Guess what, kids? Contrary to what the smiling men and women on the Food Network may have led you to believe, most chefs don’t make seven-figure salaries. A new book called Culinary Careers, written by ICE president and CEO Rick Smilow, reveals that while executive chefs can earn between $70,000 and $140,000 a year, sous chefs take home about $45,000 to $50,000. And then the pay rate keeps decreasing according to seniority, or lack thereof.
The book, which Nation’s Restaurant News previewed today, surveys chefs across the country about their pay, which seems to vary a great deal. Graham Elliott Bowles, the chef-owner of Chicago’s Graham Elliott, told Smilow that cooks at his restaurant earn around $30,000, and chefs make around twice that amount. Meanwhile, Katie Button, a line cook en route to Ferran Adria’s el Bulli, reported that the typical line cook salary ranges from “free to $15.50 an hour.”
In other words, it’s going to take a little while to earn back all of the cash you spent on a culinary school education.