“Chef” is a title used to a professional cook in a restaurant. The word chef is derived from the term chef de cuisine which when shortened, translates to “chief”. Since the creation of the title, there have been a few chef titles that have been specialized for specific roles. Let’s look over some of the titles and what they do.
The chef or the executive chef is responsible for everything in the kitchen. They oversee everything during their shift, ensuring that every chef under them is working as efficiently as possible. Executive chefs have more of a management role within the restaurant and tend to do very little cooking.
The head chef usually isn’t involved in the cooking process, instead, they’ll spend their time kitchen ensuring that all food prepared by other chefs is up to their standard. To earn the title of chef, most head chefs will have spent time in other chef positions such as pastry chef or as a fish cook. Head chefs can be the same as an executive chef when it comes to responsibilities as well.
The sous chef is the second-in-command in any kitchen. Originating in the 19th century, the sous chef is responsible for assisting the head chef in overseeing kitchen duties. Sous chefs communicate with other chefs to make sure they have the tools and ingredients needed to complete their shifts.
The station chef or chef de partie is in charge of one specific area. Each station chef usually works alone but larger restaurants will often times have an assistant. Usually not being referred to as station chef, here are some of the variants you’ll find in station chefs.
The butcher chef is in charge of preparing all meats and poultry before they are delivered to their areas for preparation. The butcher chef may also prepare seafood and preparations as well.
The roast chef is in charge of preparing any roasted or braised meats on the menu. They are responsible for braising and roasting as well and broiling and grilling the meat. A rotisseur may be in charge of obtaining meats from local suppliers. Roast chefs tend to work hand in hand with a saucier.
The sauce chef is usually third-in-command within the kitchen. The sauce chef creates sauces for all dishes that are being served to customers. Sauce chefs help with things such as sauteing foods and preparing soups and strews. A sauce chef’s most vital role is in creating sauces to accompany all kinds of food on the menu. Becoming a sauce chef is a great way to work your way up the chef hierarchy is it shows your ability to complement items that are being prepared by the other chefs.
Just as a roast chef handles meats on the menu, the fish chef handles the seafood aspect of it. They prepare and cook all seafood on the menu. They may bring in fresh fish from local fisheries. In smaller kitchens, the fish chef works to prepare appropriate sauces when need be.
The fry cook handles foods that are being cooked in oils or other animal fats. This job can be either a necessity or not entirely needed as it’s specialized specifically for the use of fryers.
The pastry chef is in charge of all baked goods such as bread, pastries, and other desserts. This is a valuable position as ingredients and timing vary per pastry. A great patissier will have a wide variety of equipment at their disposal. The education for a pastry chef is different than most due to pastry chefs having to attend baking school as opposed to traditional culinary school. Depending on where a pastry chef may be working, they can be considered the equivalent of an executive chef.
A commis chef is an assistant that works under any of the chefs listed above. It is their job to learn the ins and outs of any specified work station. They are often referred to as junior chefs and these positions are often for those that have recently completed culinary training.
Being a chef shows a true passion for the craftsmanship of a restaurant. Anyone aspiring to be a chef needs to read The Flavor Bible. The Flavor Bible is a definitive book for understanding how to bring out the true flavor of any dish you’re cooking. It’s a comprehensive guide for understanding food and what it means to cook all kinds of food.