Executive Chef versus Sous Chef

“You have developed an allergy to milk.” These simple words changed my life in ways I couldn’t imagine. I’d suspected this for a while, and the thoughts of eating and living healthy had crossed my mind, yet never stayed too long.
This diagnosis, along with other health issues, made me stop and take a look at food. Books, blogs, and the Food Network confirmed what God had been speaking to my heart for a while. Stop, look, listen. No, I’m not talking about crossing the street, but listening to the signals my body had been giving. Stop eating junk, look at labels, and listen to the experts.
Since this is where I’m at on my journey, I thought I’d take the next three career blogs and talk about the food industry. Let’s start with the most basic. A chef. I had no idea there were so many types of chefs: executive chef, sous chef, pastry chef, personal chef, grill chef, and fry chef to name a few. And then there are line cooks, kitchen-hands, and stewards. Today we’ll contrast the executive chef and the sous chef.
The Executive Chef is in charge of all things related to the kitchen, which usually includes menu creation, management of kitchen staff, ordering and purchasing of inventory, and plating design.   In French, the word chef means “chief.” A head chef, also sometimes referred to as “chef de cuisine” or “executive chef,” is in charge of the whole kitchen.
Every part of a foodservice operation, including menu planning, purchasing, hiring and staffing, is part of an executive chef’s job description. That means he or she also has overall responsibility for all the food that comes out of the kitchen. You may have noticed one key job function missing from an executive chef’s job description: cooking. That’s right; he or she typically doesn’t cook. The tools of his job are a desk, phone and clipboard; not a knife, whisk or sauté pan.
The Sous-Chef de Cuisine (under-chef of the kitchen) is the second in command and direct assistant of the Chef. This person may be responsible for scheduling and substituting when the Chef is off-duty and will also fill in for or assist the Chef de Partie (line cook) when needed.  The sous chef (pronounced “SOO chef,” from the French word for under) is in charge of all the cooking. This person is responsible for inventory, cleanliness of the kitchen, organization and constant training of all employees. The “Sous-Chef” is responsible for taking commands from the Chef and following through with them. The “Sous-Chef” is responsible for line checks and rotation of all product. In some kitchens, sous chef’s job is to directly supervise the entire kitchen staff, including the line cooks, prep cooks and dishwashers.
While his or her job is still mainly supervisory, the sous chef may also do some actual cooking, for instance, stepping in to replace one of the line cooks if necessary.
Even though their responsibilities differ, an executive chef and sous chef both need people and management skills. Formal training is a must in either career for advancement in more exclusive restaurants. Many chefs start as dishwashers, however, and gain experience as they work up the ranks. You will need to be dedicated, creative, and determined to succeed as either type of chef. You will need patience to deal with difficult staff and customers, and communication skills to ensure your staff feels like you consider them a part of your team.
My son, Jonathan
Writing prompt: A billow of French erupted from the kitchen area of The Blue Boiling Point Café. Lydia knew that meant one thing. Gérard, the executive chef, had…

photo from Wikipedia Commons