The kitchen’s second in command
The term "sous" comes from French, and it means "under." A sous chef ranks directly below the executive chef. The sous chef is directly in charge of day to day production in the kitchen. Because the executive chef must spend so much time in his or her office, tending to issues related to business and long-term planning for the restaurant, the sous chef is generally given the responsibility of ensuring the kitchen functions efficiently and effectively.
A sous chef must have many years of experience in all stations of the kitchen and, in most cases, must have a certificate or degree from one of the top cooking schools in the world. Generally, he or she must have also previously served as a tournant (also called a swing cook or a floater).
Some sous chefs act as an expeditor. This means that they serve as the liaison between the restaurant’s customers and its line cooks. They deal with complaints regarding food quality. They also are in charge of coordinating cooking so that all food is delivered by the wait staff to the customers in a timely fashion and so that everyone sitting at a table is served at the same time.
Occasionally, the sous chef will share some duties with the executive chef, including ordering and menu planning. Should the executive chef ever take a vacation or become ill or hurt, the sous chef will temporarily assume his or her responsibilities.
Some very large kitchens employ more than one sous chef, with each one assigned to a particular area of responsibility in the kitchen. Some hire a morning shift sous chef to oversee food preparation, and one or more evening sous chefs to manage cooking.
The standard responsibilities of a sous chef include:
- Supervising the kitchen staff
- Preparing and cooking meals to order
- Demonstrating cooking techniques and proper equipment usage to the kitchen staff
- Some menu planning
- Some ordering of food and kitchen supplies
In order to succeed as a sous chef, there are a few characteristics that you should possess. These include:
- Several years of experience working in a kitchen
- A formal education in the culinary arts
- Good communication skills
- Able to work long hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays
Sous chefs earn somewhere in the range of $26,000 to $65,000 per year.