Sous chefs work in the kitchens of restaurants, hotels, households, and more. They spend their time carefully preparing food for customers and employers. They also ensure that their ingredients are fresh and appropriate for the dishes they will be making. Sous chefs may oversee the proper sanitation of the kitchen they work in. In some instances, they may plan out the meals on the menu, make changes to the recipes, and ensure that the kitchen is well-stocked and organized. They may also train new chefs or supervise other chefs who have less experience. The career of a sous chef is ideal for individuals who are creative, focused, good with their hands, and enjoy working with a variety of food and ingredients.
Sous Chef Job Description
The sous chef job description consists of preparing various types of food on a regular basis for customers or their employer (if they are a personal chef for an individual or a family). They often select the items that will show up on the menu, work to perfect the recipes through practice and modification (if needed), inspect and ensure that the ingredients are fresh, determine the best ways to present meals so that they look appealing and appetizing, supervise or teach other chefs, and oversee the proper sanitation of the kitchen. Sous chefs may work in a variety of settings, but they typically work in restaurants. In some instances, they make work in a home as a personal chef, work in the kitchen of a hotel, or work for a catering company and prepare meals in different locations. Some chefs open their own restaurants but still choose to work in the kitchen.
Here are a few of the most common job responsibilities of sous chefs:
- Prepare meals according to specific recipes
- Formulate recipes and tailor or modify them
- Check that meals and ingredients are fresh and tasty
- Determine what meals will appear on the menu
- Ensure that all kitchen equipment is working appropriately
- Oversee the proper sanitation of the kitchen
- Monitor the inventory and kitchen supplies
Sous chefs must be familiar with many different kitchen tools and types of equipment. Sous chefs serve as the head chef’s wing person or second in command. They report directly to the head chef, and help them out whenever needed. If the head chef is absent, the sous chef temporarily assumes the role of the head chef. They oversee the other chefs in the kitchen and ensure that they are properly preparing the meals. They also prepare meals and make sure that the flavors and tastes remain consistant.
Sous chefs must be able to work collaboratively with others. They typically interact with many other chefs and restaurant staff members while they work in the kitchen. Although they answer to the head chef, they must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with other employees who work in the kitchen.
Sous Chef Education Requirements
The sous chef education may vary from one individual to the next. Some sous chefs begin by working in a restaurant as a line cook and work their way up as they gain work experience. When they work in this capacity, they typically gain knowledge as they learn from and are taught by other more experienced chefs. Some chefs may learn the skills of the trade in a type of apprenticeship program. In this instance, they are taught everything they need to know by a chef or chefs who have many years of experience. At the completion of the apprenticeship, the chef-in-training is typically hired by the restaurant in which they trained. The apprenticeship experience can be very beneficial for many chefs.
Some sous chefs go through rigorous culinary art schools that formally prepare them for the culinary field. However, a culinary or four-year education is not in order to become a chef. It may give some chefs an advantage when it comes to acquiring a job in a restaurant. The following types of schools typically offering culinary programs or classes: technical schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges, and culinary arts schools. Typically, a high school diploma is required in order to be accepted into a culinary program. In these formal culinary schools, students work on their cooking techniques. They learn to use various cooking tools (both common and uncommon). Students learn to plan menus, formulate recipes, and learn to alter and tweak recipes to improve them. They learn all about how to properly sanitize and maintain a kitchen. Students also learn about maintaining kitchen supplies and inventory and how to plan ahead to ensure that they have everything they need. Most programs also contain a hands-on component where students gain experience in commercial kitchens while they are still in school. This helps to prepare students for experiences they will encounter once they are employed as chefs. There are some certifications chefs can opt to pursue, although they are not required. However, they may give chefs an upper hand when it comes to job seeking.
Sous chefs must have good dexterity and should be relatively fit as they will need to spend the majority of their work time on their feet and navigating through a crowded, hot kitchen. They should have a good, clear sense of taste and smell so they can determine if foods are well flavored and fresh. Sous chefs must have good time management skills as they must cook meals on specific timetables. Creativity and strong communication skills are also imperative to sous chefs.
Sous Chef Salary
As of May 2015, the national average sous chef salary or head chef salary was $41,500. The highest 10 percent of sous chefs and head chefs earned more than $74,170 annually. The lowest 10 percent of sous chefs and head chefs earned less than $23,150 annually. A chefs salary varies based on a number of variables. These variables include number of years of relevant work experience as a chef, the geographic region in which they are employed, and the type of setting in which they are employed. For example, sous chefs who work in high-end restaurants or hotels tend to earn higher annual salaries than sous chefs who work in lower-end restaurants. Chefs who work in travel accommodation settings or in specialty food services tend to earn the highest annual salaries. Resorts and metropolitan areas tend to pay quite well. Some chefs are employed in home as personal chefs, some chefs own restaurants, and some chefs are self-employed or run a catering business. Sous chefs typically work full time and work mornings, days, evenings, and weekends. They may also need to work on holidays depending upon the setting in which they are employed.
Sous Chef Job Outlook
The sous chef job outlook is quite good. Between 2014 and 2024, the field is expected to grow by 9 percent. This rate of growth is somewhat higher than the average rate of growth for all other professions which is currently 7%. Sous chefs who have more work experience tend to have the greatest opportunities when it comes to job prospects. Upscale restaurants and hotels will be highly competitive settings in which chefs will seek positions as chefs.