Every week we comb through the news to find trends impacting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s Hospitality in the News topic we answer the question, what does an executive chef do? 

Did you know that July is recognized as National Culinary Arts month? It’s a time to celebrate and pay tribute to all the culinary professionals out there, from prep cooks to executive chefs. Speaking of, what does an executive chef do? And how do you get on the career path to become one? We’ll tell you everything you need to know below.  

What is an executive chef? 

Before we can answer, “what does an executive chef do?”, we have to know what an executive chef is. Simply put, an executive chef is the leader of the kitchen. They make both culinary and managerial decisions for the back of house.  

Executive chefs work at a variety of venues which include restaurants, hotels, catering companies, and country clubs. Often, you’ll find them at fine-dining restaurants or high-end establishments with a food program.  

One factor to note is the hierarchy of the kitchen. In addition to executive chef, you’ll hear phrases like head chef, sous chef, and/or chef de cuisine in relation to one another. Sometimes the order can be confusing as the names can be interchanged. You may see an executive chef position referred to as a head chef – or you may see a sous chef (who works below the executive/head chef) referred to as a chef de cuisine. The most important factor to know is that the executive chef is at the top of the food chain.  

Now that you understand what an executive chef is, we can move on to the question, what does an executive chef do? 

What does an executive chef do? 

We briefly mentioned above that the executive chef is the head of the kitchen. But let’s go into more detail about what an executive chef actually does. Though position responsibilities may vary from restaurant to restaurant, overall executive chefs are responsible for the following:  

  • Hiring, training, and overseeing kitchen staff. 
  • Maintaining and planning inventory. 
  • Managing the budget and inventory cost control. 
  • Designing, planning, implementing, and updating the menu. 
  • Coordinating with front of house manager or other leaders. 
  • Administrative duties to ensure smooth operations. 

Executive chefs work closely with their second in command, which is either the head chef or the sous chef/chef de cuisine. They may not always be hands-on in the kitchen (some tasks may be delegated to their second in command) due to their other responsibilities but know everything that goes on in their kitchen.  

In addition to the above, executive chefs need to pay close attention to guest feedback, whether that’s directly from the guests themselves or through service/front of house staff. Though customer feedback is always important, it’s especially crucial during a time when people are picky about where they choose to spend their money (and time). If you’re not taking feedback into account, you might be spending money on inventory you don’t need, staffing too much/too little, etc. 

How do I become an executive chef? 

If you’re serious about the hospitality industry, have a talent for the culinary arts, and are looking for a position that provides long term security, then becoming an executive chef is a great option. Who knows, you may even become the next Gordon Ramsey, one of the most famous executive chefs in the world.  

But in order to get to that level, you’ll need to grow your culinary experience and skills – which can take several years. And you’ll need the 3 P’s to be successful: perseverance, patience, and passion. Here’s how you use those soft skills to become an executive chef: 

Perseverance: Depending on your experience, you may have to start at the bottom of the kitchen hierarchy and work your way up the ladder. As we mentioned, getting to executive chef level could take years and definitely takes a ton of hard work. Despite these challenges, you need to keep going until you reach your goals. 

Patience: Foodservice jobs are challenging and can be frustrating – anyone who’s worked in the industry knows that. But through times of difficulty, you must endure. Remember what you’re working towards and how far you’ve come. Don’t let little frustrations stop you from getting where you want to be.  

Passion: If you want to be an executive chef, you need to have the drive it takes to succeed. Having a strong passion for hospitality and culinary arts will propel you towards your goals and help you last during the tough times. With passion for what you do, you’ll have the patience you need and the ability to persevere.  

In addition to having the above soft skills, you need the necessary technical skills as well. If you’re starting off in the industry, you may want to attend culinary school to learn the basics that will help carry you through your career. But many professional chefs didn’t attend culinary school, so if you don’t attend, don’t let that stop you from reaching your goals.  

What’s most important to remember in terms of expertise is that you’ll need the hands-on experience it takes to know every part of the kitchen inside and out. And of course, you’ll need the ability to cook at an executive level. Consider finding a culinary arts mentor that can help guide you through your journey. Someone who has experienced it themselves and can share suggestions on what steps you can take through your career to meet your goals.  

Now that we’ve answered the questions, “what is an executive chef?”, “what does an executive chef do?”, and “how do I become an executive chef?” you can get started on creating a plan on how to reach your dreams. We hope this guide has been helpful and wish you luck on your journey.  


Do you need help gaining the experience it takes to become an executive chef? Or are you an executive chef looking for a new, amazing opportunity? LGC can help with both employment situations – and many more! Click here to learn more about how we can assist with your job search.