Not Such Top Chefs: Who’s making the real dough?

Celebrity chefs are big business.
They syndicate their own TV shows, command seven figure cookbook advances, and lend their names to endorse everything from ovens mitts to spaghetti sauce. A speaking engagement or cooking demo might net them upward of $50,000 for a few hours’ time, and investors line up to partner with them as they expand their restaurant empires into vacation hot spots from the Bahamas to Las Vegas.

What about the guy behind the stove at your corner bistro?
There’s no legion of fans swooning over his cooking on the Food Network—he just wants to impress the restaurant critic in the local paper and get a few good plugs in Yelp. He lives and dies by the table turn on a Friday night and the wholesale price of hanger steak.

Away from the spotlight, most chefs toil away in their kitchen clogs and baseball caps in semi-anonymity. They’re paid better than teachers, not as well as doctors, and probably not enough to afford them dinners out at restaurants as nice as theirs.

Here’s the skinny on who makes what in the kitchen.
Data comes from the culinary arts salary guide at and the annual salary survey conducted by There can be significant differences between restaurant types and locations— salaries are all given as national averages.

Chef/Owner: $85,685
The dual role comes with the most creative freedom, but demands a double dose of pluck and fortitude and the ability to walk the line between craft and commerce, all while holding up both ends.

Executive Chef: $79,402
The kitchen’s top dog (absent an owner who cooks), the role tends to be more executive than chef, with hours spent on planning, costing, and ordering functions.

Sous Chef: $42,266
How’s that for a drop— little more than half their bosses’ salaries, and they’re the real workhorses. Sous chefs usually have the kitchen’s longest work day and its most brutal pace. See the one working through the staff meal? That would be the sous chef.

Pastry Chef: $48,861
Yeah, they don’t get the big bucks, or even their due, but then again, they only use their knives to cut through butter.

[image via MSN.


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