Duties and responsibilities
A sous chef is responsible for planning and managing food preparation in kitchens. Essentially, they act as the assistant to the head chef and help them to create delicious menus and meal designs. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Developing new menu options, based on customer demand or the season
- Assisting the head chef with their menu planning
- Helping to run the kitchen and ensuring that it operates in an effective and timely manner
- Ordering new supplies where necessary
- Providing support and training other kitchen staff (e.g., in line cooking, food preparation and dish plating)
- Recruiting and training new kitchen employees
- Creating schedules for kitchen employees and evaluating their performance
The real key to becoming a sous chef is to gain experience in the profession. Often, sous chefs will start off working in lower level roles hospitality industry. For example, they may start a as a pot washer or food runner. They may then gather experience as a line cook, where they will learn cooking skills from the chef who manages them.
To be a sous chef, you don’t need any postsecondary education. You can find a job that provides on-the-job training or complete an apprenticeship. However, many sous chefs attend community colleges, technical schools, culinary art schools or 4-year colleges to complete programs related to cheffing.
Skills and relevant work experience
As well as a genuine passion for food, sous chefs will need skills such as:
- Willingness to learn, as becoming a sous chef is a hands-on learning experience. In order to progress to head chef, you will also need to be willing to progress your skills
- Verbal communication skills, as sous chefs will need to communicate with the head chef and other kitchen staff
- Leadership skills, as sous chefs will need to lead a team of staff and must be able to do this confidently
- Attention to detail, as sous chefs must pay attention to flavourings
- Physical fitness, as sous chefs will have to be on their feet all day
- Organization skills, as kitchens are busy and stressful and chefs need to keep their work environment tidy and clean
Many chefs work full time, including early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Typically, chefs work more than 40 hours a week.
According to salary.com the median annual salary for a sous chef in the United States is $47,381. The lowest 10% earn less than $30,408 per annum and the highest 10% earn more than $69,891 per annum.
Sous chefs progress from lower level kitchen roles, such as line cooks. They can then progress, with more experience and knowledge, to becoming the head chef of a kitchen. This does, however, take time as being a head chef requires years of experience.