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Culinary Arts Salary And Advancement Opportunities

There is an increased demand for professionals with culinary skills, especially in today’s booming restaurant business. If you enjoy preparing food for others and could see yourself making a career out of it, then you may want to consider going to culinary school. A career in the culinary arts can be very rewarding and allows you to explore a true life passion.

Before you decide on a career in the culinary arts, learn about the various types of positions you can secure with a culinary arts degree, as well as the typical salaries for these positions.

Common Culinary Careers And Salaries

If you are fresh out of culinary school, you will likely start in an entry-level position. Most often, this position is a line cook, which involves primarily prep work. You are usually paid a base hourly rate, slightly above minimum wage.

Assistant chefs generally have more responsibility when it comes to managing the kitchen and creating new entrees. In most restaurants, assistant chefs work right alongside the executive chef to come up with new menu ideas and prepare other items on the menu. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that assistant chefs/cooks made an average of $36,060 in 2023. 

Some culinary grads are able to start out as—or quickly work up to being—a sous chef, where you’ll help run the kitchen and manage staff. A sous chef's salary depends on level of experience, industry, and location. 

The executive chef position is the highest position you can achieve (aside from owning your own restaurant). Because of this, salaries can range greatly depending on the restaurant where you work.

Executive chefs oversee all aspects of the kitchen while preparing menus, deciding on ingredients, making sure supplies are in stock, and staying up-to-date on changes in the industry. Working as an executive chef comes with a great deal of responsibility, and your salary can reflect that. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2023, head/executive chefs averaged $62,640, while the top 10 percent earned closer to $93,900

Advancing Your Culinary Arts Career

If you're interested in a career in culinary arts, it’s important to look past the starting salary and focus on the potential for moving up in the "food chain." Even if you start out as a dishwasher, there are plenty of ways to advance your career. Take the initiative to constantly learn both the inside and outside of the kitchen, and look to your superiors as mentors to absorb all the knowledge they have to offer.

Furthermore, showing that you're a team player and demonstrating sound leadership abilities will prove that you're executive chef material. Yes, it will take some time, but the effort will be worth it when you run the kitchen or own a restaurant down the road.

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