CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
Music – “When I Grow Up” from Here We Go by Melissa. Released: 2006
One day, little Billy or Susie is asked what he or she wants to “be”. Little Billy answers, “a chef”. Little Susie says “a doctor”. Mom and Dad begin to do some research and give up the cigarettes and booze to start college funds.
What can Billy expect if he makes it to being an Executive Chef? Well, he can essentially control a kitchen and has the opportunity to work in many different venues and locations, depending on his skill set, for example, Pastry Chef, Culinary Nutritionist.
The Executive Chef might end up in a fancy five-star hotel, or on a high end cruise ship. He may open his own restaurant and charge exorbitant prices.
The Executive Chef may have artistic license to a degree, to experiment with recipe development, menu creation and experimentation. For the most part, he won’t be stuck in a tiny cubicle, chained to a computer. He may achieve status through professional certification, which will increase his chances of making more money.
Culinary schools in the US do not come cheaply. A four-year Bachelor’s degree from The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park) will cost you approximately $106,000. Coming in slightly less is a four-year Bachelors degree from Kendall College in Chicago, at approximately $90,000. At Johnson & Wales Culinary School, Billy (or rather, Billy’s Mom and Dad!), can expect to pay around $28,000 per year and they offer both two-year and four-year degrees.
Is there a down side to becoming an Executive Chef? Well, according to online surveys and discussions, the employment opportunities for Executive Chefs is expected to decline by approximately 1% between 2010 and 2020. The competition is stiff, both in acceptance in culinary schools and in finding an Executive Chef position. Often, more time is spent in administrative tasks, rather than focusing on cooking and there are the long, long hours (12 hours or more per day is not uncommon), plus the irregularity of schedules. Then, there is the hot, crowded and potentially hazardous kitchen conditions.
In addition, the Executive Chef often performs Human Resources roles as well, having to hire and fire, and deal with Prima donnas and temperamental cooks, unlike the Doctor, who only has to deal with Medicare, HMO’s and Obamacare.
So, what is the average salary of an Executive Chef today? There is a range, which differs by location and culinary degree (associates or bachelors), but the average range, based on most website comparisons is typically between $50,000 and $85,000. Naturally, the newly minted Executive Chef cannot expect to start out at the high end of the range, and he or she may earn considerably more after a few years of experience, but that’s the typical range, for 2012.
Now, for little Susie, who wants to be a doctor, and for her purposes, we are calling her a General Practitioner (GP). First of all, she will need to complete her medical training. A brief summary of 85 public medical schools in the USA indicate that the average tuition (not including fees, etc.) is approximately $28,000 for a first year medical student. Private schools, although not included in the summary, generally cost more. Susie can expect to be in medical at the very least, five years, possibly longer.
What can Susie expect after she becomes a GP? Well, on the plus side, she may have the satisfaction of helping people, assuming she’s not just in it for the $$$.
There is the potential for high earnings, and even more, if she continues on to specialize. She will probably have many opportunities to work in various facilities and locations. There are opportunities for personal growth, and “respect” (everyone respects the medical profession, right?).
On the down side, Susie will have to be licensed and board certified. She may spend a long time in medical school to achieve that status and admission to medical schools remains competitive. She will have to keep up with new trends and advances, through continuing education.
She will likely have an erratic and unpredictable schedule, as people just don’t get sick to fit a schedule.
Susie will have to fork over a lot of big bucks for medical malpractice insurance in order to avoid or minimize the potential for bankrupting lawsuits.
In addition, Susie will be stressed if she can’t cure a patient, or worse, loses one. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
However, Susie will have the opportunity to make considerably more than her brother, Billy. The average GP in the US makes between $168,000 and $174,000 annually. That seems like a pretty good incentive.
So, Billy may spend $105,000 to attend his culinary school and Susie will likely spend more to become a GP. But, when Billy graduates, he could expect to earn a salary in the neighbourhood of $50,000 to $85,000 a year, depending on his experience and location of employment. Susie, on the other hand, can expect to do considerably better, earning an average of $168,000 per year, possibly more or less.
Generally speaking, although the recent culinary art graduate or GP shouldn’t expect to start at the high end of the pay school, the salary discrepancies between being an Executive Chef and being a General Practitioner are wide. Both will be able to wield knives. Both will cater to the individual. Both will be able to advance their skill sets: Billy can set his sights on being an Executive Pastry Chef: Susie may opt to be a Psychiatrist. Either way, they will probably have to engage in continuing education. But, Billy won’t have to deal with puking patients, or screaming children, or death certificates (unless it’s Death by Chocolate) and most Executive Chefs probably don’t have to worry about being sued by the family of a restaurant patron, who died after eating the chef’s food.
The pay may be less, but I’d be willing to bet that Billy will be less stressed than Susie, who will probably burn out, abandon her career and sign up for online culinary arts courses. Then, she can a get a job working as a line cook for Billy.