Popular television shows like Top Chef and Master Chef have glorified the cool factor in restaurant work. The chef and their team conduct “art” and “put their heart on the plate” in what seems like an exciting and passionate work environment. Head chefs are like great military leaders, barking out orders to their scrambling restaurant staff. One of the workers on the front lines of the restaurant scene today is the sous chef. They provide the backbone of service, serving as second-in-command to the head chef, with a great deal of responsibility for running kitchen operations.
What’s it really like to be a sous chef? Is it a necessary step toward becoming a head chef? What are the day-to-day activities of this culinary and operational expert? This article has the answers you need to understand the world of today’s modern sous chef.
A Day in the Life of a Sous Chef
Sous chef Michael Gibney literally wrote the book on what the career is like. Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, was published a few years ago as a way to show others the daily tasks hidden behind the title. The tasks are myriad; from preparing and cooking alongside the head chef to ordering, overseeing cleaning and prep work, to managing the kitchen staff.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking the sous chef is just the taskmaster; the love of food must be built into the genetic structure of these talented professionals. Gibney writes about this love, describing his inspection of some new food stores that just arrived in his restaurant:
“The Sicilian pistachios, forest green, are soft in your hands, succulent in your mouth. They are rich and sweet, like no nut you’ve had before. You twist the cap on the argan oil, and a sumptuous perfume fills the air. Drops of the golden liquid trickle down the neck of the bottle onto your knuckles. Wasting it would be a sin. You lick it off. “
But the sous chef is more than a food connoisseur; they are the functional heart of what makes a kitchen run. Some of the daily tasks of a sous chef include:
- development of menus and meal planning;
- ordering, inventorying, and inspecting food delivery quality;
- prepping food;
- overseeing the cleanliness of the kitchen and food storage facilities;
- scheduling and dealing with kitchen staff;
- understanding and tracking the costs and return on food items;
- reporting to and collaborating with the head chef; and
- prepping food and overseeing service.
The job requires great organizational skills, a love and knowledge of cooking, and the patience and stamina to do the job well. They should be creative and decisive in their decision-making.
Start Your Sous Chef Career Today
To get to this level in a restaurant, the sous chef may have gone to culinary school and spent years working their way up by washing dishes, making salads or waiting tables in order to pay the dues necessary to learn the role of sous chef. The sous chef usually gets their start in the kitchen as a pantry or prep cook, scrubbing pots and chopping and peeling vegetables. Then you may serve as a line cook, under the enormous pressure of service before you ever make it to the sous chef role.
It’s a lucrative, challenging role – and Gecko Hospitality is standing by to help you take it on. Contact our restaurant industry recruiters to find out more about how to become a sous chef today. Bon appetite!