Chefs direct food preparation and cooking activities, as well as prepare meals and specialty foods. They work in a wide range of establishments, where meals are served to groups, from restaurants to hotels to catered events. Some chefs work in private homes and others work for large food manufacturers, where they create branded food products sold at grocery and other retail outlets.
Watch the video below to learn what a typical day is like for a chef.
Chefs must be creative, organized and good with details. They may need to manage a budget, create menus, order and check the quality of the ingredients (especially fresh produce, meat, fish and seafood), and make sure all dishes leaving the kitchen meet quality standards.
It’s important to have good communication skills, manage and motivate kitchen staff, and be able to respond to last-minute changes or challenges. Chefs must be able to work under pressure, handle many different tasks at once, lead a team and create a positive work environment in the kitchen. Chefs must also have a high standard of personal hygiene and follow all food safety and sanitation standards.
Estimated median employment income based on 2021 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))
Note:Estimated median employment income based on 2021 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))
Source: 2021 Job Bank Wage Report
Source: B.C. Labour Market Outlook
10 year expected job openings: 3,490
There are many of types of chefs.
Specialist chefs and chefs:
Chefs work in a range of establishments where meals are served to groups, including restaurants, hotels, hospitals and seniors’ homes. They may also work for catering companies, on cruise ships or private yachts, on military bases or in school cafeterias. Some chefs work in private homes or in large food manufacturing plants.
Chefs work full-time, part-time, on contract or on call. The hours may include early mornings, late evenings, weekends and holidays. The work may also be seasonal, especially at resorts.
The work of a chef primarily takes place in a kitchen, which may be very large or quite small. Some chefs may have an office to do their administration and paperwork. Many large restaurants and institutional kitchens have modern equipment, convenient work areas and air conditioning. Older, smaller locations may have less comfortable work settings.
By law, kitchens must be well-ventilated, appropriately lit and properly equipped with sprinkler systems to protect against fires; however, even a large kitchen can feel crowded and hot during the busiest times of the day. Chefs may need to work in small areas, lift heavy objects, work near hot ovens and grills, and stand for extended periods of time.
Chefs are under constant time pressure and must make sure they follow quality, safety and sanitation guidelines. Safety is key to avoid risks, including slipping, falling, cuts and burns.
Source: 2016 Census
Chefs generally need:
Sous-chefs, specialist chefs and chefs usually need:
Executive chefs usually need:
Note: While there is no specific trade certification for chefs, people in this career may have earned a certification as a cook. Trade certification for cooks is available through SkilledTradesBC but is not mandatory for employment. Those who wish to be certified must complete a three-year apprenticeship program.
Work experience and in-class instruction are part of apprenticeship programs. Some part-time and online programs may be available. To apprentice, workers must be sponsored by an employer. A person who successfully completes an apprenticeship program and the final certification exam earns a Certificate of Qualification. Workers with significant experience in the trade may be able to challenge the certification exam to earn the Certificate of Qualification without completing a formal apprenticeship. For more information on earning a Certificate of Qualification, visit SkilledTradesBC.
To work in other provinces
Cooks (see note above) may need Red Seal certification to work in other provinces. This can be earned by passing an exam and proving significant work experience.
Workers coming to B.C.
Chefs who are certified by a regulator elsewhere in Canada can apply for the same certification from the regulator in B.C. Under the terms of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), most applicants who are transferring their credentials from elsewhere in Canada will not be required to complete additional training or testing. However, the B.C. regulator may ask applicants to provide further information, such as a letter of good standing, references or a criminal record check.
Workers who trained outside of Canada
Chefs who trained outside of Canada and have never received certification from a Canadian jurisdiction will likely need a full assessment. Most occupational regulators have a process for assessment and recognize internationally trained applicants. Contact SkilledTradesBC for details on how to apply for certification in B.C.
For information about labour mobility in Canada, visit workersmobility.ca.
View a list of B.C. occupational regulators.
For more information about programs offered specifically for this career, visit EducationPlannerBC.
Every job calls for a certain set of skills. Knowing those skills is the first step in finding a good career fit.
Here, you will find the 35 most relevant workplace skills. Some are more important to achieving success in a certain career than others. These skills may come naturally to you or you may need to gain them through education, training and experience.
See the list of work-related skills below, ranked in order of importance for this career. You’ll also find the skill strength needed, letting you know how capable you must be in that skill.
Check out the list and see if this career matches your skills—take that first step!
While the terms chef and cook are often both used to describe a chef, industry sources say there is a difference. A cook is someone who can put together a meal by following a recipe, whereas a chef uses their formal training to create original dishes. A chef understands flavours and textures and how they go together. They are skilled in complex cooking techniques and can create recipes from scratch using fresh ingredients. A chef is more likely to have a high level of responsibility in the kitchen, which may include deciding what is on the menu.
Chefs need to stay up to date on new culinary trends and have an idea of what customers are looking for. They need to plan menus months in advance and have a good idea of what will be popular and available. They must understand the cost of specialty items and stay within their budget. They may also need to come up with ideas if a key ingredient becomes unavailable. Since restaurant guests are concerned about how their food is grown or raised, chefs must also stay informed.
Negotiation and people skills are important tools for a chef. Building relationships with suppliers is also an asset. Getting specialty ingredients at a reasonable price or having the first pick of popular items is key in this competitive industry.
Maintaining a solid network with other chefs, cooks and kitchen workers is an important part of building a strong career. It creates a collaborative industry where culinary professionals support each other, something industry sources say is critical for the success of the chef and the restaurant.
Some chefs raise their profile and personal brand through social media, such as Instagram. They create a fan base by showcasing new dishes, specialties and other unique talents.
With training and experience, sous-chefs may advance to executive chef positions. Similarly, executive chefs may progress to managerial positions in food preparation establishments. A chef may progress from a smaller kitchen to a larger establishment or may specialize in an area such as being a private chef for a high-profile businessperson or celebrity. A chef may also choose to open their own restaurant, appear on or host a cooking show, or write a cookbook.