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Pay Scale of a Chef with a Culinary Arts Degree

Career News July 12, 2014

For the truly creative person, there is no comparison to occupational fulfillment like getting paid to do what one loves to do. Some of the most creative professionals on the planet are chefs who have been trained to affect all senses. The food has to smell right, look good, taste delicious, and have a palatable texture, all at a price that is not too difficult to swallow.

But what about the benefits? The culinary pay scale must be researched at length to discover if cooking will still be considered a hobby or if there is actually enough bread in the payoff.

With the popularity of cooking shows and culinary competitions, you’d think a career in culinary arts would pay well.

Sadly, the opposite is often true. In fact, topping the list of CNN’s “College Degrees That Don’t Pay” is culinary arts, where starting salaries are estimated at $35,900 a year.

It is advantageous for the chef to own the business. Most chefs who are owners of their own businesses make almost double the amount of a chef employed by even the finer restaurants. The salary range fluctuates between $70,000 and $80,000 per year, depending on economic trends. Chef owners are some of the highest paid individuals in this profession.

An executive chef oversees kitchen staff, and food operations, and preparations. They also help to decide the menu and lead into any last minute changes that need to be made. The culinary pay scale for the executive chef may be comparable in some areas to the chef owner, but usually a bit less than what the chef owner makes.

The chef de cuisine is often times referred to as the executive chef. He is usually in charge of preparation and training of staff. The salary of the chef de cuisine is also comparable to the executive chef, having many similar responsibilities.

Specializing in desserts, the pastry chef is responsible for all desserts served in the finer restaurants. The culinary pay scale for pastry chefs is much like that of the sous chef. According to, sous chefs average between $30,000 and $50,000 per year.

Kitchen location is one of the most important deciding factors of income in the culinary arts occupation. Nice hotel restaurants and catering companies tend to pay more, being upscale venues. Some of these establishments may pay into the upper 80’s.

Private clubs like country clubs or elite night clubs that serve excellent cuisine are the absolute highest paying culinary facilities. It would be rare to move into a six- figure salary as a chef, but in these facilities, low 90’s wouldn’t be shocking at all. Usually these chefs have moved up into these arenas and have years of experience, along with a great ability to work alongside others who do not.

Many things should be considered in when becoming a chef. Specialties will enhance marketability in this profession. Experience is always a plus. Willingness to stay teachable and possibly even relocating may all play a part in how much dough is raked in by the culinary professional.

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