A sous chef has a crucial role in any commercial kitchen. In French, sous chef translates to under chef in English, which means they are under the head chef and are the second in control of the kitchen. It is their duty to make sure the kitchen runs smoothly whether the head chef is present or not. The sous chef has a lot of responsibility, and the job is very demanding.
Sous chefs supervise the food preparation as well as safety in the kitchen and make sure the dishes maintain the high standards set by the executive chef.
How to become a sous chef
To become a sous chef, a person needs professional training. They can get this from a culinary school, or they can work their way up the hierarchy of employees in a restaurant. Some restaurants consider people who have worked their way up as having better preparation for a sous chef than those who attended culinary school. Being a sous chef may be the ultimate goal for some people, but for others it is a good position from which to eventually becoming an executive chef.
The responsibilities of a sous chef
Directing the food preparation is a major role, but the majority of duties are administrative. Some of the responsibilities of the sous chef are proper storage of supplies, payroll, staff conflicts, hire and fire employees and do whatever it takes to make sure the kitchen is running smoothly. They should be able to fill in for the executive chef if it becomes necessary. Sous chefs are most commonly employed in restaurants, hotels, cruise ships and casinos.
Dealing with the other employees in the kitchen is a major part of the job. The sous chef needs to be authoritative and delegate jobs to smoothly run a large staff. They need considerable culinary experience to train and mentor junior chefs to bring out their talents, and they also need to hire and fire kitchen staff. This means they will discipline underperforming staff and provide incentives for good staff.
Storing and ordering supplies is another important role for the sous chef. They need to find vendors that have high quality ingredients at low prices and always know which items are in supply and which are not. They will be the first to notice that the lettuce is wilting and which spices are running low. Along with this, they are responsible to make sure the kitchen is spotless after the cooking is done for the day. They may require every pot to be washed everyday whether it has been used or not.
How to become a sous chef?
Whether they attend culinary school or work their way up in a restaurant, a sous chef must be able to run a restaurant kitchen smoothly. They work long hours until late at night and on weekends. Several years of experience are required for a chef to be ready to take the responsibilities of a sous chef. To get this experience, a person may take a job as a cook. This may be a low-level job, but it will give the person experience in preparing different types of food. They may learn how to prepare dishes low in sodium, vegetarian, gluten-free or sugar-free. A sous chef needs to have knowledge of this type of cooking.
Good culinary knowledge is also important for a good sous chef. Which foods complement each other? Which dishes are popular? He or she must always be ready to learn new dishes and innovate to create their own new dishes.
Other aspects of cooking such as sauces, gravies, salad dressing as well as wine, spirits and desserts must also be second nature for them. They may have a specialty such as seafood or desserts.
The job requirements for a sous chef may seem never-ending and the responsibility may seem overwhelming, but for some people this is the ultimate job. For others, who are hoping to become a chef de cuisine or head chef, this is a necessary step before they get the high financial reward and glamour of being an executive chef. They will have the experience and references necessary to open their own restaurant.