A sous chef is the second in command in a kitchen. In French, the term literally means “under chef,” and this individual is an important part of the restaurant he or she works in, ensuring that everything runs smoothly whether or not the head chef is present. The duties of the job can vary widely, depending on the restaurant and its command structure. This position in the culinary world can be extremely demanding, especially since it carries none of the glamor associated with being a head or executive chef.
In order to become a sous chef, a person must typically undergo professional training. Some people choose to attend a culinary school, while others prefer to learn on the ground by working their way up the restaurant food chain. Some restaurants prefer individuals who have worked their way up in the ranks, since they are sometimes more familiar with all of the tasks that need to be performed in a busy kitchen.
For some people, being a sous chef is the pinnacle of employment. The job is challenging, but extremely rewarding when a kitchen runs smoothly and pleasantly. This person is on the ground in the kitchen every day, keeping track of a wide range of issues and working to ensure the the food in the restaurant is of the highest quality. For these individuals, the celebrity factor of becoming an executive chef is not of interest. Others view the position as the last step that needs to be taken before becoming an executive chef; these individuals may enjoy the social cachet of being a chef, along with the ability to control their own menus and have ultimate authority over the kitchen.
Sous chefs certainly do some cooking, but the job is about much more than just preparing food. They supervise food preparation and safety all over the kitchen, keeping an eye on the staff and ensuring that the dishes stay true to the vision of the executive chef. In some kitchens, this person may be invited to submit recipes or dishes for consideration by the head chef.
These restaurant professionals also deal with the day-to-day issues in the restaurant. They may handle staff conflicts, payroll, proper storage of supplies, and other tasks as directed by the executive chef. Depending on the establishment, they are able to hire and fire staff and to undertake other autonomous decisions to keep the restaurant in good working order.