Head chef

Head chefs oversee restaurants’ staff, food and budgets.

Average annual salary (starting - experienced): £16,000 - £50,000

Typical hours (a week): 40 - 48

How to become a head chef

You could get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role


You could study for a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • culinary arts
  • hospitality management
  • professional cookery

University (Entry requirements)

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree


You could do a college course like a Level 3 Diploma In Advanced Professional Cookery or Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts.

College (Entry requirements)

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 1 or 2 A levels, a level 3 diploma or relevant experience for a level 4 or level 5 course


You could take chef de partie or senior chef advanced apprenticeship. You could also do a senior culinary chef higher apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship (Entry requirements)

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship


Most head chefs work their way up after starting in a job like a kitchen assistant, before working as a section chef and building up their experience. You'll also need a qualification in food safety.

More info

Further information You can find out more about careers in catering from the Hospitality Guild and CareerScope.

What it takes

Skills & Knowledge

You'll need:

  • knowledge of food production methods
  • maths knowledge
  • leadership skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to monitor your own performance and that of your colleagues
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you'll do

Day to day

You could:

  • plan menus and create new dishes
  • research and source new ingredients and catering equipment
  • present new ideas to senior staff
  • make sure food is of the right quality and price
  • manage stock
  • order food from suppliers
  • control a budget and keep accurate records
  • manage health and hygiene procedures
  • organise and supervise the team preparing and presenting food
  • recruit, train and develop staff

Working environment

You could work at a restaurant, in an NHS or private hospital or on a cruise ship. Your working environment may be hot and humid. You may need to wear a uniform.

Career path and progression

Career path & progression

With experience, you could go on to manage larger kitchens and more staff. You may work for a large restaurant chain managing more than one kitchen. This is a management role, so cooking duties may be limited. You could also set up your own business, running your own restaurant or franchise. Some head chefs go on to set up their own restaurant brand.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
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