Many amateur cooks dream of becoming an executive chef, the head chef in a kitchen, while others dream of becoming a specialised chef instead – such as a pastry chef or a sushi chef. During your training at a culinary arts school you might find that you are especially good at something in particular, or that you enjoy cooking some things more than others. There are quite a few types of chefs in the culinary arts world, and a contemporary kitchen runs according to a strict hierarchy. But this system does not determine all possible chef jobs. Of late we have seen a rise in celebrity chefs and private chefs, for example. Let’s take a quick look at the most common types of chefs and what their general roles are.
An executive chef is also known as a chef de cuisine or a head chef. In a professional kitchen setting the term is used only for the one person in charge of everyone else working in that particular kitchen. The executive chef is also in charge of all things related to the kitchen – usually including menu creation, management and scheduling, as well as payroll of entire kitchen staff, ordering and plating design.
The sous chef is the executive chef’s right hand. Meaning ‘under-chef’ in French, the sous chef is the direct assistant of the executive chef and is second in command. A sous chef may be responsible for scheduling and filling in when the executive chef is off-duty. Smaller operations may not have a sous chef, while larger operations may have multiple.
A chef de partie, also known as a station chef or line cook, is in charge of a particular area of production. In large kitchens, each station chef might have several cooks and/or assistants. In most kitchens however, the station chef is the only worker in that department. Line cooks are often divided into a hierarchy of their own, starting with first cook, then second cook, and so on as needed. Station chef titles which are part of the brigade system include:
- The sauté chef (Saucier) is responsible for all sautéed items and their sauce. This is usually the highest position of all the stations.
- The fish chef (Poissonnier) prepares fish dishes and often does all fish butchering as well as appropriate sauces. This station may be combined with the saucier position.
- The roast chef (Rôtisseur) prepares roasted and braised meats and their appropriate sauce.
- The grill chef (Grillardin) prepares all grilled foods. This position may be combined with the rotisseur.
- The fry chef (Friturier) prepares all fried items. This position may be combined with the rotisseur position.
- The vegetable chef (Entremettier) prepares hot appetisers and often prepares the soups, vegetables, pastas and starches. In a full brigade system a potager would prepare soups and a legumier would prepare vegetables.
- The roundsman (Tournant) is also referred to as a swing cook, and fills in as needed on station in kitchen.
- The pantry chef (Garde-Manger) is responsible for preparing cold foods – including salads, cold appetisers, pâtés and other charcuterie items.
- The butcher (Boucher) butchers meats, poultry and sometimes fish. He or she may also be responsible for breading meats and fish.
- The pastry chef (Pâtissier) prepares baked goods, pastries and desserts. In larger establishments, the pastry chef often supervises a separate team in his or her own kitchen or separate shop.
A cook works under the various station chefs, and a commis chef is an apprentice in larger kitchens that works under a chef de partie in order to learn the station’s responsibilities and operation. This may be a chef who has recently completed formal culinary training or is still undergoing training.
Celebrity chefs have helped make the culinary arts world more popular. If you dream of becoming a celebrity chef you must have a strong, vibrant personality, fearless culinary skills and be different, unique and driven to a great degree.
Private or personal chefs can be found in private households, on private yachts etc – working for a certain person, family or company and often earning excellent money compared to those stationed in a restaurant kitchen, for example.
When you are looking at exploring the culinary arts world and finding a suitable career, you should know from early on what exactly you want to pursue – as this will make it easier for you to work hard towards reaching your specific goal. This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to change you mind or direction as you go along with your culinary arts training, of course. As long as you are willing to put in the hours and have a flair and passion for cooking, there should be nothing stopping you from becoming successful and even excelling in a culinary arts career.