Executive Chef vs. Chef de Cuisine vs. Sous Chef vs. Line Cook

The profession ‘chef’ can seem quite one-dimensional to many people. A lot of individuals tend to just equate ‘chef’ with the person who prepares the food. However, there are plenty of chef positions all in charge of many different tasks.

In this article, we will cover the differences between an executive chef, chef de cuisine, line cook, and sous chef. In summary, the executive chef is in charge of the whole kitchen staff, whilst the sous chef is considered to be that person’s right-hand man. The chef de cuisine takes care of the other chefs whilst the line cook works at a particular part of the kitchen, such as the grill.

Hierarchy Of Chefs and Kitchen Staff

In a similar fashion to a large warehouse with many different sections, a restaurant kitchen can also be made up of various components. These stations are manned by a multitude of chefs and other kitchen staff.

Alongside the executive chef, chef de cuisine, line cook, and sous chef, there are likely to be plenty more positions depending on the size of the establishment. If the restaurant itself is expected to host multiple guests and if the recipes are expected to be quite complicated to prepare, there could be positions such as kitchen assistants.

More positions include dishwashers and cooks who take charge of the preparation of ingredients. Moreover, such a large commercial kitchen is also likely to employ grill masters and many more people for different responsibilities.

The hierarchy inside of any large kitchen comes from ‘Brigade de Cuisine’. This is a particular process that helps large operations in large kitchens run effectively and efficiently. In addition, although there may be a lot of positions that are either filled or open in such a kitchen, will discuss four different positions that many people are aware exist.

Executive Chef Role and Responsibilities

What responsibilities would the executive chef hold? And is it common to have an executive chef in a restaurant? Firstly, an executive chef manages the entire kitchen. More often than not, it is only the biggest and well-established restaurants that choose to hire for such a position.

The executive chef is responsible for supervising all of the workstations and actions in the kitchen. This chef is also responsible for supervising all kitchen staff. Although it is called a ‘chef’ position, it is likely that the individual who holds that title does not don a chef’s uniform.

Such a chef is unlikely to be directly involved in the cooking process and would instead take care of a variety of different duties including:

Making sure that the dishes are of good quality in terms of the ingredients and the final dish
Recognizing and fixing any issues, challenges, or altercations
Ensure that all activities are coordinated
Taking charge of multiple branches of the restaurant/establishment
Overseeing all of the kitchen staff
Setting and ensuring the quality of the establishment’s main dishes
Creating and updating menu items

In general, executive chefs should have plenty of training and experience. They are likely to have attended some form of specialized culinary school for cooking and have worked from the bottom of the hierarchy to reach such a position.

Executive chefs are well-trained, and many are considered to have expertise in all matters related to the kitchen. They are also likely to have mastered many different styles of cooking from various countries and regions. As such, they are likely to be capable of preparing, for example, Chinese cuisine, French cuisine, Greek cuisine, and even more.

Chef de Cuisine Role and Responsibilities

What is another term for chef de cuisine? Many people associate such a role with the ‘head chef’. The individual in this position is also likely to play a lot of the responsibilities usually assigned to the executive chef, however, this is likely to be in a particular restaurant or area.

The chef de cuisine is likely to be the highest-ranking position in many smaller restaurants where there is no executive chef involved in the operations. The chef de cuisine is more involved in helping to maintain, improve, or develop the menu.

In more well-established restaurants, the chef de cuisine is more likely to also be involved in helping to ensure costs are minimized. Other responsibilities involve:

Ensuring the quality of recipes and dishes before being served to the guests/customers
Planning and ordering of all ingredients and necessary equipment
Developing the restaurant menu to cater to a wider audience
Ensuring that all personnel are paid by taking charge of payroll
Ensuring that the restaurant and all aspects comply with the standards for food and preparation sanitation and safety

More often than not, a chef de cuisine will only cook certain dishes. These dishes are likely to involve complex recipes or the specialty dish of the particular establishment. Otherwise, cooking is usually delegated to cooks lower in the hierarchy.

Sous Chef Role and Responsibilities

The sous chef is under the supervision of the chef de cuisine. This chef is likely working towards assuming the position of an executive chef or chef de cuisine in the future. If a chef de cuisine is not present, then it is likely that this chef is in charge of their responsibilities.

When the chef de cuisine is not present, away, or generally unavailable, then the sous chef is anticipated to work towards completing the duties usually delegated to the chef de cuisine. It is likely for the sous chef to have retained a variety of skills and cooking experience.

The sous chef typically knows and has gained extensive knowledge of various cuisine types. They may also have specialized knowledge on how to prepare regional dishes. Some of the duties that are typically assumed by the sous chef include:

Helping to improve or develop the restaurant menu
Training junior level cooks
Ensuring that all customers/guests are served correctly in a structured system
(Is likely to be involved in the process of) hiring new personnel
Develop methods where both food waste and costs are decreased
Choosing a particular ingredient source
Inspecting ingredients to ensure quality

The sous chef must have both excellent skills when it comes to cooking, as well as handling other duties such as supervising and training others. The sous chef is likely to be included in several areas of ensuring the smooth operation of the restaurant. Moreover, they are also likely to be the people who open their own restaurants.

Line Cook Role and Responsibilities

The line cook plays an incredibly crucial role in running a commercial kitchen. Line cooks typically make up the majority of people who work in either a commercial kitchen or in a slightly smaller establishment.

The line cook is often responsible for one task – that is to cook a specific part of a dish in a way that the recipe dictates. Line cooks typically need to have prior working experience in a kitchen.

Many large restaurants would look favorably upon an applicant who has had experience in culinary arts. Moreover, it is also a bonus if they have received training in catering, hospitality, or other similar programs.

As line cooks are in charge of cooking the actual dishes, below we have included the various types of line cook positions often hired by restaurants:

Line Cook: handles a particular section of cooking
Appetizer Cook: handles the preparation and cooking of all appetizers
Fry Cook: typically handles food cooked in fryers (or even grills)
Fish Cook: Specializes in handling fish-related dishes
Sauté Cook: handles the process for making signature sauces and sautéing
Prep Cook: handles the preparation of ingredients, for example, chopping vegetables
Grill Cook: handles food cooked in a grill including burgers
Short Order Cook: handles the cooking of foods that are typically prepared quickly and easily

From this article, we have noted many different positions for commercial kitchens. Smaller establishments may not hire for certain positions; however, larger kitchens are likely to have a full staff list of all the aforementioned positions.

A brilliant aspect of this industry is that it is entirely possible for someone in the lowest ranking to work their way towards the highest position. They typically achieve this by ensuring that they are essential to the operation of the kitchen and showing that they can handle a variety of responsibilities assigned by those higher in ranking.

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