What is a chef and what activities are involved?

When they think of a chef, people quickly think of well-known names such as Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Herman den Blijker, Sergio Herman or Jonnie Boer. Although they are in charge and are excellent cooks, they are not chefs. So what is a chef? What are the duties and responsibilities and how do you become a chef?

  • Definition of a chef
  • Chef, master chef or entrepreneur?
  • Activities
  • Course
  • Salary indication


Definition of a chef

A chef (unofficial spelling: chef or chef) is the head of a professional kitchen and supervises the kitchen staff. This puts the chef at the top of the hierarchy and has ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in the kitchen.

Every catering company that has a kitchen employs a chef. In very exceptional cases it may happen that more than one chef is employed . This sometimes occurs in very large companies such as hotels, a catering company or on a cruise ship. Another exception where more chefs can be employed is a secondment agency. Although we are not talking about the catering industry here, but about the services sector.

Chef, master chef or entrepreneur?

Source: Danbrad, Unsplash

It is important not to confuse a chef with a master chef or entrepreneur. For example, a chef manages the kitchen and an entrepreneur manages the entire company. It naturally happens that the chef is also the entrepreneur. This is a very tough combination that should not be underestimated. The combination means that the working week consists of many more working hours.

An SVH Master Chef is a protected title. You will be awarded this if you pass an aptitude test from the Horeca Professional Competence Foundation . This is the highest title that a chef can obtain in the Netherlands and has very strict requirements. At the beginning of 2019, there are only 146 SVH Master Chefs in the whole of the Netherlands.


Activities and responsibilities



  • Delegating work to and collaborating with the sous chef
  • Directing, motivating, training, correcting and training staff
  • Carrying out assessment, evaluation and performance reviews
  • Conducting job interviews
  • Conduct work consultations or set up meetings
  • Create work schedules taking into account leave requests
  • Keep an overview of hours worked and breaks (also consider plus and minus hours)
  • Taking care of work clothes
  • Ensure correct and efficient communication between kitchen and service
  • Handling any complaints, questions or problems (possibly in consultation with the manager and/or sous-chef)

Structure and efficiency

  • Create a menu and update it periodically
  • (Contributing to) drawing up and bundling recipes
  • Compliance with allergen legislation and helping to prepare an allergen overview for the menu
  • Monitor kitchen, warehouse, refrigeration and freezer layout

Purchasing and inventory management

  • Purchasing products and kitchen supplies
  • Quality control of products upon delivery
  • Inventory management and control of storage of goods
  • (Also) maintain HACCP logbook

Equipment, materials and maintenance

  • Ensure you have the right equipment and materials
  • Ensure periodic maintenance
  • Ensure maintenance or replacement in case of problems

(Pre)preparation of dishes

  • Communicating and managing staff
  • Delegating orders and dishes
  • Checking (pre)preparation of dishes for quality, quantity, layout and temperature
  • Monitor compliance with HACCP and safety regulations

Financial administration

  • Preparing menu cost price calculations
  • Maintaining administration of purchasing
  • View finances of personnel deployment
  • Overview of food waste and reasons for it

In many catering companies, the above tasks are divided between the chef and sous chef. The sous chef is the chef’s right hand and also the substitute when the chef is not present. The chef is ultimately responsible.


There are no specific training courses to become a chef. Chef is a position that you can grow into within a company or apply for directly. To become a chef you simply need a lot of experience. Not only in cooking, but also in management. You are almost always asked for several years of work experience as a sous chef before you are eligible for the position of chef. In addition to having worked in various restaurants, you will also need to have the necessary papers. In most cases, an MBO level 4 diploma is required. Often in combination with a teacher’s diploma and social hygiene.

There are various level 4 courses:

  • Specialized chef (2 to 3 years)
  • Catering entrepreneur/manager (3 to 4 years)
  • Kitchen manager (2 years)
  • Star class: Journeyman Chef (1 to 2 years)

Courses offered by De Rooi Pannen , Cas Spijkers Academy and Sterklas are generally seen as the most prominent culinary vocational courses in the Netherlands. Although it is not necessary to receive training specifically here, these often have added value. An HBO education at the hotel school is also an option.

Salary indication

The salary of a chef falls under job group 7, 8 or 9 of the collective labor agreement. Which job group you fall into is determined based on the experience and diplomas of the chef, as well as the responsibilities and tasks associated with the position in question. For a full-time employment contract of 38 hours per week, this amounts to a salary indication of 2,306.31 to 2,753.06 gross in 2019.

Vacancy site Inde ed keeps an overview of the average salary that chefs have reported in the last 3 years.

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