A chef de partie is a cook who is in charge of one area of a restaurant's kitchen. In smaller kitchens, he or she may work alone, while in larger ones, a chef de partie may supervise others working at the same station. This position also might be termed a line cook or station chef, and is responsible for preparing specific dishes. As with any position in a restaurant's kitchen, this cook needs to thrive in a high-pressure environment; time management and organization are as vital as culinary skills to this position.
In a typical kitchen's chain-of-command, the chef de partie would be the third in charge, following the head chef, also known as the executive chef, and the sous chef. In this management position, a chef de partie would need to be comfortable taking orders from the head chef while managing his or her own staff. This is not typically an entry-level position as it requires culinary expertise and the ability to work independently.
A large kitchen may have more than one chef de partie, and a hierarchy accompanies those who share this title. Some kitchens may label the second in command of the line cooks as a demi chef de partie, while others may assign hierarchy based on responsibility, with the saucier as the most senior position. This chef is typically in charge of all sautés, appetizers, and finishing sauces.
Types of Chefs de Partie
Each station in a kitchen may have its own chef de partie, who focuses on cooking a certain type of food or preparing foods in a certain way. The poissonier is in charge of preparing all fish, while the rotisseur handles roasted meats and the friturier deep fries foods. Vegetables are prepared by the entremetier and the patissier makes desserts and pastries. The chef de garde, or pantry chef, is responsible for all cold foods, including salads and cold hors d'oeuvres. A chef de partie who fills in where needed is referred to as a roundsman, swing cook, or tournant.
The complex system of kitchen organization was developed by Georges Auguste Escoffier, who largely is credited with modernizing the grand hotel dining in Europe in the late 1800s. Previously, grand dining involved large buffets of food where guests served themselves; Escoffier simplified menus and served each course sequentially. The demands of a luxury hotel's guests meant that Escoffier was tasked with serving lavish meals in a short amount of time, so he needed to organize the kitchen in a way to get food out quickly without hurting its quality. Using his experience in the French Army, Escoffier developed brigade de cuisine, an exhaustive system with clear authority and responsibility. The system is still largely in use in restaurants today, with more formal kitchens retaining the French terms.