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Chef Salaries Drop for the First Time in Four Years Publishes Its Fourth Annual Salary Survey Results

NEW YORK, May 1, 2009 -, the online magazine for culinary insiders, is pleased to announce the results of its fourth annual Salary Survey. According to the survey results, culinary industry national salary averages dropped significantly in 2008. After four years of steady increase, executive chef salaries were hovering at $77,611 and in 2008 we saw this drop to an average of $74,869. Pastry chef salaries averaged at $53,017 in 2007, but have taken a 13% nosedive in 2009. Still, the individual salaries of most chef/owners, executive chefs, and chef de cuisines surveyed remain well above the US median household income of $50,740. Across the board chefs reported the highest salaries in hotel restaurants.

We found that the industry continues to be dominated by men who, on average, are still making more than their female counterparts. Of those who responded to our survey, 78% were men. And according to our survey results, male executive chefs make 18% more than female executive chefs. Salary survey respondents report that executive chefs get the highest salary in New York State with an average of $81,600, but Miami is the highest paying city with a reported average of $90,333.

Chefs might be the new pop culture superstars, but this doesn’t exactly translate to more money for the average culinary professional. In fact, our 2008 Salary Survey indicates that chef salaries were early victims of the economic recession. After four years of steady increase, executive chef salaries headed south compared to our 2007 Salary Survey and pastry chef salaries took a veritable nosedive.  
The nearly 1000 people who responded to our Fourth Annual Salary Survey this year hail from all over the US. We heard from people of various ages, culinary professions, backgrounds, and ethnicities; of those who took this year’s salary survey, 78% were men—predictably, the culinary world is as much of a boys’ club as ever. 

We also found that, regardless of shifts in salary, chefs are still working their notoriously long hours. Across the board, half of the culinary professionals surveyed work at least 9 to 11 hours a day, with most working an average of 53 hours per week. 

Despite long work weeks and (in some cases) lowered pay, those in the culinary profession who have steady, full-time work after this economic slump should count themselves lucky. People are getting laid off and taking pay cuts in every industry. And according to the US Census Bureau, the median household income is $50,740. To keep it in perspective, most chefs who we surveyed make at least that; many are making much more. 


The recession has hit some worse than others. In 2008, executive chefs reported making on average $74,869, which is down 3.5% from our 2007 Salary Survey results. Pastry chefs were even worse hit; respondents’ salaries in 2008 were $46,228, a 13% decrease from their reported 2007 average salary of $53,017. As consumers tightened their wallets and their belts this year, pastry chefs ended up taking the biggest hit. Restaurants of all calibers are cutting their pastry budgets, which means pastry chef salaries have gone notably down hill. 
Pastry chef salaries had been continuing on a steady incline from 2004 to 2007, with a spike in 2005 when there was a significant dearth of qualified pastry chefs, so the job came at a higher premium. The following year the market was flooded with pastry chefs and the salaries evened out. This is the first year that our survey results have shown such a remarkable drop in pastry salaries. 

National Salaries by Position

Job Title
% Change from 2007
Chef / Owner - - - $94,288  $85,179   down 9.7%
Executive Chef $74,696   $75,596   $73,260   $77,611   $74,869   down 3.5%
Chef de Cuisine - $57,890  $60,993  $59,896   $56,367   down 5.9%
Sous Chef $39,275   $39,305   $40,375   $42,104   $44,205   up 4.8%
Line Cook (hourly) $11.2  $12.64  $12.40  $13.07  $12.90  down 1.3%
Pastry Chef* $47,865   $50,581   $48,818   $53,017   $46,228   down 12.8%
* Includes “Pastry Chef” and “Executive Pastry Chef” 
Sous chef salaries, however, are continuing their steady increase. In 2008, our results indicate that they made a 5% gain from the previous year, going from $42,104 to $44,205. This slight increase may be due to the fact that restaurants are leaning more on their sous chefs as those at the helm scramble to keep their businesses afloat. Owners and executive chefs are also often first to take pay cuts as they have more of a stake in the business.  

Average Salary by Restaurant Type

According to our survey respondents, for executive chefs and chef de cuisines fine dining pays more than upscale casual restaurants. Sous chefs actually reported making slightly more in upscale casual establishments. Since jobs at fine dining establishments are more scarce but the name recognition is higher, often sous chefs take a lower pay to work somewhere with more esteem. As they move up, the salary jumps at a much higher rate. In upscale casual restaurants, our survey shows that there is much less discrepancy between salaries (about a $20,000 difference between executive chef and sous chef salaries) as opposed to fine dining, where there is over a $36,000 difference. 

Salaries at hotel restaurants offer the highest salaries across the board. As they are often associated with large corporations, they can afford to pay more.

Independent Fine Dining   Executive Chef 
Chef de Cuisine
Sous Chef
Independent Upscale Casual Executive Chef 
Chef de Cuisine
Sous Chef
Hotel  Executive Chef  
Chef de Cuisine
Sous Chef
Private or Country Club Executive Chef
- -

For the entire 2008 Salary Survey report witten by Katherine Martinelli and JJ Proville Click Here

Data collected from the 2008 Salary Survey reveals extensive information about the food industry. Industry salary averages are just one aspect of our findings--age, education, gender, ethnicity, and geographic location are among the many factors that comprise the complexity of salary distribution in the trade. Culinary professionals from across the US responded to the recent Salary Survey, sharing where they work and how much they make. 

About, the magazine for culinary insiders, has been serving the industry since 1995 with a clear focus on working chefs. With a dedicated mission to catalyze culinary professionals' success and give them the tools they need to overcome their specific challenges,'s(TM) original culinary content is driven by in-person tastings and interviews across the world. In addition to featuring chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists, the JobFinder is the leading job board connecting culinary and hospitality professionals to careers in the foodservice industry. 


Will Blunt
[email protected]




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