A career as a Chef - What are the career paths you can take, including the different Chef levels
What does a Commis Chef do?
- Commis Chef is the first rung of the ladder
- This is an entry-level position / assistant or apprentice
- You work under the line of chefs in the kitchen to learn each food section
- You will prepare food under supervision of more skilled Chefs
- Gains knife and prep skills by working with Chefs
- Experiences the pace and demands of a kitchen
- You will move around different areas of the kitchen
- You must at all times maintain high hygiene standards
What does a Chef de Partie do?
A Chef de Partie, also known as a "station chef" or "line cook", is in charge of a particular area of production. In large kitchens, each Chef de Partie might have several Commis Chefs assisting them. In most kitchens however, the Chef de Partie is the only Chef working within their assigned section. Line cooks are often divided into a hierarchy of their own, starting with "First Cook", then "Second Cook", and so on as needed.
As a Chef de Partie you will move around each section and your responsibilites in each section will be as follows:
- Sauté Chef (Saucier) - Responsible for all sautéed items and their sauce. This is usually the highest position of all the stations.
- Fish Chef (Poissonier) - Prepares fish dishes and often does all fish butchering as well as appropriate sauces. This station may be combined with the saucier position.
- Roast Chef (Rotisseur) - Prepares roasted and braised meats and their appropriate sauce.
- Vegetable Chef (Entremetier) - Prepares hot appetizers and often prepares the soups, vegetables, pastas and starches. In a full brigade system a potager would prepare soups and a legumier would prepare vegetables.
- Roundsman (Tournant) - Also referred to as a swing cook, fills in as needed on station in kitchen.
- Pantry Chef (Garde Manger) - They are responsible for preparing cold foods, including salads, cold appetizers, pâtés and other charcuterie items.
- Butcher (Boucher)- Butchers meats, poultry and sometimes fish. May also be responsible for breading meats and fish.
- Pastry Chef (Pâtissier) - Prepare baked goods, pastries and desserts. In larger establishments, the pastry chef often supervises a separate team in their own kitchen or separate shop.
What does a Pastry Chef do?
A Pastry Chef or Pâtissier is a station Chef in a professional kitchen, skilled in the making of pastries, desserts, breads and other baked goods. They are employed in large hotels, bistros, restaurants, and bakeries. A professional Pastry Chef presents a traditional French croquembouche.
The Pastry Chef is a member of the classic brigade de cuisine in a professional kitchen and is the Station Chef of the pastry departmenter. As with other Station Chefs, the Pastry Chef may have other Chefs or assistants within their department. Bakers may also be members of the pastry departmenter in bakeries and larger establishments such as hotels.
Day-to-day operations can also require the Pastry Chef to research recipe concepts and develop and test new recipes. Usually the pastry chef does all the necessary preparation of the various desserts in advance, before dinner seating begins. The actual plating of the desserts is often done by another Station Chef, usually the Garde Manger, at the time of order. The Pastry Chef is often in charge of the dessert menu, which besides traditional desserts, may include dessert wines, specialty dessert beverages, and gourmet cheese platters.
What does a Sous Chef do?
The role of Sous Chef is very important in a busy kitchen as it is his job to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of food preparation. A Sous Chef doesn't have the financial responsibility of the Head Chef whose job is more business orientated. Instead, the Sous Chef takes care of the working practicalities, ensuring food is served to the highest standards. A busy, successful kitchen is a stressful place to work and by no means calm and peaceful. However, it is an exciting environment, filled with Chefs who are employed for their passion about food and all Chefs look to the Sous Chef for instruction.
Once almost exclusively the domain of male workers, the modern restaurant kitchen is increasingly populated by both male and female workers. Although the knock-on effect of years of male domination has resulted in the fact that it is mainly men who fill the upper roles of Sous and Head Chef, female Sous Chef's are becoming increasingly common.
- Management. A Sous Chef is a management position responsible for the smooth running of the kitchen. He will make daily decisions on which areas of work his staff will work on and oversee both their working methods and the end product (food) created.
- Staff training will be a major part of his role as he will introduce Chefs to new techniques and working methods in order to create the dishes that he or the Head Chef may have designed or decided upon.
- Quality Control is ensured as each dish that goes out does so under the Sous Chef's scrutiny and he may add finishing touches before they leave the kitchen.
- Menu design is usually taken care of by the Head Chef but the Sous Chef will likely have a large input here also.
- Stock ordering must be done daily and the Sous Chef must have a handle on exactly how much produce is needed versus how much he has.
What does a Head Chef do?
The Head Chef is in charge of a whole kitchen, supervising everything from cookery to staff. The Head Chef or Chef de Cuisine is at the helm of any kitchen, and controls the entire operation. He is responsible for every aspect of the kitchen's running, from ordering raw produce to maintaining hygiene standards, not to mention supervising the cooking of the food. Because the word ‘Chef’ in English has come to mean a professional cook of any sort, it is important that the distinction be made between the Head Chef and his assistants.
The Head Chef traditionally reaches his position through a long apprenticeship in the lower ranks of the kitchen, gaining experience on every 'station' - before taking charge of the whole array of different facilities that make up a modern kitchen. The Head Chef usually presides over a restaurant kitchen where much of the food is cooked from scratch. The short-order cook can be found working in an environment where he must produce food quickly, such as a fast-food restaurant or café.
Gordon Ramsay famously claimed in 2005 that ‘women can’t cook to save their lives’ – then went on to appoint a woman to the position of Head Chef at his 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in West London.