How Much Does a Chef Make a Year?

By Jacqueline DeMarco · April 02, 2024 · 7 minute read

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How Much Does a Chef Make a Year?

The median annual pay for chefs is $56,520 for the most recent year studied, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This can be a great career for foodies and creative types who love being in the kitchen and can deal with pressures of a food service job.

A good meal can really make someone’s day, whether they’re celebrating a special occasion or not. Chefs can work in a variety of settings, from local eateries to cruise ships to corporate dining rooms to test kitchens. Read on to learn more about the kind of salary a chef earns and more.

Key Points

•   The median annual salary for chefs is $56,520, reflecting the potential for a rewarding career in food service.

•   Chefs can work in diverse environments, including cruise ships, corporate dining, and local eateries.

•   Entry-level chefs typically earn less than $33,750, aligning with the lowest 10% of salaries in the field.

•   Top earning chefs can make over $91,520, especially in high-profile or major city venues.

•   Salary variations for chefs depend significantly on the state, with New Jersey chefs earning slightly above the median at $56,764.

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What Are Chefs?

Professional chefs do so much more than cook food.

•   Many chefs are in charge of other kitchen staff and help guide them to success in their careers. (For this reason, it may not be a good job for introverts.)

•   They may also manage inventory and ordering food and confirm ingredients are fresh and ready to use.

•   They may develop recipes and create menus.

•   Chefs may hire and train other chefs to work below them.

•   If a chef owns their own restaurant, they will also take on all the work associated with running a business.

Chefs don’t exclusively work in restaurants. Some may work for catering companies, in hotels, on cruise ships, or at event spaces. They may even work for large offices that cater food for employees each day or at schools and universities, feeding hungry students. There are also chefs who may run their own business, catering local parties and weddings, or providing baked goods for cafes.

What’s more, chefs don’t necessarily need special training. Some may have degrees in food service or hospitality, and others may have attended culinary school or taken classes in various techniques. But others are simply talented people with great skills and taste to share.

That said, working in food service can require being on your feet for long hours and with significant pressure since there are hungry people waiting to be fed.

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How Much Do Starting Chefs Make a Year?

Entry-level chefs can expect to make less than the average salary for a chef, as that figure reflects more years of experience and working one’s way up the pay scale. Instead, a person just starting out might expect to earn more on a par with the lowest 10% of chefs, or less than $33,750.

Worth noting: The top 10% of earners in this role make more than $91,520, indicating that there is the potential to earn $100,000 a year in this career. That is more likely to happen for those who live in major cities or land a job with a big brand or hospitality chain or perhaps find fame as a chef on social media.

What is the Average Salary for a Chef?

In addition to how experienced they are, what state a chef works in can also majorly impact how much money they earn. While the median nationwide salary for chefs is currently $56,520 per year, the following table highlights how much variance chefs can see in pay depending on the state they live and work in.

For example, chefs in New Jersey tend to earn more than the national median ($56,764 on average), whereas Florida chefs earn much less ($34,602 on average).

This table is arranged from highest to lowest salary, and shares hourly pay as well.

What is the Average Chef Salary by State for 2023

State Annual Salary Monthly Pay Weekly Pay Hourly Wage
New Jersey $56,764 $4,730 $1,091 $27.29
Wisconsin $55,435 $4,619 $1,066 $26.65
Alaska $54,063 $4,505 $1,039 $25.99
Massachusetts $53,990 $4,499 $1,038 $25.96
Oregon $53,816 $4,484 $1,034 $25.87
Washington $53,813 $4,484 $1,034 $25.87
North Dakota $53,670 $4,472 $1,032 $25.80
New Mexico $53,309 $4,442 $1,025 $25.63
Minnesota $52,646 $4,387 $1,012 $25.31
Hawaii $52,603 $4,383 $1,011 $25.29
Ohio $51,434 $4,286 $989 $24.73
Colorado $51,407 $4,283 $988 $24.71
Nevada $51,118 $4,259 $983 $24.58
New York $50,810 $4,234 $977 $24.43
South Dakota $50,724 $4,227 $975 $24.39
Rhode Island $49,846 $4,153 $958 $23.96
Iowa $49,742 $4,145 $956 $23.91
Vermont $49,511 $4,125 $952 $23.80
Connecticut $49,322 $4,110 $948 $23.71
Tennessee $49,110 $4,092 $944 $23.61
Utah $48,728 $4,060 $937 $23.43
Delaware $48,579 $4,048 $934 $23.36
Mississippi $48,486 $4,040 $932 $23.31
Virginia $47,981 $3,998 $922 $23.07
Illinois $47,511 $3,959 $913 $22.84
Maryland $47,073 $3,922 $905 $22.63
California $46,594 $3,882 $896 $22.40
Pennsylvania $46,549 $3,879 $895 $22.38
Nebraska $46,142 $3,845 $887 $22.18
Louisiana $45,964 $3,830 $883 $22.10
Missouri $45,660 $3,805 $878 $21.95
Kansas $45,632 $3,802 $877 $21.94
Maine $45,596 $3,799 $876 $21.92
South Carolina $45,226 $3,768 $869 $21.74
New Hampshire $45,221 $3,768 $869 $21.74
Oklahoma $44,686 $3,723 $859 $21.48
Wyoming $44,588 $3,715 $857 $21.44
Idaho $44,507 $3,708 $855 $21.40
North Carolina $44,293 $3,691 $851 $21.29
Texas $44,148 $3,679 $849 $21.23
Indiana $44,062 $3,671 $847 $21.18
Arizona $43,151 $3,595 $829 $20.75
Kentucky $42,767 $3,563 $822 $20.56
Michigan $42,579 $3,548 $818 $20.47
Montana $42,501 $3,541 $817 $20.43
Alabama $41,970 $3,497 $807 $20.18
Arkansas $40,542 $3,378 $779 $19.49
Georgia $39,098 $3,258 $751 $18.80
West Virginia $35,951 $2,995 $691 $17.28
Florida $34,602 $2,883 $665 $16.64

Source: ZipRecruiter

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Chef Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

It’s hard to pinpoint what potential benefits chefs gain access to in addition to their hourly wage or annual salary.

That being said, many chefs who work full-time will qualify for traditional employer-sponsored benefits like retirement savings accounts, health insurance, and paid time off.

Chefs who work part-time may not qualify for any benefits, and those who own their own businesses will be responsible for securing those benefits.

💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of Chef Salary

The main advantage of a chef’s salary is that many years of expensive schooling aren’t required to earn a decent salary. Not having to worry about student loans can help a chef’s salary stretch a lot further. While some chefs may choose to attend culinary programs at a technical school, culinary arts school, community college, or a four-year college, this education can be obtained affordably.

On the flip side, it can be challenging to find a full-time role as a chef that comes with benefits, and the tradeoff for a decent salary is often very long and hard working hours, with a considerable degree of stress.

Recommended: What Does Competitive Pay Mean?

The Takeaway

Working as a chef can be an exciting way to earn a solid living. Those who are passionate about food will likely love going to work every day. This job does come with its challenges—primarily, it is physically demanding and under high pressure—but can be a great way to turn a love of food and cooking into a career.

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Can you make 100k a year as a chef?

While it is possible to earn $100,000 a year as a chef, it isn’t typical to earn that much. The median annual salary for chefs is $56,520. That being said, chefs who work in fine dining or who own their own businesses may be able to earn more competitive pay.

Do people like being a chef?

If someone loves to cook, they will likely enjoy being a chef. However, this job does require a lot of social interaction with other members of the kitchen and wait staff, so it’s not a great fit for anyone who is antisocial.

Is it hard to get hired as a chef?

There are about 22,000 openings annually for chefs and head cooks, and job opportunities are growing faster than average. So if someone has the right skill set and qualifications, they should be able to find a job as a chef. It is important to note that it may be challenging to get hired as a chef if someone lives in an area without a lot of restaurants or lacks industry experience.

Photo credit: Dimensions

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