What Are the Duties of a Sous Chef?

A sous chef, whose title comes from the French word 'sous' for 'under', is the second-in-command in a kitchen, usually working under an executive or head chef. As a sous chef, you might plan menus, schedule staff, or even handle conflicts in the kitchen or with customers. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Defined

Chefs work in a hierarchical world, with each chef answering to the one above him or her. The executive chef is the apex of the hierarchy, but it is the sous chef who performs many of the daily actions in the kitchen, from inspecting foods to ensuring cleanliness. Sous chefs coordinate chefs underneath them and keep the kitchen running smoothly. If you are interested in becoming a sous chef, develop your problem solving and communication skills along with your cooking expertise.

Important Facts About Chefs and Head Cooks

Entry-level Education High school diploma or equivalent
On-the-job Training Many workers learn from more experienced chefs
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 9% (for all chefs and head cooks)
Work Environment Restaurants, hotels, private homes, food service facilities

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Typical Responsibilities

Your day at work as a sous chef could be a long one. Even though every kitchen runs a little differently, you can expect to plan daily specials, schedule staff, check the freshness of foods, order supplies and foods, conduct training for the chefs beneath you, and check that the kitchen meets sanitation standards. Once the kitchen opens for the day, you will probably also act as the expediter, or link between the customers and the kitchen. Expediters ensure that customers receive the correct orders in a timely fashion and field any complaints.

Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), formal education is useful, though not always required in order to become a sous chef. Education options include training at an independent cooking school, community college, culinary arts school, or four-year college. At a traditional two-year or four-year college, you could major in culinary arts or hospitality. Many of these programs offer hands-on experience in on-campus kitchens or outside internships. This hands-on experience helps sous chefs gain the kitchen experience they need to handle the multitude of tasks they must perform.

Certification

Aspiring sous chefs can advance their careers by seeking certification through the American Culinary Federation. Applicants must provide proof of five years of experience in an entry-level position, although formal education can lessen the amount of experience needed. In order to become a certified sous chef, you will have to submit an application before passing an exam including both written and practical components.

Career Path

Even after completing a training program or degree, you might not start out as a sous chef. Because of the hierarchical nature of the professional cooking world, you can expect to work your way up into the sous chef position, and if desired, you might become an executive or head chef. Earnings for sous chefs vary, but PayScale.com data in September 2015 indicated that the majority of sous chefs earned between $29,827 and $51,781 per year.

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