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What is a Sous Chef?

The word sous in French translates to “under”, and a sous chef is a kitchen professional that words under the direct supervision of a head chef.

In many ways, a sous chef acts as an assistant to the head chef. Unlike some other kitchen workers, however, the duties of a sous chef do not end with food preparation. Some sous chefs, for instance, may be responsible for supervising the kitchen staff while the head chef attends to more pressing matters. A sous chef might also take care of some of the important day to day duties in a kitchen as well, such as ordering food and supplies.

Some individuals find that their sous chef careers are rewarding and lucrative enough, and they may be content to finish out their days doing just what they love. Other sous chefs, on the other hand, may strive for something more in their professional lives. With hard work, talent, and dedication, these ambitious individuals will often move up the career ladder eventually and become head chefs. Most sous chefs that are promoted to this esteemed position are usually promoted within a restaurant, taking the places of head chefs before them.

What Does a Sous Chef Do?

Regarding the duties and responsibilities of a sous chef, it may be more appropriate to ask what a sous chef doesn’t do.

Obviously, a sous chef will have a hand in cooking and otherwise preparing dishes that are to be served to waiting customers. In most restaurants, food preparation must take place swiftly, especially during very busy times.

A sous chef will also usually have a variety of other duties to perform as well. As mentioned above, for instance, he may act as a supervisor for an entire kitchen staff, from the busboys to the line cooks. In doing so, he must ensure that every kitchen employee should be doing their jobs quickly and safely. Some sous chefs might also take care of obtaining ingredients, utensils, and other supplies. A head chef may also ask a sous chef for assistance when planning a menu.

The job of a sous chef is often a tough one. These culinary professionals often need to work very long hours, sometimes starting before lunch and working well into the night. During this time, a sous chef is also usually on his feet for very long periods of time, with little chance for a break or relaxation. This job also requires frequent lifting and bending.

A kitchen is also usually a very difficult place to work. Not only can it get crowded and busy, but the heat from the appliances, like stoves and ovens, can also make it very hot and uncomfortable. A sous chef might also find that working in a kitchen is not without other hazards as well, such as burns, slips, and cuts.

Where Does a Sous Chef Work?

Sous chefs can technically work anywhere there is a kitchen. This is not just limited to restaurants, however. Sous chefs are often needed in places like casinos, hotels, and cruise ships.

Most individuals start their sous chef careers by starting in entry-level positions. For example, they may start as food prep workers or line cooks. After they gain more experience working in the kitchen, they might then be promoted until they eventually become sous chefs.

Some experienced and particularly talented sous chefs might also choose to open their own restaurants as well. Individuals interested in this sous chef career move, however, should consider earning business degrees.

What Are the Education Requirements for a Successful Sous Chef Career?

While some sous chefs might be able to work their way up through the ranks with hard work, a formal education is often the best way to start a sous chef career. The majority of individuals interested in this type of career will usually earn culinary arts degrees.

Culinary arts degree programs are available at culinary art schools, along with vocational schools and traditional colleges and universities. While earning their degrees, individuals interested in sous chef careers will often take courses on kitchen sanitation, food preparation, and cooking.

What is the Average Salary for a Sous Chef?

According to data recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of chefs in 2010 was roughly $44,780.

The salary of a sous chef will often depend on a number of factors, however. For instance, more experienced sous chefs will typically be able to command higher wages. The size and location of a kitchen that a sous chef works in will also usually determine his salary as well. Sous chefs in larger kitchens and more populated areas, for example, will usually make more than sous chefs in smaller kitchens and less populated areas.

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