They learn recipes that have been prepared in advance or are standard to the restaurant they work in, and carry out the required prep and cooking work.
Some of the typical duties of cooks and chefs include:
- Preparing Meats and Legumes
- Slicing and Chopping Vegetables
- Rinsing and Storing Vegetables
- Learning and Following Recipes
- Preparing Soups and Sauces
- Garnishing Completed Plates
- Rotating Kitchen Stock
- Disposing of Spoiled or Damaged Ingredients
- Cleaning and Maintaining Tools and Equipment
- Training Other Cooks
Head Chefs and Supervising Cooks
Head chefs and supervising cooks manage other cooks and contribute to the overall direction of the restaurant, in addition to their own food preparation work. They are usually experienced, accomplished culinary professionals who manage the kitchen and, in part or in whole, determine the culinary direction of the restaurant. These chefs may create new recipes for the restaurant, plan menus or introduce new ingredients, in addition to their own food preparation work.
Some basic responsibilities taken on by head chefs, in addition to those taken on by non-supervising cooks, can include:
- Managing and Supervising Other Cooks
- Menu Planning
- Creating and Introducing New Recipes
- Determining Overall Cuisine Direction
- Training, Hiring and Evaluating Lower-Level Cooks
- Testing and Introducing New Ingredients
Here you can learn more about chef salaries and the career outlook for culinary professionals.