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Chefs/head cook salaries surpass national average

But kitchen bosses are on the decline while restaurant cook jobs grow

The gap between bosses and workers in restaurant kitchens is continuing to widen with chefs and head cooks paid almost twice what their subordinates earn on average, according to a report released Tuesday.

For an annual report, a culinary website called Chef’s Pencil took a look at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018 and found chefs and head cooks earned on average $52,160, which was up 5% year over year. That average also beat the national average wage of $51,960.

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The average for chefs/head cooks, however, was almost twice the average salary of $27,580 earned by restaurant cooks last year, a more than 89 percent difference. In 2001, by comparison, the average salary of chefs and head cooks was $30,330, while restaurant cooks earned an average of $19,230, a nearly 58% difference.

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Employment for chefs and head cooks has dropped for two consecutive years, according to the data. There were 128,600 chefs and head cooks in the U.S. in 2018, down by 4.3 percent from the peak in 2016.

The worst year-over-year job losses for chefs and head cooks were seen in New York (down by 1,390), Texas (down by 1,250) and Michigan (down by 710).

Alternatively, states that saw big gains in the number of chefs and head cooks include Florida (up 2,380), California (up 1,070), Wisconsin and Connecticut (both up by 400).

The number of lower-level cooks, however, grew to an all-time high of 2.4 million, the report said.

“This may indicate a continued growth of restaurants and eateries, but concentrated in the lower end of the market, where chefs and head cooks are rarely employed,” the report said.

Chef/head cook salary levels varied across the country, however.

Hawaii — where the average salary for chefs and head cooks is $74,510 — continued to be the best-paying state for those at the helm in restaurant kitchens. New Jersey came in second with an average salary of $70,260 for chefs/head cooks.

Looking at metropolitan areas, chefs and head cooks earned the most in Honolulu ($83,250), followed by Florida’s Sebastian-Vero Beach ($75,450), Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina in Hawaii ($75,430); Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. ($71,940) and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura in Southern California ($68,180).

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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