Michelin star restaurants have a reputation for ostentatious fine dining and high prices, so it’s only natural to wonder how much money their talented chefs rake in. So how much does a Michelin star chef make? Well, unfortunately, it’s not such a simple question to answer.
First of all, it’s important to note that Michelin stars aren’t awarded to chefs but restaurants, despite the loose language that often surrounds the honour. You might, for instance, hear it be said that Alain Ducasse is the chef with the most Michelin stars. However, it isn’t really accurate to say that Alain Ducasse has 20 Michelin stars, but rather that the restaurants he runs have accumulated a total of 20 Michelin stars.
Photo: Pierre Monetta
This is important because there can obviously be a clear distinction between the amount of money made by a chef (or restaurateur) who runs 10 restaurants with a combined 3 stars and a chef who runs 1 restaurant with 3 stars (the most a single restaurant can get).
There are many other factors complicating the matter too. For instance:
- Does the chef own or co-own the restaurant? Chefs who double as restaurateurs will of course take a share of the restaurant’s profits on top of their salary. But very often the head chef is only a paid employee.
- How many stars does the restaurant have and what sort of restaurant is it? Despite the Michelin guide’s reputation, not every restaurant it awards stars to is expensive. The cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world is Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Singapore, which serves meals for less than $2 a head. The kitchen staff there are almost certainly not being paid as much as at the consistently fully booked Noma in Copenhagen, where you’re likely to pay more than $500 a head. The best-paid chefs generally work in the most elite restaurants and hotels, with or without Michelin stars.
- Where is the restaurant based? This matters a great deal as differences in salary can differ significantly from country to country and city to city. A head chef in a London-based Michelin star restaurant will very likely make more than one in rural Spain. That said, when taking the cost of living into account, it’s possible to be better off overall on a lower salary.
Those are just a few reasons why there’s no easy answer to the question of how much chefs make in Michelin star restaurants. But we can at least endeavour to give you a rough idea.
Here we’ll give you an idea of how much head chefs and sous chefs can expect to make in Michelin star restaurants across four cities with the most Michelin star restaurants in the world: London, Paris, Tokyo and New York.
Michelin Star Head Chef Salary
The head chef, or executive chef, oversees the operations of a restaurant or hotel kitchen and is responsible for all food from the moment it’s conceived right up until plating. They are invariably the restaurant’s best paid employee.
A mid-career head chef (about 5–9 years of experience) at a London-based restaurant earns an average of about £33,300. An experienced head chef (10+ years experience) can expect to be making around £40,000. However, at a Michelin star restaurant in London, the head chef is unlikely to demand anything less than £50,000 a year.
Head chefs in Paris make between €60,000 and €70,000 a year. At a Michelin star restaurant, the head chef should be looking to make at least the higher end of that scale.
Head chefs in Japan are often paid more than 10 million Yen ($92,000) a year. That includes at non-Michelin star restaurants, so the head chef at a Michelin star restaurant in a major city like Tokyo can expect to make at least that.
Head chefs in New York Michelin-star restaurants can make up to almost $100,000 a year.
Michelin Star Sous Chef Salary
The sous chef is the head chef’s second in command and occasionally their protégé. It is often the final step of the career ladder before becoming a head chef. They have many high-level responsibilities, often including staff training, shift scheduling, and food presentation.
The average salary for a chef in a UK Michelin star restaurant is about £28,000 a year, or £14.36 an hour. That’s about the minimum a sous chef can expect to make in London, although more experienced chefs in Michelin star restaurants can be looking at at least £40,000 a year.
The average salary for chef in a US Michelin star restaurant is a little under $57,000. However, experienced workers, such as sous chefs, in a city like New York, can expect to make considerably more – in the region of $70,000–80,000.
Budding professional chef? Click here to find out what your salary expectations can be here. Or learn more about the culinary world’s top female chefs here.