Three years into the pandemic, the restaurant industry is still navigating some of the biggest challenges it has ever faced. After lockdowns, disruptions to supply chains, more temporary restaurant closures followed by many permanent closures, the industry is now facing a major hiring crunch. Not an easy time to be a chef or a restaurateur.
But the current situation also presents a unique opportunity for many chefs to find better employment, and getting a higher salary is a big part of that. Some chefs will look for employment opportunities abroad, so we did the research to find some of the best paying countries for chefs.
This was not a straightforward task, as official statistics on chef’s employment and salaries are not easily available. Even countries that do publish wage statistics might not report on the same metric (median vs average) or might use slightly different ways to categorize chefs and cooks.
To be clear, our research focuses on chef salaries, not (line) cooks. Chefs earn substantially more than cooks, as much as double in countries like the United States.
Within the same country, salaries can also vary quite substantially. Take the US for example, where the national average is $59,000 (gross), while a San Francisco-based chef earns on average $90,000/yr and a chef in Memphis, TN will earn half of that. You can find large differences in other countries as well, but, with a few exceptions, the national average still provides a great benchmark for local wages.
We also decided to report net incomes in USD, which comes with a few challenges of its own. Taxation may differ based on location and personal situation. We used online salary calculators to determine the net amount and used the average local tax in each country with variable local taxes.
With all these caveats, we’d like to stress that these numbers are estimates only and should be viewed as such. If you are a chef and you’d like to work abroad, make sure to do your due diligence and learn about local regulations and taxes.
Highest Paying Countries for Chefs
Switzerland tops the charts, offering the highest net incomes for chefs. Not that surprising given the Swiss top the world salary charts and taxation is low compared to their Western European peers.
Chefs looking to find work opportunities in Switzerland will find a highly developed hospitality industry. With 119 Michelin-starred restaurants, Switzerland has the 3rd highest number per capita in the world.
NOTE: Salaries in the table below are Net Incomes after taxes and in USD
The United States comes in second with a net income of $46,000 per year ($59,000 gross) or roughly $3,800 per month.
Despite regional differences, in most states the average salaries for chefs range somewhere between $50-$60,000 per year (gross amount).
The wealthy Nordic nations of Denmark and Norway rank 3rd and 4th, while neighbouring Sweden ranks 7th. In Denmark, chefs earn on average $3,600 per month (23,750 DKK), in Norway their average net income is roughly $3,300 (29,000 NOK), while Swedish chefs expect to earn on average $2,897 (26,500 SEK).
The only downside besides the not-so-great weather, unless you’re a winter sports buff, is the notoriously high cost of living. But that’s a common reality in most high-paying cities and countries, be it Norway, Denmark, Switzerland or many parts of the US.
If you’re looking for something sunnier, head to Australia, home to great beaches, a fantastic restaurant scene, and some of the best paying chef jobs in the world. Australia ranks 5th worldwide with a net monthly salary of $3,087 USD ($4,341 AUD).
Australia offers the best salaries with remunerative rates, accommodation provided, and amenities paid for with most roles, says Michelle Gamble, Chief Operating Officer of Frontline Recruitment, a specialist recruiter operating across Australia and New Zealand. Chefs from anywhere in the UK due to their training are highly sought after, along with Filipino and Nepalese chefs due to their calming and hard-working style in the kitchen, according to Michelle.
Many chefs are also looking to find work in neighbouring New Zealand due to similar salaries and a high standard of living and work conditions. New Zealand ranks 11th in our rankings with an average net income of roughly $2,600 USD.
Home to the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants, Japan ranks 6th. For a country long closed to immigrants, Japan is largely seen as a closed society where outsiders can struggle to fit in and find employment.
For English-speaking chefs, Ireland is a great destination in Europe. Chefs expect to earn on average $2,872 (2,500 euros), according to a survey by Dublin-based recruiter Excel.
Ireland is one of the many countries badly impacted by staff shortages. According to the Restaurant Association of Ireland, 70,000 people have left the restaurant industry since the pandemic hit and there’s a shortage of 7,000 chefs.
Dubai and the UAE have been a top destination for chefs from all over the world. The cosmopolitan nature and wealth of the emirates and its thriving restaurant scene have been a magnet for chefs, especially from Asian countries. In our rankings, UAE ranks 9th worldwide and second in Asia, with an average net pay of $2,841.
Germany closes the top 10 with an average net income of $2,667 (2,391 euros), followed closely by France ($2,645/mo net income or 2,314 euros). Europe’s economic powerhouses offer plenty of great employment opportunities for chefs and a very high standard of living.