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Culinary Director vs. Executive Chef: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A culinary director and an executive chef are both responsible for the food served in a restaurant. However, their roles and responsibilities differ in several ways. If you’re interested in a career in the culinary arts, learning about the difference between a culinary director and an executive chef can help you decide which path is right for you. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between a culinary director and an executive chef, and we provide tips for pursuing a career in the culinary arts.

What is a Culinary Director?

A Culinary Director is responsible for the overall food strategy and operation of a restaurant, hotel or other food service organization. They develop menus, oversee food preparation and ensure that food quality standards are met. Culinary Directors also manage food costs and budgeting, as well as oversee the hiring and training of kitchen staff. In some cases, Culinary Directors may also be responsible for creating marketing and promotional materials related to the organization’s food offerings.

What is an Executive Chef?

An Executive Chef is responsible for the overall food operations of a restaurant, cafe, hotel or other food service establishment. They plan menus, order supplies, oversee food preparation and cooking, and ensure that food is served promptly and at the correct temperature. Executive Chefs also train and supervise kitchen staff, and may be involved in hiring and firing decisions. They typically work long hours, including evenings and weekends.

Culinary Director vs. Executive Chef

Here are the main differences between a culinary director and an executive chef.

Job Duties

Executive chefs and culinary directors may share some job duties, such as creating menus and managing kitchen staff. However, their other job responsibilities can differ because of their different levels in the hospitality industry. Executive chefs typically focus on cooking meals for a restaurant or hotel patrons. In doing so, they may develop recipes, purchase ingredients and equipment and oversee the kitchen staff to ensure that meals are prepared correctly and customers are satisfied.

Culinary directors often have more managerial duties than executive chefs. For example, culinary directors may manage budgets, scheduling, training and food purchasing for an entire company or large facility. They also may work with managers from other departments, such as sales or customer service, to ensure that the dining experience is satisfying for all patrons.

Job Requirements

Culinary directors and executive chefs typically need to have a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts or a related field. They also need to have several years of experience working in a professional kitchen, often starting as a line cook before moving up the ranks. Some culinary directors and executive chefs also pursue certification through organizations like the American Culinary Federation (ACF). These certifications can demonstrate a commitment to professional development and help culinary directors and executive chefs stand out to potential employers.

Work Environment

Executive chefs typically work in restaurants, hotels or other food service establishments. They may travel to different locations and oversee multiple kitchens at once. Executive chefs often have a lot of responsibility and can be on their feet for long periods of time.

Culinary directors usually work in large-scale commercial kitchens. These professionals may also travel to different locations to ensure that the kitchen is operating efficiently. A culinary director may spend most of their day sitting at a desk, but they still need to be physically active because they’re overseeing many employees.


Both culinary directors and executive chefs require excellent leadership skills. Culinary directors typically oversee a team of cooks and kitchen staff, so they need to be able to motivate their employees, provide feedback and delegate tasks effectively. Executive chefs also lead teams of cooks and often have additional responsibilities, such as menu development and inventory management, so they need to be able to juggle multiple tasks at one time and prioritize accordingly.

Both of these positions also require strong organizational skills. Culinary directors often are responsible for creating schedules, ordering supplies and managing food costs, so they need to be able to stay organized and on top of all the moving parts in the kitchen. Executive chefs also need to be able to keep track of many different elements in the kitchen, from ingredient availability to staff performance.

Culinary directors and executive chefs also both need to have excellent cooking skills. They often are responsible for training new cooks, taste-testing dishes and developing new recipes, so they need to be able to demonstrate their culinary prowess. In addition, both of these positions may require public speaking skills when they give tours or present at events.


The average salary for a culinary director is $68,751 per year, while the average salary for an executive chef is $69,977 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the chef has.


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