Head And Executive Chef – What’s The Difference


A chef makes all the kitchen difference, being a trained or skilled cook who oversees food preparation in the restaurant and other dining outlets. Every meal from a standard kitchen would require the chef’s skills and expertise, who combines food ingredients using kitchen utensils to come up with cuisines that customers want. Apart from meeting the customers’ present food needs, the chef applies his culinary skills in continuously creating recipes and formulating food preparation processes, usually being proficient in one cuisine, either Italian, French, Asian, etc. We will discuss Head And Executive Chef.

A chef’s role in managerial and administrative functions often involves an executive chef and a head chef’s expertise. Most hospitality organizations combine the head and executive chef as one; however, they are both different and closely knitted. The size of the hospitality organization’s kitchen and scale determines factors if both roles are performed by the same person or separated between two persons.

The term chef originates from the French word ‘chef de cuisine,’ which implies a kitchen administrator. The title chef originates from the Haute cuisine or high cuisine in France from the early 17th century. It consisted of cuisine or cooking with elaborate preparation and out-of-the-season fruits and food, thereby making it affordable only by the high class and royalty.

Culinary art has continuously been the most important aspect of every kitchen, from the 1900s to the present day. An explicit attraction for customers in contemporary fine dining and institutional and casual restaurant and a career path for aspiring cooks. There is a growing demand for exquisite cuisines, in light of the growing rates of international travel among consumers, that requires that a chain of restaurants spring up to cater to these demands and have chefs that can make these cuisines available across these restaurant chains. For countries like the USA, where the customer base is very diverse, the need for head and executive chefs cannot be over-emphasized, as they possess the required skills and culinary expertise to provide cuisines that would satisfy a diverse customer base.

Chef training is rather vocational than academic, a more practical experience than theoretical. Although, diplomas and degree certifications in culinary are offered by tertiary institutions and several certified culinary schools. Given the practical emphasis of the learning process of becoming a chef, there are a lot of upcoming chefs who relish apprenticeship opportunities under an experienced chef to cut their learning curve.


Every establishment must follow a stated structure or hierarchy to ease workflow with specific duties attached to each role. The kitchen, which serves as the boardroom to the creation of culinary art, also has its structure and is largely based on the ‘French Brigade System’ etymologically referred to as the Brigade de Cusine, adopted by both Americans and European restaurants and high rated hotels and facilities. The French Brigade System aims at creating a hierarchical structure on which the kitchen must run smoothly. There are 8 major roles in this structure, with each of them playing important duties in food preparation.

  • The highest level of authority within the kitchen is the executive chef, loosely known as the group chief.  The position is the highest pinnacle in the career of every chef and kitchen worker. The executive chef primarily performs managerial and administrative duties at various kitchen outlets, with usually little to no cooking responsibilities.

  • The executive chef is followed by the head chef, professionally referred to as the Chef de Cuisine. The head chef performs the kitchen’s managerial function, basically in charge of liaising with the restaurant manager in creating recipes and menu, cost control, staff management supplies, and purchase. 

  • The sous chef, also called the deputy chief, is an assistant to the head chef, although more involved in the kitchen’s day-to-day operations.

  • Chef de Partie, or simply station chef, has a fixed area of specialization within the kitchen. Under this section, there are various chefs, each being responsible for each stage of food preparation Roles in chef de partie include:
    • Saute chef is charged with sauteing food and formulating new sauces. 
    • The Butcher chef is charged with meat and poultry preparation.
    • Pastry chef specializes in baking and dessert making.
    • Fruitier, otherwise known as the fry chef, oversees the preparation of fried food items.
    • Griiardian has full mastery of all grilling procedures.
    • Chef de Tourment or the relief cook has no specific area of expertise but fills in when needed.
    • Commis Chef is a junior chef under the tutorage of a chef de partie.
    • Kitchen Porter performs the less tedious task in the kitchen and basic preparatory functions.
    • Dishwasher performs cleaning functions—ie washing all utensils after cooking.
    • Waiters and waitresses.

Head And Executive Chef – What’s The Difference

The professional cooking industry is fast rising; hence the executive chef and the head chef positions, which comprise the two topmost positions in the kitchen structure, are continuously on the frontline of service provision. They both have similarities and differences in their job functions that require high-end culinary skills, managerial and supervisory duties. These two functions have been infused as one in certain hospitality organizations despite clearly varying functions illustrated by the brigade de cuisines. 

The demand for either the expertise of an executive chef or a head chef is based on the size of the hospitality organization, the profile, and the customer base’s diversity. With these factors, most restaurants and fine dining establishments might infuse both duties into one role, making one person perform both roles. In contrast, some top-rated restaurants follow the proper brigade system and split the roles between 2 persons.


The similarities between both roles would be more glaring in organizations where both roles are merged.  These similarities are discussed in the areas of management, expertise, and their roles and functions.

  • Management 

Both positions are managerial as they involve the management of the kitchen, its personnel, and resources, overseeing the restaurant’s day-to-day activities. They work closely with restaurant managers to create a budget that meets the required food purchases and quality. They can also be owners or co-owner of the restaurant, hereby taking up the top position. An example is Thomas Patrick Colicchio, who co-founded the Cramery Tavern in New York City while also serving as the executive chef.

  • Expertise

The executive chef and the head chef require long years of training and practicing of culinary skills. Hence they have worked their way up through the brigade de cuisine, the kitchen structure hereby attaining different professional levels. As a result of this, they became widely and popularly known worldwide, hereby having opportunities to become Michelin star chefs. Most executive chefs have over 10 Michelin stars and have the privilege to work in Michelin restaurants or possibly own their restaurant, TV shows, and author cookery books. The popular judge on the reality shows 24 Hours to Hell and Back and Master Chef reality show Gordon Ramsay was a head chef and a top chef mentored by Marco Pierre White. 

  • Roles and Functions

They are both highly rated and closely knitted. They both oversee the maintenance of kitchen equipment and other kitchen facilities to ensure easy flow of work and adhere to safety precautions. They both allow an apprenticeship and training of kitchen personnel to improve productivity. They also play the role of guest judge on cooking TV shows, making it easy to be identified as a celebrity chef.


The differences between both roles can be seen in organizations where both roles are split. These differences are discussed in terms of management and their roles and functions.

  • Management

They both perform managerial functions but at different levels. The executive chef is more vast in management, managing a wider range than the head chef. The executive chef manages a restaurant’s chains or larger facilities found in hotels, residential services, and banquet halls. In contrast, the head chef manages the kitchen affairs in a single facility. The executive chef acts on a supervisory and administrative level while making certain decisions outside the head chef’s jurisdiction. On the head chef, the head chef is more of a leader in the kitchen and in charge of other kitchen personnel, from hiring to managing the staff. 

  • Roles and Functions

The executive chef has little participation in daily kitchen activities except on important occasions and for high profile guests but gives the final approval for menu planning that meets the demands of each kitchen they manage. The head chef must liaise with the restaurant management in menu planning. Therefore, the head chef is tasked with the day-to-day kitchen operational activities, taking responsibility for every meal prepared in the kitchen.

While the head chef is charged with the final plating and food preparation processes, recipe creation,  the executive chef deals with the quality control and sensory aspect of food preparation; hence every meal prepared is subjected to final approval from the executive chef. The executive chef must approve the methods and combination of ingredients that make up a new recipe, putting the taste of the meal into consideration.

The operation method also differs; while a head chef would most likely experience long and extensive working hours due to standing and moving about in the kitchen, an executive chef job would not follow this pattern but a more official approach.

Earning and Salary Structure 

According to PayScale.com, the executive chef’s median salary and earning in 2020 is $60,839, while that of the head chef was $53,712. The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics provided the statistics. Simply put, the executive chef earns relatively higher than the head chef. 


Going into the future, more split between the executive chef and head chef is expected. This is given the organic growth of hospitality organizations that would require they serve a more diverse customer base. Chefs within these organizations as they grow will occupy more executive roles, while some other chefs would b required to manage within the kitchen as the head chefs. Moreover, some celebrated chefs’ growing trend owing their restaurants would drive the trend of executive chefs required to oversee the head chefs and other lower levels.

Also read Deputy Manager vs Assistant Manager – What’s the difference?

Head And Executive Chef – What’s The Difference

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top