Working as a chef: the reality

When looking for a job in the hospitality industry, it’s important to know what to expect.

With the rising popularity of cooking shows, young chefs can enter the industry with the wrong impression, and quickly become disillusioned.

“We seem to be living in a world where, if you put on chefs whites you have the right to call yourself a chef. It is more than just the uniform, it’s a lifestyle!” says Neil Abrahams, president of the Australian Culinary Federation.

“Everyday chefs work in an environment where deadlines can never be moved and must be met. You can never say to your guest: ‘We are not quite ready please come back tomorrow’ or ‘Cut! I don’t like that camera angle, let’s do it again’.

“We train for years, never perfecting our craft. We work ridiculous hours under the most volatile conditions with stress levels that would give most a heart attack.”

Working as a chef – the facts

One of the biggest shocks for young chefs can be the pay. A junior in their first year of a cooking apprenticeship can earn as little as $10.80 an hour, or 55 per cent of a commis chef’s wage.

When an apprentice progresses to their second year, they can expect to receive 65 per cent of a commis chef’s wage, and then 80 per cent in their third year.

After completing an apprenticeship, the rate of pay can vary depending on where the restaurant is.

Of the 726,000 people employed in the accommodation and food services industry as of February 2014, over 75 per cent live in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

According to the Frontline Hospitality Salary Guide, commis chefs working at a restaurant in Brisbane have the highest rate of pay, with a salary range of $48K-$50K a year. Next is Melbourne, with a range of $45K-48K, then Sydney with $42K-$48K. Canberra and Perth come in last, with a range of $40K-$45K.

After a commis chef has gained enough experience, they can be promoted to a chef de partie and then a sous chef. By progressing to a sous chef, a chef working in a Sydney restaurant can increase their salary range to $60-75K. This increases further if a chef attains a head chef role, which has a salary range of $70-95K a year.

Then what?

Along with a realistic expectation of the industry, it’s important to know where you stand, and when to make the next step in your career.

Frontline Hospitality can provide realistic advice on your skills, salary expectations and opportunities. With an unparalleled network in the hospitality industry, Frontline can tell you exactly what roles are out there – even the ones that haven’t been advertised.

The team provides support for applicants from start to finish, and can help with negotiations and aid in the transition between roles.


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