Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Chefs prepare menus and food in a variety of establishments. The employment outlook for chefs is good, particularly for experienced chefs. There has always been a high turnover of staff in the hospitality industry.

How to become a chef

What they do

Chefs prepare and cook food in hotels, restaurants, cafes, catering operations/institutions and bars. Most chefs work across all food areas. However, a small number choose to specialise, for example, as a pastry chef.

Their tasks may include:

  • planning menus, estimating food and labour costs, and ordering food supplies
  • monitoring quality of dishes at all stages of preparation and presentation
  • discussing food preparation issues with Managers, Dietitians and kitchen and waiting staff
  • demonstrating techniques and advising on cooking procedures
  • preparing and cooking food
  • explaining and enforcing hygiene regulations
  • selecting and training staff
  • freezing and preserving foods.

Qualifications needed

Chefs train by completing a full-time Level 3 and 4 New Zealand Certificate in Cookery. This can be done either with a training provider, or in a workplace as an apprentice. Some employers are unable to take on cookery apprentices, but still offer training in either of the Level 3 or 4 certificates as appropriate.

This combination of work and study usually takes two to three years to complete. This is seen by the industry as a pathway for ‘future stars’.

There are generally no entrance requirements for a New Zealand Certificate in Cookery (Level 3). NCEA Level 1 and hospitality subjects or the Tertiary Education Commission’s Gateway programme for schools may be useful.

Many large employers offer the opportunity for ‘work exploration’ so that young people considering a career as a chef can have some ‘real life’ experience in a kitchen before making that final commitment to study or become an apprentice.


If you want to become a fully qualified chef you will need to do an apprenticeship and gain the two national certificates: the New Zealand Certificate in Cookery - Level 3, and the New Zealand Certificate in Cookery - Level 4.

Together with a commercial competence assessment they make the apprentice a ‘trade qualified chef’. 

Cost of study

New Zealand Certificate in Cookery (Level 4)New Zealand Apprenticeship in Cooking (Level 3 and 4)
$6,000 over one year. Some employers offer this qualification as on-job training at little or no cost.

Free from 2017.

Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

The least expensive way to become a chef is to complete an apprenticeship or on the job training. This way, you can earn money while gaining a qualification.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

Many training providers across New Zealand offer Certificates in Cookery. Service IQ arranges apprenticeship and on-the-job training.

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a Level 4 certificate in the broader category “Food and hospitality” has declined since 2009. This could mean that fewer people are finishing cooking qualifications.

Qualification completions chart


Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


A chef’s income depends on the size, type and location of the establishment they work in, and the position they hold.

Most chefs earn an hourly rate. According to the Restaurant Association’s 2018 Hospitality Industry Remuneration Survey, incomes generally range between $33,000 and $65,000. Some typical national average pay rates for different types of chefs are outlined below:

PositionHourly rateSalary
Apprentice $16.92 n/a
Commis chef $18.50 $43,654
Chef de Partie $19.63 $46,641
Sous chef $22.17 $52,800
Pastry chef $20.27 n/a
Head chef $24.76 $62,006
Executive chef $30.39 $79,119

Source: Restaurant Association of New Zealand Remuneration Survey 2018

Employment and skill shortages

Chefs’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
12,912 16,218 19,470 22,050
  3.3% 3.1% 2.1%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Food Trades Workers”.

The number of chefs grew at 3.3% annually between 2006 and 2013, and employment is projected to grow strongly until 2028.

For a variety of reasons, only 40% of graduates are working as a chef five years on. At the same time, restaurants in many regions struggle to recruit experienced chefs.

Employment chart


Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
11% 19% 4% 62% $39,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission
*Three years after completion of L4 Certificate - Food & Hospitality.

Most graduates were either in employment or overseas three years after completing a Level 4 diploma in food and hospitality.  The median salary was around $39,000.

The job prospects for qualified chefs are quite good, due to a shortage of qualified chefs in New Zealand and increasing tourism. The shortage is largely due to:

  • too few people completing chef training
  • many chefs going overseas for work
  • a high number of cooking graduates not staying as chefs - only about 40 out of every 100 are still in the occupation after five years.

Chefs are on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, which means that the government is actively encouraging chefs from overseas to work in New Zealand. The demand is for chefs who have a Level 4 qualification and a minimum of 5 years' experience offering a la carte/banqueting or commercial catering, with a minimum of 2 years at chef de partie level.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Since 2013, the number of online job vacancies for chefs has increased at a much faster rate than the average for all vacancies. In 2019, there were almost 2.5 times as many job ads as there were in 2013. This should mean that it has become easier for chefs to find work since 2013.

Jobs advertised chart


Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Some chef vacancies are advertised through public media such as local newspapers and the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites, though many are offered through industry contacts and word-of-mouth.

Trade Me Jobs:

Career path

On-the-job experience and further training open up various options for qualified chefs to move into different roles in the kitchen.

Most chefs start at an apprentice level as a commis chef, before progressing to a demi chef, chef de partie, sous chef, and then head/executive chef.

Some chefs choose to open their own restaurant or work in restaurant management. You could choose to specialise in a particular type of food, for example, pastry. There are opportunities to be gained by competing in local and international competitions.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level chefs.

  • Baker
  • Café Manager
  • Chef de Partie 
  • Commis Chef 
  • Cook
  • Demi Chef 
  • Head Chef
  • Kitchenhand
  • Second Chef 
  • Sous Chef
  • Waiter

Other information


More information on chefs is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:

The ServiceIQ is the industry training organisation for hospitality in New Zealand; their website is a good place to find information on industry and training options.


The Restaurant Association of New Zealand website is a useful source of restaurant industry news and events.

Restaurant Association of New Zealand:

The New Zealand Chefs Association (NZChefs) represents and promotes the chef profession. It offers memberships for secondary school students, tertiary students and apprentices, and it manages all regional and national hospitality competitions.

NZChefs gives members opportunities to network with fully qualified chefs to assist and mentor their careers.



The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of chefs has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

351 – Food Trades Workers
8513 – Kitchenhands