How to Become a Head Chef?

Are you thinking of becoming a Head Chef or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Head Chef, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Head Chef job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
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Steps to Become a Chef

If you love creating delicious meals, and you enjoy leading others, consider a career as a chef. To become a chef, follow these steps:

Get culinary training.

While there are no specific education requirements for becoming a chef, you'll need at least some on-the-job training and experience. More expensive restaurants often require a diploma or certificate in culinary arts from a college or specialized culinary arts school. Many more establishments ask for a high school diploma or GED.

Getting a diploma or certificate can also help you advance your career faster. Before you pursue a diploma or certificate, get a job as a line cook. That way, you can use your experience in the restaurant industry on your application. You can also learn more about what being a chef is like and make a more informed decision about your career goals.

Many culinary programs offer hands-on co-ops or internships to help you get even more experience. These programs cover aspects of the job like planning menus, ordering ingredients and supplies, and food safety. It's also a good idea to get one or more additional certifications. The Canadian Culinary Institute offers certifications for chefs de cuisine or master chefs. Chefs de cuisine coordinate the work of other chefs, train employees, design menus, and make food and beverage purchases. You may also obtain a diploma or certificate as a sous chef, who reports directly to a chef de cuisine, and or as a personal chef, who plans and prepares meals in a private home.


Apply for entry-level positions, such as commis chef.

No matter how much training you receive, you won't be able to become a top chef without accumulating some experience in a more entry-level position. For example, chefs de partie work on preparing specific types of dishes, like desserts, fish, or pasta, and commis chefs act as assistants for chefs de partie.

When you apply for chef jobs, list any experience, certifications, or diplomas on your resume. Discuss your past accomplishments, such as menu items you developed or ways you helped reduce costs. When possible, use the keywords and phrases that you see in the job description. Many companies use specialized software to screen candidates, and a real person may not look at your application and offer you an interview without the right phrasing.


Network and advance your career.

After you find a job, work hard, and learn cooking techniques from people in the positions above you. Do your best to make friends and form relationships with coworkers. That way, people will be more likely to tell you about job openings they hear about. You might even meet someone that you want to start a restaurant with. Owning your own business is riskier than working for someone else, but it lets you create your own unique menu and atmosphere.

Head Chef Career Path

Lead Chef

5 - 7Years of Experience
$40K - $62K /yrAvg. Annual Salary
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23% advanced to

Head Chef

No Years of Experience Reports
$48K - $65K /yrAvg. Annual Salary
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Chief Chef

8+Years of Experience
$42K - $72K /yrAvg. Annual Salary
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Salary Trajectory

Head Chef Career Path

Chef I
Chef II
Lead Chef
Head Chef
Chief Chef
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Related careers in the Retail & Food Services Industry

Interested in other Retail & Food Services careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Head Chef skills. Discover some of the most common Head Chef career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Executive Chef
No skills overlap
90% transitioned to Executive Chef