A Sous-Chef is the culinary chef located just below the Executive or Head Chef in a kitchen’s chain of command; therefore, a Sous-Chef has a vital role in any commercial kitchen. The name “Sous-Chef” comes from French and the exact translation is “under the chef”. Therefore, the person occupying this position is directly subordinated to the Executive Chef and has in their charge all the other members of the kitchen staff.
As second-in-command, a Sous-Chef has a large amount of responsibility in the kitchen. A person in this particular role can easily position themselves to becoming the executive of a kitchen or even the head of an entire establishment in time. They are employed in restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and other healthcare institutions, central food commissaries, clubs and similar establishments, and on ships.
Some Chefs may specialize in a certain type of cuisine (e.g. Asian, Ethnic, Mediterranean, and American) or they might prefer a certain type of specialty (e.g. pastry, meat, poultry, fish, and pasta). However, versatility is certainly an asset in the culinary world.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Sous-Chefs are required to complete.
- Ensuring that all food production workers are performing their duties as prescribed by the quality standards established by the Executive Chef:
- Supervising the activities of Specialist Chefs, Chefs, Cooks, and other kitchen workers;
- planning and directing food preparation in the kitchen;
- delegating different tasks to other staff members;
- ensuring that the kitchen operates in a timely manner;
- maintaining order and discipline in the kitchen;
- keeping an eye out for problems that arise in the kitchen and assisting the Executive Chef in resolving them;
- presenting the bill to customers and accepting their payment, or referring them to the cashier; and
- disciplining underperforming staff members;
- providing incentives for staff members that go beyond their established responsibilities;
- establishing working schedules;
- assessing the staff’s performance and providing the necessary feedback; and
- mentoring Junior Chefs and training auxiliary kitchen staff.
- Overseeing all the activities in the kitchen and taking over when the Executive Chef is absent:
- Estimating daily production needs on a weekly basis and communicating them to kitchen personnel daily;
- ordering supplies to stock inventory appropriately;
- following and supervising proper handling and right temperature of all food products; and
- checking the quality of raw and cooked food products to ensure that standards are met.
- Working with the Executive Chef to produce diversified menus in accordance with the establishment’s policy and vision:
- Helping in the preparation and design of all food and drinks menus; and
- coming up with new dishes which appeal to the clients, whenever required.
- Creating tasting menus for customers interested in the food services for different events (e.g. weddings, banquets, corporate dinners, and birthday parties).
- Producing high-quality dishes that follow up on the established menu and level up to the establishment and the Executive Chef’s standards, as well as to the customers’ requirements:
- Operating and using various equipment, including pans, pots, cutlery, ovens, grills, slicers, boilers, grinders, and blenders;
- producing high-quality plates both design and taste wise; and
- demonstrating new cooking techniques and use of new equipment to cooking staff.
- Maintaining and enhancing customers’ satisfaction while employing their culinary and managerial skills.
- Maintaining a positive and professional approach with both coworkers and customers.
- Being aware of changing culinary trends, being open to new ideas and applying them in the kitchen.
- Managing administrative operations:
- Reviewing food and beverage purchases.
- Developing a business network of vendors:
- Meeting with sales representatives in order to negotiate prices and order supplies.
- Following all of the establishment’s safety, hygiene, and security policies and procedures at all times:
- Maintaining the hygiene of the kitchen according to the health inspector’s standards;
- monitoring sanitation practices to ensure that employees follow standards and regulations;
- training employees in safety procedures;
- reporting any incidents or injuries to the manager; and
- following all safety and sanitation policies when handling food and beverages.
The average salary for Sous-Chef related jobs is $38,216 per year or $20 per hour. This is around 1.2 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $27,000 while most experienced workers make up to $54,000. These results are based on 240 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Passion for food and creativity.
- Interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment in a very noisy and potentially hazardous kitchen, as well as to be able to give clear instructions and directions to kitchen staff;
- displaying strong customer service skills, as well as leadership;
- being driven to achieve goals, as well as motivating the staff to achieve team goals;
- speaking with staff using clear, professional, and respectful language at all times; and
- being able to deal with a diverse group of people in potentially adversarial situations using a calm, polite, tactful, discreet, and effective approach.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Having strong multitasking skills; being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced environment;
- being highly responsible, committed, and driven;
- being able to work independently with minimal supervision; and
- being organized and having great attention to detail.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills:
- Being able to remain calm and make effective decisions in stressful situations; and
- identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner.
- Ability to work cohesively as part of a team and possess good judgment.
- Patience and willingness to train and mentor other staff members.
- Self-motivated, decisive, and driven to provide the best service.
- Motor coordination and physical strength:
- Having the ability to make fast, simple, repeated movements of the fingers, hands, and wrists;
- being able to stand for long periods of time in rooms with high temperatures; and
- carrying heavy equipment and supplies.
Aside from the skills listed above, to keep up with the fast pace and intensity of working in a kitchen, Sous-Chefs must have a high level of stamina and be able to think quickly on their feet. Furthermore, a Sous-Chef must possess both managerial and administrative skills in order for the kitchen to run smoothly and successfully according to the established standards. Creativity is always a plus, especially for Sous-Chefs who create original recipes and new ways to prepare food.
The Sous-Chef job doesn’t usually require any type of education or formal training as long as the candidate has the necessary skills and the requested experience; however, a diploma from culinary school, community college, or a technical school, may accelerate the ascension on the professional ladder. On the other hand, working their way up from Dishwasher or Kitchen Assistant is very common in this industry. Most culinary programs cover all aspects of kitchen work, including menu planning, food sanitation procedures, and purchasing and inventory methods. Some programs even include learning a second language, which is usually French.
Some Chefs may spend years working in kitchens as Cooks or Junior Chefs before learning enough to get promoted to Sous-Chef, and then, respectively, to Executive Chef . A Sous-Chef job is one of the most reputable positions in the culinary hierarchy. It brings prestige and opens the gates for public recognition for many highly qualified Chefs. However, it requires discipline, intensive work, a lot of passion, a thorough preparation at the workplace, as well as an active mind, always ready to learn and be challenged.
In order to become a Sous-Chef, candidates are required to have a minimum of 6 to 10 years of experience in a kitchen and in fine dining restaurants, as well as strong knowledge of back of house operations (e.g. food and beverages, staff supervision, inventory, and food safety).
Finally, Sous-Chefs don’t typically work on a nine-to-five schedule, they must be able to work late nights, holidays, and weekends, as well as to stand and walk for an 8 to 12-hour long shift.