Types of ChefsLast updated on 10/03/2018
In a busy restaurant, one key factor for success is hiring the right chef. There can actually be various types of chefs operating in one kitchen. That leads us to ask, "What are the different types of chefs?" Read on to learn the difference between the various chef titles and the tasks those chefs perform in a bustling restaurant kitchen.
Background on Chef Titles
The different chef titles emerged in the 19th century with the creation of the French Brigade System. Chef Georges Auguste Escoffier created this system to provide restaurants with a kitchen hierarchy in order to operate more efficiently. Not every kitchen operates under the French Brigade System, and some positions in the system may be combined depending on the size of the restaurant. However, it has provided a basic outline that restaurant owners can refer to when setting up their kitchen hierarchy and stations.
Types of Chefs
Chefs will generally hold the higher ranked positions in a kitchen. Additionally, a restaurant will usually have managerial chefs and specialized chefs. Each type of chef can cover a variety of different tasks, from organization and training to menu development and recipe creation. Becoming a chef requires years of education and experience, climbing from entry-level positions to the ultimate goal of executive chef.
In managerial chef positions, there is an established hierarchy because these chefs have the most responsibility in the kitchen to ensure the restaurant's overall success. The following roles are listed in descending order.
Chef-Owner (Group Chef)
- Primary Task: Business management
- There is only one per kitchen.
- They are responsible for running the establishment as a whole.
- They will often work on menu engineering.
Executive Chef (Chef de Cuisine, Head Chef)
- Primary Task: Kitchen management
- There is only one per kitchen, leading to high competition for the role.
- They oversee daily operations, kitchen costs, food preparation, and menu planning.
- They will often create most of the new recipes and dishes for the menu.
Sous Chef (Second Chef, Under Chef)
- Primary Task: Team management
- There can be more than one in a kitchen depending on the size of the establishment.
- They oversee the details of each dish and oversee the food lines.
- They are the second in command and will run the kitchen in the executive chef’s absence.
- They will usually train newly hired chefs and cooks.
Senior Chef (Chef de Partie, Station Chef)
- Primary Task: Station management
- There can more than one in a kitchen.
- They are in charge of specific stations in the kitchen.
- They are usually specialist on a certain portion of the menu and will ensure that high-quality food leaves their station.
A hierarchy generally does not exist between specialized chefs. Each of them is an expert in their specific field.
Pastry Chef (Patissier)
- Primary Task: Prepare pastries, breads, and desserts
- They may be in charge of the whole dessert menu.
- The position usually requires extensive specialized training or the completion of a degree in baking.
- Depending on the establishment, this position can be equivalent to executive chef.
Sauce Chef (Saucier, Saute Chef)
- Primary Task: Choose and prepare sauces and gravies for all meal types
- They may also prepare soups and stews.
- This is mainly a position found in locations that serve French cuisine.
Fish Chef (Poissonier)
- Primary Task: Prepare and cook seafood
- They may also be responsible for acquiring the seafood used in an establishment from a local market or non-local vendor.
Vegetable Chef (Entremetier)
- Primary Task: Prepare and cook vegetables and starches
- They may also be responsible for some soups and egg dishes.
Meat Chef (Rotisseur, Roast Chef)
- Primary Task: Prepare and cook meats by roasting, braising, broiling, or other methods
- They may also be in charge of obtaining the meat from local suppliers and retailers.
Pantry Chef (Garde Manger)
- Primary Task: Preparing cold food items like salads, cold cuts, hors d’oeuvres, and dressings
- They will also be responsible for setting up buffet lines and adding centerpieces for an upscale presentation that may include carved and molded ice or fruits.
Fry Chef (Friturier)
- Primary Task: Cook foods that need to be fried
- They are mainly needed in fast food establishments.
Grill Chef (Grillardin)
- Primary Task: Cook foods that need to be grilled
- They will generally grill meats and sometimes vegetables.
Butcher Chef (Boucher)
- Primary Task: Prepare cuts of meat for other station chefs to cook
- They are mainly needed in larger establishments to keep up with the demand.
Types of Cooks
Cooks will usually occupy entry-level positions in a kitchen and experience training from the specialized chefs. They are more likely to cook by following recipes given to them and flow between the different cook positions as needed.
Line Cook (Commis)
- Primary Task: Cooking where needed and completing an assortment of kitchen tasks
- They will learn different cooking styles from the specialized chefs in the kitchen.
- They are usually still in culinary school and getting experience through the position.
- They may be required to do miscellaneous tasks like plating dishes, taking orders, or cutting vegetables.
Prep Cook (Kitchen Porter, Kitchen Hand, Kitchen Assistant)
- Primary Task: Responsible for daily food prep and kitchen tasks
- Their responsibilities revolve around kitchen basics like chopping ingredients, properly labeling containers in storage, and cleaning countertops.
Relief Cook (Chef de Tourant, Roundsman, Swing Cook)
- Primary Task: Fills in wherever needed
- They will assist chefs that may be overwhelmed at their stations.
Short Order Cook
- Primary Task: Prepare quick and simple meals
- They are responsible for clearing as many order tickets as quickly as possible without sacrificing the quality of the meal.
- They mainly focus on making foods like sandwiches and salads.
Working in a commercial kitchen can be fast-paced in terms of daily tasks and upward mobility. Various chef and cook positions are needed to keep a restaurant running smoothly and the hierarchy can look very different from kitchen to kitchen. There are even more restaurant positions and jobs than listed above for the whole establishment to succeed. It is important to keep in mind that becoming a chef requires years of training. Work your way from the bottom up through the different jobs available, find an area you can specialize in, and pursue it with gusto.