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What is the Starting Salary for Chefs Working in California?

Career News July 22, 2014

Becoming a chef in the state of California can be a rewarding, exciting experience. There are unlimited opportunities to work in a variety of settings and environments with the potential to earn an amazing salary while doing it.

For those willing to commit to quality education, training, and experience in the culinary arts field, chefs in California can begin a career that will provide them with job stability and a lifetime of satisfaction.

Starting at the Bottom

With that said, no one starts at the top. All chefs, no matter where they live, have to earn their stripes. Before the big payday occurs, a chef must start at the bottom. Entry-level chefs do not get rich on their salaries, and they work extremely hard for the money they do earn. It’s a tough gig and one that definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. However, for those entry-level chefs who are willing to put in the time to gain valuable experience, the future is wide open.

Location Matters

Depending on where a chef begins his or her career, their starting salary can be healthy or barely enough to cover rent. Luckily, the starting salary for a chef in California is strong enough to give new chefs a reason to keep going. According to the, the average entry-level starting salary for a chef in California is around $78,000 per year.

A similar study by listed the average annual salary of chefs with minimal experience (more than entry level) in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Redwood City as $62,220 per year. Entry-level chefs in those cities can expect to make around $15.59 per hour compared to experienced chefs at $44.69 per hour and more.

What it Takes to be a Chef in California

While the starting salary for a chef or other culinary worker in California isn’t mind-numbingly high, it is still a decent wage for an entry-level position compared to similar careers in other states. No matter where a chef chooses to start a career, their salary won’t be high at first, just like with any other career. However, anyone who becomes a chef is generally doing it for more than just the money.

Chefs are hard workers with fierce dedication to their craft, and salary is only part of the reason they enter the culinary arts field. The love of creating innovative tastes and dishes along with a strong desire to succeed is necessary in order to overcome the stiff competition for chef positions in California and beyond. Only the best chefs are able to overcome the competitive nature of the job and rise to the top.


Becoming a chef in California is as challenging as it is anywhere else in the country. Luckily, the challenge in the Sunshine State comes with a higher starting salary and more job opportunities, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy for aspiring chefs to succeed there. It just means that an individual with a strong desire to succeed as a chef has a great chance of doing well in the state of California.

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