Joined Jan 9, 2016
I just started my first sous chef position with no culinary school or formal training but a ton of kitchen experience mostly being line cook at corporate restaurants. Now I work at a local brewpub in a small town, I was just promoted to sous chef about 3weeks ago at about a 5k/yr raise but I'm required to work 50hr/wk which ends up being 55+ most weeks. We run a fairly small kitchen with the owner mostly worried about labor. We are opened 11am-10pm I work 12pm-cl 5 nights a week staying after around 30min-1hr tops every night and sometimes come in early. It averages out to be around a 60 cent an hour pay cut if I break it down. My job is to cut everyone that is hourly because my salary doesn't count against labor, maybe I'm crazy but I didn't know that was what a sous chef did I have a ton of things I need to get down because the previous executive chef left it in shambles. Nothing in the store has lables i figure it shouldnt have to be labled people should put things where they are supposed to go but unfortunately that's not reality, so I need to label everything starting with the cooler we need to record all beer usage and waste in the kitchen which is not currently being done and half the staff just complains constantly about another. The foh managers will tell me I should cut someone or cut them anyway until only I'm left usually then tells me we have a bunch of cleaning we could get done. There is no creativity, no delegate, no organizing just simply me sending everyone home and doing 4 peoples jobs. They want to pay me 25k/yr to do this 50+hrs/wk. I have 3 kids and a wife at home who sometimes I don't see for 5 days straight and the old lady is not happy with our relationship with basically doesn't exist, I'm expected to do this for chump change 25k/yr somewhere around 9.60/hr, minimum wage in Michigan I believe is around 8.50/hr, I was making 10.25/hr with ot when I could get it around 15.12/hr. I have a meeting with the owner at the end of the month I would like my average to be near 11/hr I would be happy close to or at 30k/yr they are currently offering me 25k/yr. I'm considering going back to line cook at 10.25 if they aren't willing to pay me. Any advice on my situation please help!!!!


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Unfortunately, this is a story that I hear often, and experienced.  My first Sous Chef job was at $22,000 and once I figured out my hourly pay, taking into account time and half for OT, I was making less than my last cook gig.  First off, once you go salary never do the math to figure out your hourly-it's too painful.  I understand the bosses desire to cut labor by cutting the hourly staff, but I think there needs to be some give and take.  Sure there are days when you just need to cut and close up by yourself, but there are times when things need to get done, extra cleaning needs to happen.  Just make sure that your team is staying busy.  It's hard, as an Exec. Chef or GM, to believe that you really need those guys, if I walk through the kitchen and see a bunch of them standing around, going out for their 5th cigarette, making a snack, harassing the waitstaff, etc.

You need to accept though, that if you want to stay salaried, your work weeks are going to average 50+ hours a week, often more.  When I was in the restaurant world it wasn't unusual for me to work 70+ hour weeks or more.  It's getting better in the industry, but the expectation is still working lots and lots of hours.  I remember when I first left the restaurants and went into institutional food, I used to feel guilty after only putting in 40-45 hours.

It never hurts to ask for a raise, but if your bosses were like many of mine the standard response was that you knew what salary you were being offered and you knew what kind of hours you would be working so unless you can show them real cost savings since you've come onboard, they probably won't give you much of a raise, if any.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
On the bright side you don't have $60k in student loan debt.

Cheer up a bit, your salary will increase.  If the restaurant does well, if you find efficient ways to do things, if you schedule better, you might even get to sleep in, get 3 days off every two weeks.

Of course not all of them will happen all at once.
Joined Jan 9, 2016
On top of it all I never was offered the position they just told me that was what was happening. I'm a very passionate person and love what I do but I don't feel its worth my family falling apart to make my work happy and barely be able to pay my bills.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
I didn't know this movie was still playing. This is one of those deal that they walk up to you pat you on the back and give you a position. Then after all the celebration is over reality sets in. Watch out what you wish for! If you plan on being a line cook all your life then go back to working the line. I would work as a Sous for a year and then either try for a chef position or a better paying Sous position at another restaurant. This isn't an easy profession to be in with a family. Make the best of the family situation and work toward a better paying position in the near future. You may not be making a lot now but, try to think of whats down the line.......
Joined May 14, 2014
Hard as it is for me to say this, there are laws regarding who is actually eligable to be paid salary or not, and it hinges on you doing admin & managing a certain number of people. So you can research that if all they're using you for is free cooking.

To my mind, albiet not knowing cost of living out there, you're massively underpaid. Get the money you need to make it worth the hours or walk. Talk is cheap; it literally costs your boss nothing. My personal philosophy is to ask for, and get, what I want when I take a job. Raises in this business are few and far between.

Edit: I know what's expected when I take a job. You didn't and it doesn't sound like you were 'offerred ' the job, but rather gifted it. I personally feel that that is incredibly unethical.
Last edited:
Joined Jan 9, 2016
I come in do a few prep things and start cutting people asap. I have about an hour a day where I'm not on the line cooking and things don't get done I call 1 closer off at least 3 of the 5 nights plus send the others home usually around an hour till close. It's a vicious circle. I have nothing to do with food orders, scheduling, or really any management duties, its simply seeing how low I can get labor that particular day.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
IMHO, Grande is right on the money. You can only be salary if your work meets certain conditions. Otherwise you are being taken advantage of. With a wife and three children, start looking for a job with better pay and hours. Institutional cooking may be the way to go, depending on your area. But you are currently being taken advantage of. 
Joined Aug 21, 2004
I have had some similar experiences over the course of my career and in my case the offers of change in money or working condition always came too late, as in after I gave notice. Owners that will take advantage of you, will not change until forced to and bottom line is why in the world would I want to stay in those situations?

The last time it happened, I was sous and fed up with the whole scenario. I actually had an opportunity to open my own restaurant, so I gladly gave my notice. The owners actually told me that if I would stay, changes would be made, also I would get more money, and I would be promoted to chef and the present chef would be moved down to become my sous. I don't know what was more hilarious, the fact that their son was the present chef, or the fact that they thought I would stay instead of going and opening my own place.

Every time something similar has happened, and this place was no different, the businesses wound up closing probably six months or so after I left; not because I am so great and the glue that held them together; but because they were owners without a clue or concern about me other than how much could they get for how little. Like I said, why in the world would I want to stay?
Joined Dec 23, 2004
There's a thousand restaurants where you could go and make $7/hour (once you divide your salary by hours worked).  Run, don't walk.  They're screwing you big time.  Unless you sorely need the experience and the title on a resume this is gonna be a soul sucking waste of  your time.  At a minimum tell them you will only work there for an hourly wage.  It's understood that salary = slavery, but it can have some upsides if the pay is tolerable (eg. stable paychecks, never worrying about your hours getting cut, etc).

You have to CYA, they're looking out for themselves so you have to look out for yourself.
Top Bottom