"Sous" is the French word for "under" -- a sous chef works under the executive chef. It's a job accomplished with blood, sweat and tears, and the desire to work your way up to head chef. You're responsible for things going smoothly in the kitchen, and when they don't, you might get the blame. That being said, it's also the chance to shine and show everyone that you've got what it takes to be the next top dog.
Education and Experience
The requirements for a job as a sous chef differ. Some restaurants require a degree or certificate from a culinary school. Schools vary in terms of the time needed to earn a certificate, but it could be as short as two years. You might get employed as a sous chef based on experience only. But even a sous chef is not above washing dishes and cutting vegetables. You must know your kitchen inside and out to excel in this position.
A working kitchen can be a stressful, hot and hectic environment. The sous chef
must be able to remain calm, think on his feet and lead by example. He must be able to keep peace among the staff members, and communicate and carry out the needs of the executive chef. He must also be confident enough to step in when the executive chef is unavailable. The staff should see him as a team player -- doing whatever needs to be done to create an efficient, well-run kitchen -- and not above performing any unpleasant tasks if the situation calls for it.
A sous chef will definitely spend a portion of his time doing administrative duties. He has to be knowledgeable about safety procedures and ensure the staff is following sanitary measures. He might be in charge of quality control, labor costs, determining portion sizes and ordering supplies. Creativity is needed for planning menus and changing things in the kitchen when older routines are not working. He will also schedule staff meetings and counsel employees if there are any issues to be resolved.
The sous chef must be familiar with all types of food served in the restaurant and the ingredients needed to prepare them. Inventory must be maintained at all times; the sous chef is responsible for making sure the kitchen never runs out of any menu item. He will oversee all stations in the kitchen and must be prepared to assist any section that needs help. Menus must be memorized, and if the restaurant has daily specials, the sous chef must be able to make them and teach others to do the same.
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