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Today, there are numerous job opportunities projected over the next several years for chefs based on the continued growth and expansion of food services outlets; chefs seeking higher-paying positions, though, will likely experience fierce competition (Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers job and job outlook).
Based on current trends and growth patterns in the industry, experts project that there will be an 11% increase for chefs during the period 2006 to 2016, with about 351,000 new positions being created during this time (Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers job and job outlook). Continuing population growth and demand for high quality food in upscale restaurants is expected to contribute to this increased demand for chefs in the future (Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers job and job outlook). Outpacing this demand, though, will be the need for chefs who can cater to the casual dining consumer. According to the experts at Career Planner:
The number of higher-skilled chefs working in full-service restaurants -- those that offer table service and more varied menus -- is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations. Much of this increase will come from job growth in more casual dining settings, rather than in up-scale full-service restaurants. Dining trends suggest that an increasing number of meals are eaten away from home, which creates growth in family dining restaurants, but greater limits on expense-account meals is expected to generate slower growth for up-scale restaurants. (Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers job and job outlook, p. 4).
Salary ranges few years ago, one industry analyst reported that, "Entry-level food service positions average at about $20,500, with executive chefs pulling in between $50,000 and $100,000" (Turner, p. 88). Today, "The chef salary is reported to be as much as $80,000 per annum. Depending on the location, experience and expertise the average annual chef salary could vary anywhere between $19,000 to $47,000 which makes it a lucrative career with many wonderful options" (Chef salary, 2007, p. 2).
While every restaurant will be unique, of course, and the setting can range from inner urban to a cruise ship or even to being a private chef for a very affluent client, the results of a telephonic interview with Chef a. Bradley West of Tulsa, Oklahoma provide some interesting insights into the specific duties and responsibilities that some chefs can expect to encounter in their workplace today. Chef Bradley operates a 24-member staff at a prominent Lebanese restaurant with a specialty menu featuring dishes from the Middle East in general and Lebanon in particular and agreed to participate in a brief telephonic interview from his home based on a referral by a mutual friend.
When asked about his specific duties and responsibilities, the chef responded that, "We're a busy location and many of our customers have been coming here for more than 40 years based on our reputation for quality and customer service. it's my responsibility to make sure that everything runs smoothly and people receive their meals prepared they way they want them, hot and presented in an appealing fashion" (a. B. West, personal communication, December 2, 2008). Upon being pressed for some specifics concerning his job responsibilities, Chef Bradley advised, "I'm responsible for budget and menus, as well as training new hires in the correct preparation of Lebanese cuisine. Most of these people have never prepared this type of food before, and we use far more fish than red meat in our dishes which is a challenge for some of them." Chef Bradley added that, "Many of our staff has never seen a lamb before, but Lebanese food uses this much more than the beef that our staff is accustomed to preparing, so this has been another area that needs constant oversight. We also use some different cooking implements in the kitchen that require specific training in their use."
Some representative workplace settings for chefs can be discerned from Figures 2 and 3 below.
Figure 2. Representative workplace setting for chefs.
Source: DPR Construction, Inc. (2008). [Online]. Available: http://www.dprinc.com/images/projects/large/EpiscopalHome_Covington_ChefKitchen.jpg.
Figure 3. Representative workplace setting for chefs.
Source: Roche Harbor Resorts (2008). [Online]. Available:
In the past, women in American may have been in charge of the kitchen - whether they liked it or not - but it seems that the position of professional chef in the restaurant kitchen has remained a largely male enterprise - but things may be changing. For example, in her essay, "Why Is it That Most of the Devoted Amateur Chefs I Know Are Men?," Skidelsky (2005) reports that, "Thanks to the likes of Angela Hartnett, Allegra McEvedy and Sally Clarke, restaurant kitchens are no longer seen as impenetrable, all-male bastions. If the profession is still some way from developing a reputation for gender equality, at least women are no longer viewed as insufficiently tough to stick it out in the kitchen" (p. 56). The popularity of the numerous television series featuring male chefs is due, at least in part, to a fundamental shift in gender roles in recent years, where women are crashing through the glass ceiling and men are likewise entering career fields that have otherwise been denied them by virtue of gender constraints. In this regard, Skidelsky points out, "For a woman, there is nothing remotely daring or unexpected about cooking, and that is why it isn't very cool. For men, on the other hand, there is something daring and unexpected about assuming control in the kitchen" (p. 56).
The research showed that the food service industry in general is expected to experience healthy growth in the coming years, and the demand for professional chefs in particular is expected to increase. The research was consistent in emphasizing that the career field for chefs was a demanding one, requiring a college education (preferably a bachelor's degree) and specialized training in a wide range of culinary arts that vary depending on the specialty field involved. Chefs were shown to occupy the highest run of the food preparation career ladder, with those at the top of their field commanding commensurate stellar salaries, but even the more modest salary ranges for chefs were significant. Finally, the research also showed that although the career field is not for those who abhor hard work, there are a wide range of chef types available in different settings so that an individual's strengths can be used to their best effect so that the hectic pace of the typical chef becomes routine and even the fun workplace that most people would like to associate with the creative and elaborate dishes that many chefs produce today.
Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers jobs and job outlook. (2008). Career Planner. [Online]. Available: http://www.careerplanner.com/Job-Outlook/Chefs-Cooks-and-Food-Preparation-Workers.cfm.
Chef salary. (2007). Job Employment Guide. [Online]. Available: http://www.job-employment-guide.com/chef-salary.html.
Food processing occupations jobs and job outlook. (2008). Career Planner. [Online]. Available: http://www.careerplanner.com/Job-Outlook/Food-Processing-Occupations.cfm.
Job description for chefs and head cooks. (2008). Career Planner. [Online]. Available: http://www.careerplanner.com/Job-Descriptions/Chefs-and-Head-Cooks.cfm.
Skidelsky, W. (2005, October 24). Food: Why is it that most of the devoted amateur…[continue]
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