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What is a Sous Chef and What do they do?

Jun 15th 2022 - Monica Cunanan restaurant, 

What is a Sous Chef and What do they do?

All modern professional kitchens run according to a strict hierarchy, with the French Brigade system used in order to ensure the whole operation runs as smoothly as possible. By the time a cook becomes a sous chef, they have worked every station in a restaurant and can run the kitchen. Learn about where the term comes from and everything a sous chef does.

What is a Sous Chef?

A sous chef works in a kitchen and is responsible for reporting directly to the chef de cuisine or executive chef. They've worked their way up to a position either at the restaurant where they're the sous chef or at another restaurant. As a sous chef, you should be able to prepare all of the dishes served at the restaurant. They should also know how to do minor repairs on the kitchen equipment themselves.

The Sous Chef Within the Chef ranks

  • Executive Chef: Head Chef, who could be in charge of one or a group of Restaurants, typically has a financial interest in the group.
  • Chef de Cuisine: They are experienced chefs who run the kitchen of a single restaurant to ensure that customers have a valuable experience in the restaurant.
  • Sous Chef: They are the under chef
  • Chef de partie: They are in charge of a station and are responsible for cooking all of the items coming from that station. They are also in charge of keeping stations clean. Back then, a large restaurant would have many stations in the kitchen.
  • Saucier: in charge of the sauce, broth, and soup dishes with amazing cooking skills.
  • Poissonnier: cooks fish and shellfish
  • Roisseur: In charge of roasts and braises
  • Grillardin: works the grill and broiler (also known as a salamander in a professional kitchen)
  • Friturier: cooks everything in the deep fryer
  • Entremetier: makes vegetable side dishes, eggs, and soups
  • Tournant: They are all-around cooks that have essential skills and can step in and help anywhere involving food preparation.
  • Garde Manger: In charge of preparing cold food including salads and cold appetizers
  • Boucher: butchers for the restaurant
  • Patissier: does the baking, pastry, breadmaking, and ice cream making
  • Commis chef: They each commit works under a chef de partie to learn the techniques
  • Aboyeur: As the expediter, calls out the dishes needed and gets them on the trays for the waiters

What Does a Sous Chef Do?

A sous chef makes sure that the kitchen runs smoothly every day. This includes being responsible to order the ingredients for the restaurant; maintaining the order and cleanliness in the kitchen; keeping all of the cooks on track and teaching them new menu items and cooking techniques. They are usually responsible for the order and the discipline in the kitchen, giving recommendations and reporting on cooks to the chef Sous chefs have a responsibility to the restaurant, the chef, and to themselves. 

They need to keep up with the latest trends and techniques so that they can step up to the next level when the current chef retires or moves on to another position. When they reach executive chef-level of experience and confidence, they can choose to remain where they are and become a true leader in the restaurant, or they can follow the path of becoming the chef de cuisine in their own restaurant and start the cycle again by training the next generation of sommeliers.

A small restaurant may not require a sous chef. In this case, the cooks on task would have a small amount of staff like prep cooks. There might be several cooks working at a restaurant where everything is made from scratch, from the stocks to bread to salad dressings and ice cream. They might have a few sous chef shifts who cover all of the shifts every day and allow for people to take a day off.

How to Become a Sous Chef

What are the education requirements and qualifications?

Kitchen Experience is important. Most sous chefs begin their kitchen jobs as line cook or dishwashers. They learn the skills needed to move up at their current jobs. Some chefs will gain experience by attending a culinary school or trade school to get a culinary degree. Sous chefs who want to advance their skills can get apprenticeships through culinary schools or other organizations. They learn in-depth knowledge about culinary science, along with managerial skills, leadership skills, menu planning, and many more. Apprenticeships usually last two years. Communication skills are also important to have smooth-running kitchen operations. 

To become a sous chef you need to know how to cook each menu item, be able and willing to step in and take over if someone cooks on the line in case there is an emergency, and be able to step up to the top position if the head chef isn't in the kitchen. They should have the ability to work every single station in the restaurant, be highly organized and know how to order and analyze costs for the entire menu. A sous chef must also be a good teacher because he/she trains the new kitchen staff. They often expedite the order process by calling out to each cook when they're ready to begin cooking the food. They assure that the quality standards are up to par.

How much does a Sous Chef Make?

In the Culinary Industry, the average annual salary for a sous chef in the United States is $45,000 per year. Depending on the area where you live, the average salary can range from $26,000 to $60,000 per year.

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