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“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.
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.
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.
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.
You will have to go through a three-step application process for certification eligibility:
There is a fee for this certification, and you must renew it every five years.
Glassdoor places the national average salary for a sous chef at $53K. Of course, that can range based on a variable of things such as your experience level, what state or city you’re in, the industry, the economy, and the type of restaurant. Hotels and restaurant chains seems to pay significantly higher salaries than individual restaurants.
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.