Chefs and Head Cooks
Standard Occupational Classification #35-1011 Chefs and Head Cooks
SOC Definition - Direct the preparation, seasoning, and cooking of salads, soups, fish, meats, vegetables, desserts, or other foods. May plan and price menu items, order supplies, and keep records and accounts. May participate in cooking. Also known as: Executive Chef; Pastry Chef; Sous Chef
Chefs and head cooks are classified as food preparation and serving related occupations with the majority working in the accommodations and food services industry. For chefs and head cooks 45.1 percent work in full service restaurants, another 7 percent at limited service eating places like cafeterias, grills and buffets, snack and non-alcoholic beverage bars, 10.6 percent in accommodations including traveler accommodations, casino hotels, RV parks and recreational camps, and 6.0 in the amusement, gambling and recreation industry. Education employs 1.5 percent and hospitals about .9 percent and private households 4.9 percent as self-employed chefs.
National employment as chefs and head cooks was 129,370 in 2015. Jobs are up since 2000 when jobs were 122,860. The annual average job increase equals 434 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of .34 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for chefs and head cooks of 1,130 per year through 2024 at a growth rate of .85 percent a year.
Job openings make a better measure of new hiring than job growth. Job openings are job growth and the number of net replacements. Net replacements are people who permanently leave an occupation for another occupation or retirement and must be replaced before there can be job growth. Job openings for chefs and head cooks are forecast to be 3,000 a year through 2024.
The recently updated BLS Education and Training Classification assignments list high school diploma or equivalent skills as necessary for entry into jobs as chefs and head cooks. However, percentages from survey data are published for chefs and head cooks showing an educational distribution where 29.2 percent have a high school degree, 17.6 percent have less than a high school degree, 22.5 percent some college, but no degree, 16.9 percent have an associates degree, 12.3 percent have BA degrees, and 1.6 percent have an advanced degree. Five years of experience in a related occupation is considered necessary to a chef or head cook but on-the-job training should not be necessary for new hires.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports degree data for America’s colleges and universities. There were 1,138 BA degrees granted in personal and culinary arts in 7 programs in June 2012, the last year of complete degree data. These include baking and pastry arts-baker-pastry chef , culinary arts-chef training, restaurant, culinary, and catering management, and meat cutting-meat cutter. Degrees are up from 2006 when 736 finished similar degrees.
The basic wage data from the BLS occupational employment survey includes a wage distribution. Averages are not used much in wage data. A few high wages pull up the average and make it unrepresentative. Instead a distribution range of wages is published with the 10th, 25th, median, 75th, and 90th percentiles of wages. A 10th percentile wage means 10 percent working in this job have wages equal to or less than the 10th percentile wage and so on. Annual wages are converted to hourly wages by dividing annual wages by 2080
The entry wage for the national market in the 10th percentile for chefs and head cooks is reported as $23,150 in 2015. The 25th percentile wage equals $30,840. The median wage is $41,500, the 75th percentile wage equals $57,110 and the 90th percentile wage is $74,170.
The wages of chefs and head cooks have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $34,670 in 2015, the chefs and head cooks wage would need to be $40,408.09. In stead it was $41,500, a 2.70 percent increase in the real wage for those 9 years.
Some employers pay a salary to their chef employees in lieu of an hourly wage in order to avoid paying overtime at time and a half. For an employer to pay a salary and be exempt from overtime pay the employee must be paid at least $23,660 a year, or $455 a week, and meet the definition of their work defined in the regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act as amended. The regulations have always included managerial, professional and educational occupations.
When the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations were revised in 2004 by the Bush administration a new list of specific occupations was included as exempt. Chef was on the list. I have given the regulations that define the work of a chef that an employer needs to meet to pay a salary and be exempt from overtime pay if they pay at least $23,660 a year.
Overtime exemption defined for Chefs---Chefs, such as executive chefs and sous chefs, who have attained a four-year specialized academic degree in a culinary arts program, generally meet the duties requirements for the learned professional exemption. The learned professional exemption is not available to cooks who perform predominantly routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work.
It is common for employers to title and define someone’s employment to fit the overtime exemption definitions, but it can be exploitive, sometimes bluntly so. If a salary is set close to the 10th percentile wage of $23,150 or less it is a real abuse, but less so the closer pay gets to the median of $41,500.
The Obama Administration has raised minimum salary required for exemption from overtime from $23,660 to $47,467. If a chef’s salary is below $47,467 then his employer will have to pay time and half for overtime beginning December 1, 2016 to be in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The only way to avoid paying overtime by paying a salary will be to pay an annual salary more than $47,467.