Sous Chef Job Description, Specifications, and Career Path
Having one of the most important jobs in the kitchen, the sous chef is basically the head chef’s second-in-command. One of the most sought after positions in the culinary industry, the sous chef job description is usually to be responsible for the kitchen’s safety, stock, and sanitation, as well as to handle the entire kitchen when the head chef isn’t around.
Training employees, customizing menus, and keeping order in the kitchen are also very important parts of the sous chef job description, but the best thing about the job is that it offers plenty of opportunities for advancing. The high salary, along with the fact that a sous chef has very high chances of becoming head chefs themselves, make for a very lucrative career.
Sous Chef Job Description Overview
One of the most off-putting factors about the job description of a sous chef is that they most often have to work chaotic hours. Working shifts and overtime, particularly during weekends and holidays, can sound daunting to some. And if the restaurant were to hire someone with a junior sous chef job description to assist the senior sous chef, the responsibilities are still tremendous.
But despite the huge work load, responsibilities, and highly stressful job environment, having a sous chef job description is definitely not without its upsides. A high salary, the respect generated by the head chef’s right-hand man, and the many career advancement opportunities make this job one of the most sought-out in the culinary industry.
Sous Chef Responsibilities
Seeing as the job description for sous chef is one viewed with the utmost regard by the kitchen staff, it only stands to reason that their responsibilities match their status. And these responsibilities are what anyone would imagine the responsibilities of a second-in-command to be. Below, you will find a list of these responsibilities as described by most restaurants.
- Taking care of the kitchen in the absence of the head chef
- Helping the head chef come up with new menus and dishes
- Making sure that the dishes hold up to a certain standard
- Discovering and training other promising talents
- Train the kitchen staff to reach the best speed and the best food quality they can
- Making sure that the hygiene and food safety standards are up to date
- Making sure that the kitchen is fully stocked at all times
While the sous chef job description in hotel may be different than the sous chef job description in restaurant, both have pretty much the same responsibilities. Of course, it all varies from restaurant to restaurant, from hotel to hotel, as they each have their own policies. However, the sous chef job description and specifications usually remain the same.
The most important requirement in becoming a sous chef, whether a jr sous chef or someone with the executive chef job description, is experience. There really aren’t any sous chef job education requirements, although some restaurants may very well ask for some courses of someone interested in an upper echelon job opening.
But while education isn’t mandatory, with most starting off as kitchen helpers or dishwashers, the sous chef job description and salary can wildly fluctuate depending on whether or not the candidate has taken a few courses.
Of course, being a line of work where people are faced with so many stressful obstacles each and every day, a number of personal qualities are also very important in determining whether an aspiring sous chef will or will not get the job. Some of these are as follows:
- The ability to work under huge amounts of stress
- Creativity and artistic tendencies (for the food’s presentation)
- Great leadership skills (to coordinate the kitchen)
- Near-perfect hand-eye coordination (for cooking)
- Near-perfect sense of taste and smell (for cooking)
- Well-honed time management skills
Qualifications and Training
While a large percentage of restaurants offer their sous chefs a number of training courses to help them get better at their new job, previous formal qualifications could go a long way in helping one get hired and promoted to the sous chef job description. Some of these helpful qualifications are as follows:
- 2-year degrees at trade schools and community colleges
- 4-year degrees at trade schools and community colleges
- Apprenticeships with culinary schools
- A FETAC certificate in Professional Cookery
Having higher aspirations, like going for the executive or senior sous chef job description, often requires more qualifications than regular sous chef positions. As expected, the higher the rank a candidate is hoping to attain, the higher the requirements for that position become.
So, for somebody dreaming of becoming a senior sous chef, at least three years of professional experience in a high-quality hotel or restaurant are absolutely mandatory. Most employers also request HAACP experience and training for the higher, most respected positions.
Sous Chef Working Hours
As we’ve mentioned before, the working hours are one of the primary reasons people avoid working towards attaining the sous chef job description. Aside from the high levels of attention and coordination skills required, the working hours are responsible for the highest amounts of stress.
The problem is that most good restaurants and hotels that tend to actually employ people with the sous chef job description are open almost non-stop. This means that they employ shifts and overtime systems that end up with the kitchen staff having to work far more stressful and long hours than most people are used to.
Most, if not all, professional sous chefs have to work weekends and holidays, as well as to divide their schedules between day and night shifts. Their personal time is seldom their own, as they must excel at all of their tasks and offer little opposition if they want to keep their jobs or to get promoted.
The most important part when it comes to starting work as a new sous chef is the accumulated experience. The more experienced a member of the kitchen staff is, the higher their chances of getting promoted become.
Somebody aspiring to the regular sous chef job description requires at least 10 years worked in the kitchen before being qualified for the job. And as the job descriptions become more encompassing and demanding, even more experience is needed before even being considered for the job.
For many aspiring for jobs in the culinary industry, becoming a sous chef can be seen as a temporary dream job. Not only does the job come with a great deal of respect, but also with very high chances of promotion and with many other opportunities. So, it should come a no surprise that job description sous chef is one of the most searched keywords on Google in relation to the profession.
The two big job paths a sous chef can take are to either become a head chef or an executive chef. According to Wikipedia, as well as to other sources in the actual job market, those jobs open up only after a number of years spent in the kitchen as a sous chef, or after the previous holder of the job quits or gets fired.
With the job market for sous chefs estimated to raise by 5% by 2020, prospects aren’t looking very good for anyone looking just now to start down this particular career path. However, if one has already been working in an important kitchen for some time, statistics show that they have plenty of chances to get promoted to their dream job.
Whether starting from a low-level kitchen helper position, responsible for the pastry line or for preparing a single sample for potential customers, or from a higher position at a different hotel or restaurant, many would like nothing more than to be able to put the sous chef job description on their resumes. Because once they’re there, it’s only a matter of time and skill until they get the chance to apply for an executive or head chef position.
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