The executive chef is the senior-most post in any kitchen. In a restaurant, the executive chef, or chef de cuisine as he is called in Europe, is in charge of all kitchen staff and the meals that are prepared.
Executive chefs oversee all kitchen operations and handle duties such as ordering supplies, keeping accounts, and planning menus. They are also responsible for food preparation and styling, recipe development, and meal creation. Executive chefs ensure appealing presentation as well as good taste. In large restaurants with numerous staff, executive chefs may do little of the actual cooking. But they work long hours nevertheless. In a recent survey*, most executive chefs reported working 9-11 hours a day, and roughly a third reported working 12-14 hours a day.
Salaries for executive chefs vary considerably based on location and employer -- be it a private household, corporation, or full-service restaurant. An experienced head chef at an elegant five-star restaurant in a big city may make as much as $120,000 or more. Of course, the median salary for executive chefs and head cooks is a bit lower than that -- $40,700. This number includes chefs and head cooks with varying amounts of experience. And median wages grow in areas that attract more tourists, such as Las Vegas, Hawaii, or New York City.
A note on titles: Some restaurants with multiple locations may call the head chef in one location Chef de Cuisine, while the corporate chef, who oversees all other chefs, is called the Executive Chef.
*Survey by StarChefs.com