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Sous Chef

“Sous” is the French word for “under.” In a kitchen’s chain of command, a sous chef works directly under, and reports to, the executive chef.

As a sous chef, you must be familiar with the kitchen’s operations, so you can fill in for the executive chef when needed. Learn about what you will need to do in order to become a sous chef.

What Is A Sous Chef?

As second-in-command, you play a pivotal role in the kitchen. Your responsibilities will vary, depending on where you work plus the size, scope, and organizational structure of the kitchen you’re running around in.

In general, you will help create and deliver daily menus and dishes, train apprentice chefs and other kitchen staffers, conduct inventory and food cost control, ensure sanitation and hygiene, maintain equipment, and organize food tastings. You also spend a good portion of time performing administrative duties.

You’ll find employment with restaurants and hotels, as well as cruise ships and casinos. Kitchens keep long daily hours of operation, providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Because of that number of hours to account for, sous chefs typically work opposite their chefs to provide management coverage, so everyone has some time off.

Becoming A Sous Chef

If you want to become a sous chef, then you’ll need to start your training. You may choose some form of culinary school, whether it’s through a community college, university, or trade school. Degrees can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to obtain.

Associate degrees typically will have you well prepared for the work that leads you into a management position. However, many places do not require degrees or diplomas from their sous chef; they instead look for candidates that have a few years of experience working in the kitchen.

There are also apprenticeships available that take two to three years to complete. You will get both your classroom and hands-on training, and you’ll also be earning an hourly salary. These apprenticeships can be found through organizations like The American Culinary Federation.

Also, some larger kitchens will offer on-the-job training. Plus, the military has culinary training, with each specialty course lasting a few weeks or longer. It’s always a good idea to get a diploma or degree, particularly if you plan on getting certified as a sous chef. Not to mention that nowadays, all the job postings are asking for some sort of postsecondary education.

Becoming A Certified Sous Chef

To really stand out to hiring personnel, becoming a certified sous chef through the American Culinary Federation may add that spice to your resume. There are certain requirements you’ll need to fulfill before being eligible for certification.

  • At least five years’ experience in culinary arts, or four years with an ACF Education Foundation Culinary Arts program, or three years through an associate degree program.
  • 150 continuing ed credits
  • An associate degree plus three years of experience, OR completion of an apprenticeship, OR 4,000 hours of on-the-job training.
  • There are mandatory course requirements you must fulfill: nutrition, food safety and sanitation, and supervisory management.
  • You must have two years of experience supervising a shift or sanitation station.
  • You must pass the written and practical portions of the certification exam.

You will have to go through a three-step application process for certification eligibility:

  • Submit the initial pre-approval registration. You’ll include your proof of education and employment verification.
  • Upon your application being accepted, you’ll schedule your exam dates.
  • Submit your final application once your test results are in. There will be a two to three week processing time.

There is a fee for this certification, and you must renew it every five years.

How Much You’ll Earn As A Sous Chef

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that sous chefs earned an average of $56,920 in 2021. Your salary can vary depending on location, industry, and level of experience. Once you’re a certified sous chef with experience tucked under your apron, you can work your way up to executive chef, a move that will increase your salary. Sous chef is a great career to cook up.

To get started, find a local culinary school.