A sous chef is the culinary chef located just below the executive or head chef in a kitchen’s chain of command; therefore, a sous chef has a vital role in any commercial kitchen. As second-in-command, a sous chef has a large amount of responsibility in the kitchen; as such, a person in this particular chef role can easily position themselves to becoming the executive of a kitchen or even the head of an entire establishment in time.
A sous chef may be employed by any establishment that operates a commercial kitchen. The most common employers of sous chefs, however, are restaurants and hotels, followed by cruise ships and casinos.
The culinary chef position of sous chef comes with a great deal of responsibility. Reporting directly to the executive chef, the successful sous chef will quickly amass an in-depth familiarity with the kitchen’s operations so that they may fill in for the executive chef when needed and assist them in resolving any problems that may arise on the job.
A sous chef must possess the ability to quickly and authoritatively delegate job tasks to a large staff. They must also be able to draw upon their considerable experience as a culinary chef who has worked in many different roles and settings in order to effectively coach and mentor junior chefs.
Essentially, the sous chef is responsible for planning and directing food preparation in a kitchen. This will involve a large degree of supervising other kitchen staff, as well as keeping an eye out for problems that arise in the kitchen and seizing control of a situation at a moment’s notice. The sous chef may also need to effectively discipline underperforming staff members, as well as provide incentives for staff members to go above and beyond the expectations of their particular chef roles.
Outside of the kitchen, the sous chef may be responsible for staff scheduling and, depending on the establishment, may even have a hand in apprenticeship development schemes as well. A large portion of a sous chef’s duties, however, are administrative, sometimes taking up to a quarter of his or her work hours.
A sous chef is one of the higher paying chef jobs, with average salaries starting at $30,000 or more plus additional compensation such as benefits. Like most kitchen positions, however, salaries vary enormously depending on the experience and location of the person filling the job. For example, a sous chef working in a casino would typically have a starting salary between $40,000 and $50,000 plus additional compensation.