Unit Group 6241

Skill Type: Sales and Service Occupations

Type of work

This unit group includes various types of chefs who plan and direct food preparation and cooking activities and who prepare and cook meals and specialty foods

For the full and official description of this occupation according to the National Occupational Classification, visit the NOC site.

Examples of Occupational Titles

  • chef
  • chef de cuisine
  • chef de partie
  • corporate chef
  • executive chef
  • executive sous-chef
  • head chef
  • master chef
  • pastry chef
  • saucier
  • sous-chef
  • specialist chef


Job prospects in this occupation are fair.

(Update: June 2015)

Over the last few years, the number of chefs has increased significantly. Job growth in this occupation depends mainly on trends in the food industry and consumer preferences. Given that these trends should continue, it is expected that the number of chefs will continue to increase significantly over the next few years.

Sources of employment

Job opportunities will come mainly from employment increase and from positions left vacant by chefs retiring, being promoted to restaurant and food service managers (see 0631), opening their own restaurants or leaving the occupation. Experienced chefs can also progress to similar positions in first class restaurants. In first class restaurants, chefs must start out as apprentice-chefs, then progress to assistant cooks and finally sous-chefs under the supervision of a chef before becoming qualified cooks and eventually chefs. As a result of this career path, the proportion of chefs under the age of 25 was, according to National Household Survey data, between a half and a third of what it was among cooks in 2011 (13% compared with 30%). In addition, only 10% of graduates with a Vocational Studies Diploma in cooking who held training-related paid jobs worked as chefs, while close to 80% of them worked as cooks (see 6242), according to data from the provincial government Relance survey.

Labour pool

Job openings are available first and foremost to experienced cooks (see 6242), to unemployed chefs and, to a lesser degree, to vocational training graduates (see Training). A great number of positions should be filled by immigrants who satisfy occupational requirements. In fact, the proportion of immigrants in this occupation was quite high in 2011 (35% compared with 14% in all occupations, according to National Household Survey data). In the Montreal region, the proportion was 54%, but still 22% elsewhere in Quebec. They were working in both restaurants specialized in foreign cuisine and other types of restaurants.

That being said, a number of candidates may enter this occupation on the basis of experience and training of various kinds. In fact, in 2011 barely 32% of chefs had a postsecondary vocational diploma in personal and culinary services, according to National Household Survey data.

This occupation attracts many candidates. Since demand can vary considerably depending on chefs' specialties and changing consumer preferences, some specialties could have a labour surplus while others experience a lack of qualified candidates.


According to National Household Survey data, in 2011 approximately 67% of all chefs worked in the food service industry, primarily in full-service restaurants (51%), but also in special food services (11%), including caterers and cafeteria services. There were also a considerable number of chefs in health care and social assistance (8%) and hotel restaurants (8%).


Changes in employment in this occupation are mainly related to trends in food services, which are related to the economic situation, tourism, and demographic factors.

Economic situation

The restaurant industry is extremely sensitive to the economic climate, as dining out is often one of the first spending cuts consumers will make. On the other hand, once that climate improves, it is usually one of the first luxuries they decide they can afford. After a difficult year because of the recession in 2009, receipts and employment started rising again from 2010 to 2013. The modest economic growth expected over the forecast period (2014-2018) should therefore have only a slight impact on boosting employment in this industry.


The tourism industry has experienced strong growth during the 1990s, but less afterwards. Since 2003, the high Canadian dollar makes tourism more expensive in Quebec for foreign tourists and cheaper to travel abroad for Quebecers. Consequently, the Quebec travel deficit increased each year between 2002 and 2012. The decline in the value of the Canadian dollar in 2013 and especially in 2014, however, suggests a reversal of this trend. Thus, if the lower level of the Canadian dollar continues, tourism could again contribute to job growth in this industry.

Many of the jobs in tourism-related services are seasonal but efforts to develop business tourism and tourism products based on the features of the different seasons are helping to spread tourism activity more evenly over the year.

Demographic factors

As in most occupations, employment in food and beverage service depends in part on population growth. However, given that Quebec's population grew an average of only 0.81% annually between July 2001 and July 2014, population growth has had only a very slight impact on boosting employment in this occupation over the past few years. Institut de la statistique du Québec demographic forecasts indicate that population growth should be very similar (0.80%) to that observed in the past 13 years over the forecast period (2014-2018). Consequently, population growth should continue to have only a slight impact on boosting employment in this occupation over the coming years.

Changes in food sales

Over the past 20 years, significant changes have taken place in Quebec's food sales. According to Statistics Canada's weights for the consumer price index data, the proportion of household budgets devoted to food purchases increased by more than 4% in restaurants while it fell by almost 6% in stores. The relative increase in food purchases in restaurants is partly attributable to an improved economic climate, but mainly to demographic and social factors.

An aging population, an increase in the number of one-person households and the rise in the number of women in the work force have clearly benefited the restaurant industry, and this includes not only conventional establishments, but also take-away counters, delivery outlets and catering services.

This trend is expected to continue over the next few years. On the one hand, the factors feeding this trend should increase in importance, and, on the other hand, in 2011, the proportion of food purchases in restaurants was lower than the Canadian average (28.7% versus 30.1%). This figure could very well increase therefore.

Considering all these factors, the number of jobs in the restaurant industry should increase slightly in the next few years.

Consumption patterns in the restaurant industry

Other trends, which have a relatively neutral effect on the level of activity in the restaurant industry, have a significant impact on employment changes in the main occupations in this industry, including the following one. Population aging benefits full-service but not limited-service restaurants. In addition, limited-service restaurants, which include fast-food restaurants, are suffering from a growing public awareness of the risks of obesity. Population aging also has a negative impact on employment in bars, taverns and nightclubs, which are part of the restaurant industry.

These trends impact on employment is good primarily for chefs (6241) and for maîtres d'hôtel, host/hostesses (6451) and, to a lesser degree, food and beverage servers (6453) and cooks (6242), bad for bartenders (6452), cashiers (6611) and food counter attendants and kitchen helpers (6641), and relatively neutral for food service supervisors (6212) and restaurant and food service managers (0631). As a result, chef occupation became relatively more significant in the food services industry and in retail trade. This trend should continue over the next few years.

Other factors

The food services industry is fiercely competitive, whether in the chains or in independent establishments. Consumer preferences also change rapidly. It is certain, however, that consumers appreciate restaurants with a special ambience, whether it is an image, atmosphere or the type of cuisine being served - exotic, diet or gourmet. The role of chefs is obviously critical in the fight to attract customers. In addition, customers very much like to try out different types of cuisine. As each type of cuisine requires a separate chef or sous-chef, this consumer preference helps to increase employment slightly, but more for chefs than for cooks.

Furthermore, restaurants are still one of the easiest kinds of businesses to start up. Turnover is very high because there are almost as many closures each year as there are openings. Historically, the bankruptcy rate in the food services industry has been very high, although it has dropped in recent years. According to Statistics Canada's "National and Regional Trends in Business Bankruptcies, 1980 to 2005", the number of bankruptcies in the accommodation and food services industry in Quebec decreased by almost 80% from its peak level in 1996 to 2005, dropping from close to 1 000 to approximately 200. This appears to be an ongoing trend, as the insolvency rate in the Canadian accommodation and food services industry declined further one-third between 2005 and 2013, according to data from the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy of Canada, while remaining almost four times higher than in other industries.

This turnover results in fairly frequent cycles of unemployment for chefs when the restaurants for which they work close. Several weeks may pass before they are able to find a new job in a restaurant offering a position in their specialty. Some will even leave the occupation to look for more stable employment. Moreover, in tourist areas, a number of chefs only work part of the year. To a large extent, these two phenomena explain why the unemployment rate is fairly high in this occupation despite the strong level of job creation and the relatively high number of new job opportunities.

In addition, the medium- and long-term effect of an aging population will also result in increased numbers in reception centres and long-term care hospitals. This trend should result in a demand for chefs in the health sector while it will be slowed by a decrease in periods of hospitalization in acute care hospitals. The trend will not necessarily result in an increase in the number of chefs in the health care sector. In fact, health care establishments are increasingly subcontracting food services to catering companies (included in special food services industry), who will thus be the ones to benefit from the trend.

Considering all the trends, the number of chefs should grow significantly over the next few years.

Employment characteristics

According to census and National Household Survey data, women held about 25% of the jobs in this occupation in 2011, a percentage that has been fairly stable since 1991 (23%). The data on average employment income ($32,709) shown in the "Characteristics" section of the "Statistics" covers only the 57% of people in this occupation who worked full-time and full-year in 2005. The average employment income of those who did not work full-time and full-year came to $22,080.

Their work schedule corresponds to restaurant opening hours. Evening and weekend work is thus the norm. Chefs work long hours standing.

Education and Training

The training required to enter this occupation varies depending on the type of restaurant and the experience of candidates. When required, the most relevant training is a vocational diploma in cooking. Vocational attestations in restaurant pastry chef and market-fresh cooking are complementary to the vocational diploma in cooking and can be assets. It generally takes several years of experience as a restaurant cook before becoming a sous-chef and then a chef.

A number of private and public institutions, including theInstitut de tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec, provide specialized training and development courses in cooking.

The diploma and attestation of collegial studies (DEC and AEC) in food service and restaurant management techniques and hotel management and tourism are assets for chefs who want to open their own restaurants or be promoted to management positions.

The Canadian Federation of Chefs and Cooks administers a chef certification program that can be an asset.

Useful References

Important Considerations

Given trends in the food services industry and customer preferences, the number of chefs should grow significantly over the next few years.

Chef and cook occupations attract many candidates.

Statistics 6241 - Chefs

Main Labour Market Indicators

In the following table, indicators such as the growth rate, yearly variation in employment, yearly attrition and total annual requirements are forecasts generated by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source for employment is Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The volumes of unemployment insurance beneficiaries come from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s administrative data. All of the data are rounded.

  Unit Group 6241 All occupations
Employment, average 2011-2013 10,400 3,990,050
Employment Insurance claimants in 2013 500 80,700
Average Annual Growth Rate 2014-2018 1.5% 0.7%
Annual Employment Variation 2014-2018 150 26,500
Annual Attrition 2014-2018 150 74,300
Total Annual Needs 2014-2018 300 100,800

Employment Distribution

The data from the following employment distribution tables come from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

  Unit Group 6241 All occupations
Employment by Gender
Males 75.5% 51.9%
Females 24.5% 48.1%
Employment by Age
15 - 24 years 13.2% 13.3%
25 - 44 years 48.7% 42.7%
45 - 64 years 36.7% 41.1%
65 years and over 1.4% 2.8%
Employment by Status
Full-time 88.5% 81.2%
Part-time 11.5% 18.8%
Employment by Annual Income
Full-time, full-year 56.5% 54.8%
Annual Average Income $32,700 $50,300
$0 - $19,999 17.8% 13.3%
$20,000 - $49,999 70.8% 48.0%
$50,000 and over 11.4% 38.8%
Employment by Highest Level of Schooling
Less than high-school 17.4% 12.1%
High-school 22.5% 20.3%
Post-secondary 53.3% 44.2%
Bachelors 6.7% 23.4%
Others Employment Distribution
Self-employment 6.2% 10.7%
Immigration 34.8% 13.7%
Employment by Region
Region Unit Group 6241 All occupations
Abitibi-Témiscamingue 0.8% 1.8%
Bas-Saint-Laurent 1.8% 2.3%
Capitale-Nationale 9.6% 9.4%
Centre-du-Québec 0.9% 2.9%
Chaudière-Appalaches 4.0% 5.5%
Côte-Nord / Nord-du-Québec 1.3% 1.6%
Estrie 2.4% 3.8%
Gaspésie–îles-de-la-Madeleine 0.6% 0.9%
Lanaudière 3.3% 6.1%
Laurentides 7.5% 7.3%
Laval 6.1% 5.2%
Mauricie 1.3% 3.0%
Montérégie 14.6% 19.2%
Montréal 37.7% 22.9%
Outaouais 5.6% 4.9%
Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean 2.5% 3.3%

Main Sectors of Employment

The data of the following table were prepared by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source is Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

Sector Unit Group 6241
Food Services and Drinking Places 67.4%
Health Care and Social assistance 8.2%
Accommodation Services 7.7%