Joined Jan 20, 2003
About how much do chefs start out, right out of school? I've seen different figures, but they range from $30,000 - 50,000. Anyone have any good idea of it? Thanks
Joined Jul 31, 2000

Your not a "Chef" when you graduate from school.

I also think $30-$50 grand may be a bit optimistic. JMHO
Joined Feb 22, 2002
It probably depends on a lot of things; where you work, what you're doing, etc. And yes I don't think you'll be a chef right out of school, you'll probably have to prove yourself first. From what I've seen, going to cooking school doesn't prove much of anything...anyone agree or disagree?
Joined Jul 31, 2000
I do think that culinary graduates have to show there worth and have a thick skin at the same time.

As far as a culinary degree proving anything? It's not about "proving" it's about taking what you learned and applying it to the everyday practice of being a team player in a kitchen.
Joined Dec 4, 2002
Of course it all depends, which is why it's a good idea to work your way through school.

My first job, no school, adjusted for inflation was $18K.

After 4 yrs $36K (again, and following, all adjusted for inflation, SO I was actually making less)

After 5yrs of solid cooking and school $43K. And lucky.
NO benefits, AND I wasn't NEARLY a 'chef' and I'm working in one of the most expensive markets in the country.

After 15 yrs, I'm unemployed, but have a great life, make more than enough money. So you see, it takes a little time.

From what I see, I'll probably have to take a pay cut, as a lot of people are doing right now, but, c'est la vie. It always comes back, it will always nurture you if you nurture it.

If you can find a job in the 25k - 30k range right out of college, you're doing good. And if you are truly a chef, that will rise somewhat rapidly compared to a lot of industries.
Joined May 26, 2001
Let's see, minimum wage is now what? $5.75? Okay, times 40 hours a week is $230; don't even THINK about paid overtime. For 52 weeks (unless you take vacation -- unpaid), that works out to just under $12K. That's more like it for someone starting out.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
A dear friend of mine that oversaw 5 restaurants within the region and ran his own and a bistro was making $80K got fired because of a buyout and he's big money....just found a corp chef job for $40-50 wasn't specific.
$50k was what some of the highest paid in independant restaurants make that is what I gleened a couple of years ago.
$125K for highest CC and there are probably 3 or4 making that.

I have a dear friend who works crazy hours and makes salary $450-500 a week....and he's happy.
One who has run kitchens, went to CIA and worked at Greenbriar for a while (said NOTHING compares to that, live was soooo much easier after leaving) makes $14 an hour and no benefits.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Here's what I've seen:


DMO: $5.50-$9.00
Prep: $6.50-$11.00
Line: $6.50-$15.00
Sous: $9.00-$12.00
Chef: $30k-$55k


Small hotel sous: $18k-$28k
Large hotel sous: $18k-$40k
Large hotel unit chef: $25k-35k
Large hotel banquet chef: $45k-60k

Exec. sous: (average hotel/country club) $25k-$40k
Exec. sous: (private club) $35k-$45k
Exec. sous: (4000 room hotel) ?????

Exec. chef (average hotel) $35k-$75k
Exec. chef (country club) $40k-$80k
Exec. chef (upscale hotel/priv. club) $60k-$80k
Exec. chef (4000 room hotel) $150k-$250k

R&D chef with 2 yr. degree: $35-$40k
R&D chef with food science/nutrition degree: $35k-$55k

Of course, this is only what I've seen.

Joined Mar 6, 2001
Forget salary for a while. In Chicago it's about 8.00 per hour to start. It's not unusual for people to work 2 jobs in their first years.
Joined Mar 22, 2002
Here in Boston, pastry people start at $9-10, more at the big hotels (~$12, I'm told, with overtime!)
After training, and about 7 months at my first restaurant job, I was up to $11. And I'm leaving to go to a new restaurant (but a fantastic opportunity to learn) at $9/hr. Radius, one of the top restaurants, puts it's folks on salary: one of my co-workers was offered $19K/yr, and didn't take the offer because she needs to work 2 jobs to survive in such an expensive city.

A pastry chef told me that he interviewed a recent culinary graduate, who told him she wanted about $35K to start. He told her that he himself didn't make nearly that much, and he was the chef!

I'm doing what I do because I love it, adn I have a saint for a spouse. But it does gall that pastry skills are so undervalued!:(
Joined Dec 4, 2002
Annie, I think you're right about pastry skills being undervalued,

and more importantly, I think you've just given smg the most accurate snapshot about what the industry is like for someone starting out, bearing in mind that you are also in an area with a relatively high cost of living.

I can also add to my earlier comments that during the first 3 years of my cooking career, which were in Boston, I ALWAYS worked 2 jobs, anywhere from 60-80hrs a week. I don't think I could do it anymore, but back then I actually LOVED it:chef:
Joined Jan 24, 2003
I agree with w.debord, starting salary is about $8. per hour. If you are lucky maybe $11 after 3 years or so. Working under a corporate chain or hotel will give you health benefits and marginally more pay.

Depends what you want, remember the grass is seldom greener on the other side as far as working in a restaurant.

But if that's what you love, so be it.

Word of caution, I've always had bad experiences at places that offer shift pay. Some days I would average $6/hour. I won't ever do that again.

It's a highly incestuous profession, little rewards, long hours, stress, fire, heat and lots of knives. Lots of alcoholism. Opposite hours (restaurant-wise) from family.

Personality, no matter which kitchen it is, you just walked into a room with strongly willed individuals. And if you're just starting out, yep, you're the new kid on the block. Keep in mind that not all kitchens have culinary grads, it certainly helps though.
good luck.
Top Bottom