Chef Jobs and Chef Job Descriptions

Chef, Executive Chef, Sous Chef, and More

Chef in kitchen
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Chef Jobs and Chef Job Descriptions

When you go to a restaurant, you know who's making your food — it's the person in the white jacket and the big white hat. But what is a chef, anyway?

For that matter, what's a sous chef? And what about an executive chef? Here's a basic summary of some of the most common chef jobs and chef job descriptions, and what each one means.

Chef (Chef de Cuisine)

In French, the word chef means "chief." This tells us that a chef is someone who's in charge of something. But what? A head chef, also sometimes referred to as "chef de cuisine" or "executive chef," is in charge of the whole kitchen.

Every part of a foodservice operation, including menu planning, purchasing, hiring, and staffing, is part of a head chef's job description. That means he or she also has overall responsibility for all the food that comes out of the kitchen.

You may have noticed one key job function missing from a head chef's job description: cooking. That's right, the head chef typically doesn't cook.

You might see him standing around hollering at the line cooks (or expediting), but just as often it's a sous chef who does that. When you think executive chef, the keyword is executive: The tools of his job are a desk, phone, and clipboard, not a knife, whisk or sauté pan.

Sous Chef (Second Chef)

The sous chef (pronounced "SOO chef," from the French word for under) is in charge of all the cooking. In some kitchens, sous chef's job is to directly supervise the entire kitchen staff, including the line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers.

While his or her job is still mainly supervisory, the sous chef may also do some actual cooking, for instance, stepping in to replace one of the line cooks if necessary.

A sous chef's job description also frequently includes expediting, or relaying orders to the line cooks and ensuring that the team works together to get all the orders right and get them out promptly.

Chef de Partie (Station Chef)

A chef de partie ("chef duh-par-TEE") is the person whose job it is to work a station on the hot cooking line. Usually called line cooks, they're the ones doing the real cooking. Though every kitchen is organized differently, most will have, at a minimum, the following line cooks:

  • Sauté Cook: Responsible for all sautéed items and sauces. Often responsible for cooking fish items, too, although there may also be a separate fish cook.
  • Roast Cook: Responsible for roasted and braised items. May also prepare broiled and grilled items, although there may be separate a separate grill station cook.
  • Vegetable Cook: Responsible for soups, starches such as pasta and potatoes, and other vegetable items.

Other Chef Jobs

Some kitchens will feature various other chefs, such as a pastry chef who prepares desserts and other baked items, and a pastry chef or garde manger, responsible for cold food items such as salads and dressings, cured foods like sausages, as well as pâtés and terrines.

Some operations will also employ a separate chef whose job specialty is butchering and preparing meats and poultry.