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Lead Cook vs. Sous Chef: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in the culinary arts can be both rewarding and challenging. For those interested in a leadership role in the kitchen, the position of lead cook or sous chef may be a good fit. Both of these positions come with a unique set of responsibilities, and the title you hold may depend on the size and type of establishment you work in. In this article, we compare the job titles of lead cook and sous chef, and we discuss the similarities and differences between the two.

What is a Lead Cook?

Lead Cooks are responsible for planning, preparing and cooking food in a commercial kitchen. They oversee a team of cooks and ensure that all food is cooked to the proper specifications. They develop menus, order supplies and manage food costs. Lead Cooks train new employees on food safety and proper cooking techniques. They also resolve any complaints from customers or staff. Lead Cooks typically work in restaurants, hotels, hospitals or other food service establishments.

What is a Sous Chef?

Sous Chefs are responsible for managing the kitchen staff and assisting the Executive Chef with menu planning, food preparation and presentation. They also oversee the day-to-day operations of the kitchen, including ordering supplies, maintaining inventory and ensuring that food is prepared to the highest standards. Sous Chefs often take on additional responsibilities when the Executive Chef is unavailable, such as cooking meals, directing the kitchen staff and resolving customer complaints. In some kitchens, the Sous Chef may also be responsible for training new kitchen staff.

Lead Cook vs. Sous Chef

Here are the main differences between a lead cook and a sous chef.

Job Duties

A lead cook oversees the kitchen and prepares food for the entire establishment. They may delegate tasks to other cooks, but they don’t supervise them directly. A sous chef works with each member of their team individually, helping them improve in their job responsibilities and assisting them when necessary. They also help the head chef create menus and plan meals.

A lead cook is responsible for completing the daily menu and ensuring that all customers are satisfied with their meal. A sous chef ensures that every plate leaving the kitchen meets the standards of quality set by the head chef. Both jobs duties involve creating recipes and maintaining sanitary conditions throughout the kitchen.

Job Requirements

Lead cooks typically need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some employers may prefer candidates with culinary arts training from a vocational program or community college. Sous chefs usually need to have at least an associate’s degree in culinary arts, although many have a bachelor’s degree as well. In addition to their formal education, both lead cooks and sous chefs must have several years of experience working in a professional kitchen before they can be promoted to a management position.

Work Environment

Sous chefs typically work in professional kitchens, such as restaurants or hotels. They may also work for caterers and event planners. Lead cooks usually work in institutional settings, such as hospitals, schools and prisons. Some lead cooks work in private homes, where they cook meals for families or individuals who need assistance with daily tasks.

Both positions often work long hours, especially when the restaurant is busy. Sous chefs may work more days per week than lead cooks because of their higher position.


Both lead cooks and sous chefs are responsible for managing a kitchen staff, preparing food and ensuring the quality of dishes served. They both benefit from having excellent organizational skills to keep the kitchen running smoothly. Lead cooks typically have more experience than sous chefs and may be responsible for training new staff members. Sous chefs often have culinary arts degrees and may be responsible for menu development.

Both lead cooks and sous chefs need to have strong knife skills to prepare food quickly and safely. They also both need to be able to multitask and work well under pressure. However, sous chefs often have more responsibilities when it comes to menu development and creating new dishes, so they may benefit from having creativity and innovation skills.


The average salary for a lead cook is $33,939 per year, while the average salary for a sous chef is $51,182 per year. The average salary for a lead cook may vary depending on the size of the restaurant, the location of the restaurant and the level of experience the lead cook has. The average salary for a sous chef may vary depending on the size of the restaurant, the location of the restaurant and the level of experience the sous chef has.


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